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Official FCC Blog

July, 2012

Connect America Fund Kicks Off in Rural California and Nevada with Frontier Communications

by Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman
July 30, 2012

Today, the FCC kicked off the first announcement of Connect America fund deployment in the nation with events in rural California and Nevada.  At ribbon-cutting events, I was joined by Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter and met local residents, tribal, and business leaders that will benefit from the opportunities high-speed Internet will deliver to these areas.  In these areas, broadband build-out will happen thanks to Frontier Communications, the first carrier to accept Connect America funding.

My first stop was Alpine County, California, a 100 percent rural county with the smallest county population in the state, where broadband has recently been built out for more than 600 homes and small businesses in the area. Here I met local business, firemen, and other public safety officials, who told me how broadband has improved their lives.  I also met a local grandmother, who is now able to download photos of her grandchildren, and appreciated that broadband does truly ‘connect’ America. I also saw the Washoe Tribal Community, where tribe leaders told me how more than 200 members of their community now have access to high-speed Internet.

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Women's Access to ICT: Strengthening Policy Frameworks to Address the Mobile Phone Gender Gap

by Christopher Burns, Economic Growth and Agricultural Development Advisor the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
July 30, 2012

When we think about mobile technology access to services, opportunities and products – particularly in remote, rural corners of the developing world – we occasionally miss the chance to emphasize the importance of tackling macro-level regulatory frameworks and policy-making functions.  Instead, we contemplate what it takes to provide women and men with the critical, micro-level social services and infrastructure they need to drive economic growth and strengthen family and community livelihoods.  We focus on reaching  “the last mile” and the components necessary for rural connectivity. 

But both ends of the spectrum must be targeted. 

Many assume if the mobile infrastructure has been built, connectivity exists and people can afford it, customers will sign-up and use the service.  Doing so will allow people the prospect of maximizing mobile technologies that can drive development change.  But this is often not true for many women in the developing world, where – although the infrastructure exists – they are 21 percent less likely to own mobile phones than their male counterparts.  There are greater factors at play -- primarily cost of mobile services, limited technical literacy and traditional attitudes around women owning productive assets.  These key barriers have shaped the objectives behind the GSMA mWomen Program.

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Review of the Literature Regarding Critical Information Needs of the American Public.

by Daniel Margolis, Attorney Advisor
July 25, 2012

A team of researchers led by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications prepared for the FCC a review of the literature regarding the critical information needs of the American Public.  The report concluded that: (1) There is an identifiable set of basic information needs that individuals need met to navigate everyday life, and that communities need to have met in order to thrive; (2) Low-income and some minority and marginalized communities within metropolitan and rural areas and areas that are “lower-information” areas are likely to be systematically disadvantaged in both personal and community opportunities when information needs lag or go unmet; and (3) Information goods are public goods; the failure to provide them is, in part, a market failure.”  The FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities commissioned the report as the first step in meeting its obligations under Section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, requiring the FCC to “identify and work to eliminate barriers to market entry.”  A full copy of the report and its associated annotated bibliography are available below.  

Executive Summary

Final Literature Review

Annotated Bibliography

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The Gender Gap in Mobile and Internet Access in the Developing World

by Ann Mei Chang, Department of State Senior Advisor for Women and Technology
July 23, 2012

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We have seen evidence over and over again that investing in women and girls is one of the most direct and effective ways to produce economic and social progress.  We have also seen how information and communication technologies (or ICT) have accelerated the pace of change by introducing efficiencies, opening new markets, and creating technology-related jobs.  Now, imagine the tremendous possibilities that can arise from empowering women with ICT.  The promise is real, though there are a number of challenges to navigate.

One of the most challenging issues is gender inequity in the access to technology, whether that be a mobile phone or Internet connectivity.  Closing the gender gap presents an enormous opportunity for economic development.  The GSMA mWomen Program, launched by Secretary Clinton in October 2010, identified that women are 21% less likely than men to own a mobile phone in developing countries.  mWomen aims to halve that gap in the next three years.  The Internet is also out of reach for many women, who typically have more limited incomes and are unable to afford service costs, which can be prohibitively expensive in many low-income countries.  Certainly, without access to technology, women will not be able to take advantage of the many potential benefits technology can enable for their individual and family's livelihood, education, and well-being – as a consequence, their contributions to economic and social progress will not be as significant.

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Hosting a New Generation of Leaders at the FCC

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief, International Bureau
July 18, 2012

On July 12, 2012, the FCC hosted a program for TechGirls, a U.S. Department of State initiative sponsoring an international exchange program designed to empower young girls to pursue careers in the science and technology sectors.

