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Official FCC Blog

August, 2012

APCO International 78th Annual Conference FCC Regulatory Panel

by David S. Turetsky , Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
August 30, 2012 - 05:26 PM

Review Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief David Turetsky's speech & from the APCO International 78th Annual Conference FCC Regulatory Panel & learn about latest development to improve Next Generation 911 systems.

"I am happy to be here with you. I'm married to a Minnesotan and my wife tells me that Minnesota has three seasons, Winter, Mud and August. Clearly APCO made the right choice of when to come here to Minneapolis!

I also know that August is the right time to be here for another reason.  A few years back when I was in private law practice, I ran a commercial mobile wireless business for 6 months that was based in Mankato, Minnesota, which served 4 southern Minnesota mostly rural markets.  I was appointed to do that by the FCC, and by a federal court at the request of the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice.  Those markets were required to be held separate and to be run by a Management Trustee, me, until divested to preserve competition as a condition of closing Alltel's acquisition of Midwest Wireless.  I remember winter well, when portions of our network and our service went down temporarily due to a severe ice storm, and that was not too many months after tornadoes came through.  That winter was one of a number of experiences I had with network outages, resilience and recovery, before coming to my current job.

Trust me, it's much nicer to be here in August!

On behalf of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the Commission, and the staff of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, thank you for inviting me.  This is a great opportunity to speak and engage with you-- people with an interest and important stake in the work of our Bureau.  I also know that APCO will be hearing tomorrow from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has significant experience with public safety issues.

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New Cell Phone Weather Alerts Already Protecting Lives

by Lisa M. Fowlkes, Deputy Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
August 30, 2012 - 03:23 PM

A new text message emergency alert system has already proven its worth during the rare “derecho” storms that swept across the East Coast in late July.

Barely into its first few weeks of service, the new CMAS alerts flashed on cell phones in the Elmira, New York area almost instantly after the National Weather Service issuing a tornado warning.  Despite the fact that the area rarely experiences tornadoes, subscribers told the weather service that they took cover immediately.

 “Your warning of a tornado imminent in my area of New York, sent 7/26/12 via text message to my cell, was invaluable! From the bottom of my heart- THANK YOU National Weather Service!”one woman wrote on her Facebook page.

Delivered over cell phones and other mobile devices, these alerts and warnings are free and targeted to specific locales.  Consumers don’t need to sign up.  They just need is a handset capable of receiving the emergency alerts and a carrier who voluntarily provides the service.  Ask your carrier if they provide the service and whether your handset is CMAS-capable.

CMAS stands for Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and the alerts that it issues are commonly known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Consumers should look for CMAS-compatible handsets or check whether they already have one. Many handsets were made to be compatible with CMAS well before the service was actually launched on April 7, 2012. 

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FCC Holds 2-Day Workshop to Advance Accessible Technology Development

by Jamal Mazrui , Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
August 30, 2012 - 11:36 AM

To address the challenge of providing accessible solutions that often lag behind rapid technology advances, the FCC is hosting a free workshop for developers Sept. 6-7 at its headquarters in Washington. The two-day event – “Developing with Accessibility” (DevAcc) – is designed to spur increased and ongoing collaboration on accessibility among developers for various technology platforms.

DevAcc is the part of Chairman Genachowski’s ongoing Accessibility and Innovation Initiative launched in July 2010 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The A&I Initiative promotes collaboration among stakeholders from government, industry, and consumer sectors so that people with disabilities can reap the full benefit of broadband communication technologies.  Put simply, the Initiative is open government applied to accessibility.

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Broadband Progress Report Map – Another Digital First

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
August 22, 2012 - 04:34 PM

In another digital first for the FCC, we just released an interactive, web-based map that illustrates our Broadband Progress Report.  This congressionally mandated report assesses how well broadband deployment and adoption is progressing in the nation. With this new map, our report is more responsive to both Congress and the American people.

This map is great for a bunch of reason.  First, as you zoom into the map or pan around, you can explore the intricate details of broadband availability in each and every county in the United States.  These details include not just the population, and income numbers from the census, but the percentage of each county that has access to the major fixed technologies providing broadband service.  This charting feature is a dynamic and robust way to investigate the data, see how different communities compare to each other, or just look at your home town.

