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Official FCC Blog

April, 2012

FCC Launches Connect America Fund

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
April 25, 2012 - 04:51 PM

The principle of universal service is that all Americans need access to affordable communications.  In the last century, universal service programs connected virtually the entire nation to telephone service.  Now, in the 21st century, when high-speed Internet has become the essential communications tool for jobs, innovation, economic growth, education, healthcare, public safety and building communities, our goal must be to connect every American, regardless of where they live.  To do this without imposing new funding burdens on consumers means eliminating inefficient rules and bad incentives that have plagued the Universal Service Fund for years. 

That’s exactly what the Commission did last year when it voted unanimously to reform and modernize the Universal Service Fund, it set the express goal of bringing broadband access to the more than 18 million Americans, mostly rural, who lack it.  The centerpiece of this modernization is the Connect America Fund, or CAF, which transforms the old voice-centric universal service fund for rural areas into an engine for rural broadband deployment.  To meet these goals without growing the fund beyond its current size, the FCC also imposed long-overdue fiscal responsibility and accountability measures, limiting the universal service fees paid by consumers and business across the country.

Today, we take two important steps toward reaching these goals.

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Wrap Up: FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Antoine Green, Information Systems Support Specialist
April 20, 2012 - 01:40 PM

The goal of our first developer day (perhaps even the first of its kind in government) was to further innovation in accessible technologies and foster citizen participation in open government. That event was well received by the developer community and many were eager for the next.

Naturally when we announced our next developer event, it was met with great excitement from the developer community and other federal agencies. The goal of the .Gov Developer Meet-Up was to expose the developer community to most of the .gov developer resources currently in production or launching in the next couple of months. “The approach today is much more of an organic nature. We really wanted to hit the meet-up style,” said Michael Byrne. We decided to go with a simple “meet-up” style event rather than a traditional code sprint because there was an expressed need for this kind of forum.

Although the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski was unable to attend in person, he recorded video remarks which played during the first moments of the event. During his remarks he stated, “...you represent the right trend and in many ways the cutting edge in government data, finding new and novel ways to deliver transparency and greater openness.”

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New FCC Website to Help Consumers Beat ‘Bill Shock’

by William D. Freedman, Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 19, 2012 - 01:24 PM

The arrival of spring brings with it good news for consumers suffering from that malady known as bill shock: the appearance, like April dandelions, of sudden and unexpected overage charges on their wireless bills.  Bill shock can happen when a subscriber is charged for unknowingly exceeding plan limits for data, voice, or text, or is traveling abroad and gets hit with unexpected international roaming charges.  Thanks to the recent agreement by a group of carriers that account for service to 97 percent of U.S. wireless customers, important information is on its way that will allow consumers to save money on their monthly bills. 

And now, the FCC has added a portal to its website that will let wireless customers know which carriers are providing this information.

In 2010, the Commission identified the growing problem of bill shock and proposed rules that would require carriers to send usage alerts to consumers when they approach and reach monthly plan limits, and also send alerts when they were about to incur international roaming charges.  Last year, while the Commission’s staff was reviewing the comments that had been filed about these proposed rules, CTIA- the Wireless Association approached the FCC and proposed that, instead of the rules, its member carriers would agree toprovide the types of alerts that the Commission had called for.  Last October, CTIA revised its Consumer Code for Wireless Service to require that its participating carriers provide these alerts. 

Although these carriers are not required by the Code to start offering these alerts until October 17, 2012, according to CTIA, some are already providing their customers with some of this critical information.  

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Launching the Broadband Partnership of the Americas

by Mindel De La Torre, Chief, International Bureau
April 17, 2012 - 04:52 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]President Obama’s visit to Colombia last weekend for the Summit of the Americas included an exciting new broadband announcement: the Broadband Partnership of the Americas (BPA), a vital new collaboration to expand broadband access in the Americas.  The Summit of the Americas is convened every three or four years to bring together heads of state in the Americas to discuss issues critical to the region.  This year’s Summit theme -- Connecting the Americas:  Partnership for Prosperity -- focused on the role of physical integration and regional cooperation in fostering economic growth and development across the Hemisphere.  Not surprisingly, access to broadband played a lead role.

Studies show that broadband networks and broadband connectivity drive economic growth and development, and provide an important platform to address social issues including poverty, health care and education.  A study by the World Bank found that in less developed economies, every 10% increase in broadband penetration accelerates economic growth by approximately 1.38 percentage points, even grater than the 1.21 percentage points increase found in developed economies. Over the past 15 years, the Internet has enabled as much economic growth per capita as the Industrial Revolution generated in its first 50 years.

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Roll Call: FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Brittany L. Stevenson, New Media Associate
April 11, 2012 - 07:05 PM

We are just five days away from the second FCC .Gov  /Developer Meet-Up being held in the FCC Commission meeting room April 16 from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM EDT. The .Gov /Developer Meet-up will introduce federal agencies with /developer resources on their own hosted websites to the /developer community. This event fosters the community of government transparency through sharing of open data.

The .Gov /Developer Meet-Up is designed to expose the /developer community to majority of the .Gov and developer resources currently in production and projects that agencies plan to release in upcoming months.  We have classified this event as ‘meet-up’ instead of traditional code sprint to harbor a more informal atmosphere for the developer community to share ideas.

We have an outstanding line-up, including video remarks from FCC Chairman Genachowski and an introduction and event welcome by US Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, and other notable presenters and attendees. So far, we have confirmed over 60 attendees, and 13 government agencies will give short ignite style presentations on their published application programming interfaces (APIs) and developer resources.

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