The FCC hosted an impressive group of 25 young women between the ages of 15-17 from eight Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries, including, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia and Yemen. All of the girls went through a rigorous application process and those who were selected are truly outstanding. At their young age, many have already taken robotics courses as well as computer classes.

While they were unified in their intelligence and capabilities, they were as unique as one would expect – some love sports, some love reading, writing and music, others love drama and art, and some even like fashion and shopping. Some were funny and some were earnest, but all were incredibly smart. Ideas just tumbled out of them.

Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel talked about their careers with the TechGirls – and were bombarded with questions about how to achieve similar success in their own lives. These young women were interested in subjects from across the science and information communications technology fields, from engineering to medicine, physics to app development. A few discussed establishing their own NGOs. They wanted to know how professional women balance work and family, how women can be successful in a male-dominated field, and how they can be sure that the choice they make is the right one. It was a lively conversation and those of us with long-time careers learned a lot from this younger generation!

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Mapping the Mobility Fund Phase I Auction

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
July 13, 2012

The FCC is rolling out new mapping tools for the upcoming auction of Mobility Fund Phase I universal service support.  The electronic application to participate in this auction displays maps, based on certain information entered in the application, of areas eligible for Mobility Fund Phase I support.  Applicants will be able to filter their selections, distinguish between Tribal and non-Tribal areas, and view eligible areas in geographic detail. 

Another new use of mapping in the auction process will be implemented in the bidding portion of the FCC Auction System.  In the Mobility Fund Phase I auction, bidders will place bids for support on discrete areas know as census blocks (the same unit of measure the US Census Bureau uses for counting people).  In this particular auction, the bidders know the full list of the blocks eligible for bidding.  The FCC Auction System’s new mapping features allow bidders to visualize their bidding options. 

These new mapping tools provide visual portrayal and confirmation of bidding areas, which is a change from the bidding system’s previous text-only identification of areas.  As the bidders upload lists of the blocks they want to bid on, we offer them a dynamic map of those areas so they can be sure about the locations of their bids. 

We think our dynamic services approach offers significant value to the bidders and demonstrates our commitment to continually make a positive difference.  These are the results driven by a team of people deeply invested in creating innovative solutions. 

We are proud to offer these kinds of service and are looking forward to further developing such utilities.  If you are a bidder, please let us know how to improve it.  

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Charting Broadband Opportunities for Low-Income Americans

by Julie Veach, Acting Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
July 11, 2012

We are delighted by the response last week to our groundbreaking Lifeline Broadband Adoption Pilot competition.  Our Pilot takes aim at a problem that perpetuates poverty in the 21st Century:  the low rate of broadband adoption by low-income Americans.  Providers of all kinds submitted a total of 24 applications proposing innovative programs to help us better understand and tackle that issue.

Over the years, our Lifeline program has helped tens of millions of low-income consumers afford telephone service.  But with broadband as essential today for jobs and opportunities as the phone was in the last century, the FCC in January included in its comprehensive reforms and modernization of Lifeline a Pilot program to explore ways to increase the low rate of broadband adoption among low-income Americans. Using $25 million in savings from Lifeline reforms, we will fund the selected Pilot projects for a year, while collecting valuable real world data about the experience to help the FCC determine how to use our Lifeline program to effectively increase broadband adoption.

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Launch of the Redesigned WISENET

by Mindel De La Torre, Chief, International Bureau
July 9, 2012

WISENET began as an experimental community to give women working in the information and communication technology sector a way to learn, innovate, and engage their community and colleagues. It was a blog with posts that picked up a variety of themes such as a need for more female ICT decision-makers, the economic benefits of broadband expansion, the importance of Internet governance and mobile money to name a few. Our bloggers represented organizations such as the FCC, the ITU, and other governments. These were just the first steps in a larger conversation about the role of ICTs in women’s lives around the world.

And this conversation continues. We are launching a redesigned WISENET that will build upon this foundation, identify new voices and points of view to create an improved convening platform for engagement, participation and innovation. We are also expanding what we offer on WISENET – now we highlight events, recent news, and research in the area of women and ICTs. In addition,
the new blog will be divided into four sections:

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Supporting Calling Plan Rights for Military Service Members

by Kris Monteith, Acting Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Chief
July 6, 2012

Celebrating the birth of our nation reminds us of the sacrifices our forefathers made for our liberty, and the sacrifices the men and women of our armed services continue to make today to ensure we remain free.

Here at the FCC, we remind U.S. service members of their rights regarding mobile/wireless calling plans under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

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