Second, the map allows anyone access to the full set of raw data underlying the report. It used to be that maps like this were only viewed through complicated software or with specialized training.  You do not need access to special software, or fancy understanding of intricate bureaucratic processes; all you need is a web browser. 

Third, by publishing this map, we make our own processes more open, accountable and effective. It makes the data available to all Americans, not just specialized practitioners

A few more details. These maps are;

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National PC Donation and Recycling Drive to Address the Digital Divide

August 21, 2012 - 02:56 PM

Owning a computer and gaining access to the Internet is not a luxury, but a necessity in today's world. The digital divide is growing as Americans who are "offline" cannot fully participate in the digital economy and are left behind in important areas such as education and health care. Yet, nearly 60% of low-income households do not have a desktop or laptop computer at home and 100 million Americans have not adopted broadband at home.

Americans without a computer or broadband at home often cite the cost of a PC (10%) and/or broadband service (15%) as major barriers to adoption. However, there is an untapped resource of discounted high quality computers that could curb these figures: the millions of corporate PCs that are prematurely retired every year.

Businesses in the United States annually donate about 3% of the 40 million PCs replaced each year. Of these 40 million PC’s, over 12 million are less than a few years old and remain used-but-useful. These PC’s, once refurbished and installed with the latest software, can connect low-income families, schools, and public computing center users to the digital world.

On August 7, Chairman Genachowski and executives from Connect2Compete, Redemtech, and representatives from LULAC announced a nationwide computer donation and recycling call-to-action, called “PC Pledge 100,” to help narrow the digital divide for low-income families across the country.

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Digital Firsts

by David Robbins, Managing Director
August 15, 2012 - 12:52 PM

Three years ago this week, the Federal Communications Commission joined the Twitterverse with our handle @FCC.   A few hours after sending our first Tweet, we used Twitter to announce our entry into the blogosphere: “FCC launches first-ever blog, called ’Blogband,’ to chronicle events of the National Broadband Plan. Check it out: http://broadband.gov/blog.”

With the goal of transparency, openness and citizen engagement, this began the FCC’s efforts to connect with our constituencies through social media to keep them informed about FCC events, issues we’re working on and our ongoing efforts to provide access to government data and digital content.

Three years and over 2,000 Tweets later, the FCC reaches nearly half-a-million followers on Twitter @FCC, which puts us in the top five among all government entities, behind @WhiteHouse, @NASA, @CDC and @Smithsonian.

In September 2009, we expanded our social media presence with the launch of our Facebook page, which now boasts 10,000 “lifetime likes.” We also posted our first video – Chairman Genachowski on the National Broadband Plan (viewed 3,615 times) – to the FCC’s YouTube channel.   And in November that year the FCC photo stream on Flickr went live.

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Some Things Never Change

by Siobhan Green, Guest Blogger, CEO and co-founder of Sonjara
August 14, 2012 - 12:49 PM

Siobhan GreenEven when the Internet was new – and expensive and slow – it gave us essential access to the rest of the world. In 1994, when I lived in Senegal, the only Internet access available to me was a hold and forward account through a science research group, meaning I would dial into their servers in order to upload and download my messages. It was very expensive (I believe I paid more than $500 during my year in Senegal), but compared with faxes and telephone was so much more cost-effective and efficient. And it became crucial during the devaluation riots when many phone lines were cut. Our families were relieved to get news through the Internet that we were safe.

By the end of 1999, dial-up connections in Africa were more and more available, but still rare, slow, and expensive. I remember in 2000, the look on the face of West African Nutrition Officers in a cybercafe in Bamako when I accessed (sllllloooooooowwwwwwlllllyyyy) the WHO Nutrition web page, with copies of important documents in multiple languages. The Nutrition Officer from Niger shouted "There it is! I have been asking for someone to mail me that document for over a year!" She was able to leave that day with a 160 page print-out and a copy on a floppy disk. She also got her first email account that day and we added her to the West African Nutrition Network mailing list.

Just two years ago, I was interviewing some folks from Academy for Educational Development (AED) on the Afghanistan Education Portal project, and they told me an almost identical story -- a senior official In the Ministry of Education was overcome with emotion when he saw there was a copy of a key document he had been seeking for a year, now available to him on the internet, in several languages.

Some things never change.

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Saving $1 million in 1 month … and $1.5 billion a year

by Pam Arluk, Assistant Chief, Pricing Policy Division
August 14, 2012 - 11:24 AM

Saving consumers $1 million in one month is a pretty good accomplishment.  That’s exactly what a small team of analysts at the FCC did this month as they pored over the detailed price lists – called tariffs – that flood into the FCC once annually.

These tariffs cover the regulated prices – called access charges – that phone companies charge each other for handing off calls. Filed on July 1 every year, tariffs are normally routine.  But not this year.  July 1, 2012 marked the beginning of historic reforms at the FCC that will eventually do away with this archaic access charge system.  Access charges – part of a broader system called intercarrier compensation, or ICC – indirectly impose billions in hidden costs on consumers.  They have become a convoluted, contentious revenue stream that is not only exploited for unfair gain but also distorts decisions about markets and technologies.  We estimate that eliminating these hidden costs will unleash over $1.5 billion in annual benefits to consumers.

The Connect America Fund and Intercarrier Compensation reforms adopted by the FCC last year address these problems by phasing out access charges over a number of years, starting last month.  To ease the transition, carriers especially hard-hit by the loss in revenues will temporarily receive some relief, including through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund.

We asked carriers to calculate their access revenues for the last year to give us a baseline for the entire transition.  It was important to make sure carriers got it right, because overstating revenues now would affect every year of the transition.

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Women Entrepreneurs from Afghanistan and Rwanda Graduate from the Peace Through Business Program

August 8, 2012 - 03:30 PM

The Peace Through Business program is an initiative of The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW), a non-profit group inspiring women in the United States and abroad to pursue greater entrepreneurial roles, to grow their businesses and start new ventures, and become more active public policy advocates.  Through its program, the IEEW recently hosted  twenty-five women from Afghanistan and Rwanda  here in the United States to receive high-level business and leadership training on topics such as accounting, finance, economics, digital marketing, and the importance of women’s involvement in politics.  

On July 24, 2012, we had the opportunity to accompany FCC International Bureau Chief, Mindel De La Torre to the graduation ceremony for these women and the experience was compelling.

Speakers at the graduation ceremony included Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues; Terry Neese, Founder and CEO of IEEW; and the Honorable Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Verveer spoke of the difficulties that Rwanda and Afghanistan have faced after years of war and highlighted the progress each nation has made in women’s rights and economic and political development.

Today in Afghanistan, over 25% of Parliamentarians and 10% of judges are women. In Rwanda, women from different political and social parties came together to integrate their efforts and contributed to the prevention of further conflict after the genocide in 1994.  Today, 56% of Rwandan Parliamentarians are women.

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From Developing the World to Developing the Web, and Back Around Again

by Carla Briceno, Co-Founder of Bixal
August 6, 2012 - 08:34 PM

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My career in international development began almost by accident when I heard my undergrad sociology professor talk about the Peace Corps. I had just returned from my first visit to Latin America and was strongly impacted by the poverty and difficult living conditions. I was hell bent on joining the Peace Corps and returning to the region, which I ended up doing in 1989 when I moved to rural Guatemala to serve as a health nutrition extensionist.  

In 2000, after five years of supporting international development programs in the region and at the peak of the first dot com wave, I made a career transition into the world of web development. I thought I wanted to become a hardcore programmer, so I dug in and studied everything from HTML to the fundamentals of object-oriented programming. I ended up working with two different Fortune 500 companies where I put these skills to use, but I soon realized that I was a bit too extroverted to sit in a cubicle and program eight hours a day.

I decided to pursue opportunities that allowed me to take advantage of my project management skills and ended up at Sprint Nextel, working on their Hispanic web presence, where I was able to combine my Spanish language skills, project management experience and my web skills and learn a great deal about culturally-relevant communications and how Latinos in the U.S. and Latin Americans are using digital technologies. 

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