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Official FCC Blog

October, 2013

Mobile Accessibility and Employment of People with Disabilities

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
October 31, 2013

The FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is pleased to commemorate October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

In recent years and on a global scale, the spread of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices has been dramatic.  A driving force behind this has been the revolution in mobile apps.  Hundreds of thousands of apps have been developed for various mobile platforms, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Nokia, and Windows Phone. From a disability perspective, apps may be subdivided into the categories of accessible apps and assistive apps.

For the disability community, there are two vital kinds of apps: accessible and assistive. An accessible app is designed according to accessibility guidelines for user interfaces so that people with a range of physical or mental capabilities can operate the software successfully, such as people with visual, hearing, dexterity, or cognitive disabilities. An accessible app generally has a mainstream rather than disability-specific purpose.  It benefits a broad user base in the accomplishment of human tasks that are commonly pursued.

An assistive app, on the other hand, helps people with particular impairments surmount what might otherwise be experienced as limiting consequences of a disability, (e.g., identifying paper currency to a blind person, facilitating direct sign language communication for a deaf person, inputting text from dictation by someone with a dexterity impairment, or giving reminders to someone with a cognitive disability).  Naturally, an assistive app also has to be an accessible app to those who particularly benefit from it.

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On Cyber Trick-or-T(h)reats

by David A. Bray, Chief Information Officer
October 30, 2013
David Bray

Last week, I started a public conversation on the importance of communication.  This week I want to discuss another side of digital communication:  the spread of viruses, malware, and advanced persistent threats on the internet. The timing of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month with Halloween is appropriate, because sometimes when engaging in professional or personal communications on the internet, we also run the risk of cyber tricks-or-threats.

Cyber tricks-or-threats can come from visiting sites that do “drive by” infections, opening malicious file attachments, or downloading supposedly “free” software that compromises our computer’s security.   Don’t forget that in the mobile broadband age, the threats you normally associate with your home or office computer can easily be found on your mobile device:  the same cautionary principles apply.  For those of us who use the internet to engage in public and personal transactions, it is a quality assurance concern that our digital communications on the public infrastructure be kept both secure and private.

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Toward More Resilient Communications Networks

by David Turetsky, Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
October 28, 2013

It’s been a year since Hurricane Sandy struck a devastating blow to communities in the Eastern United States. Since then, America’s recovery efforts have focused not only on rebuilding but also on resiliency – that is, improving our ability to withstand future disasters. The lessons learned from the storm are shaping the FCC’s work as well.

Hurricane Sandy was a powerful reminder of the importance of resilient communications networks – whether you are calling for help, checking on the well-being of loved ones, or just trying to resume day-to-day business after a disaster strikes. Unfortunately, millions of Americans faced communications problems after the storm. For example, at its peak, Sandy disabled approximately 25 percent of cell sites in the affected region – and more than 50 percent in the hardest-hit counties. But some wireless providers fared better than others because of the preparations they undertook, suggesting that there are additional steps providers can take to bolster network resiliency.

In fact, the Commission held field hearings after Hurricane Sandy to hear from stakeholders about how to improve disaster-time communications. Based on one of the ideas raised, the Commission recently proposed rules that would require wireless service providers to publicly disclose the percentage of cell sites within their networks that are operational during and immediately after disasters. The concept is simple: by providing consumers with a yardstick for comparing wireless performance in emergencies, this proposal could empower consumers and in turn create competitive incentives in the wireless industry to improve network reliability. We are seeking public comment on this and other approaches.

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On the Importance of Communication

by David A. Bray, Chief Information Officer
October 21, 2013
David Bray

Our modern world teems with communication. Most of us have cell phones or smart phones that allow us to be reached 24/7 by almost anyone as we move about the planet. We can access the Internet and catch-up on global and local news, share our thoughts via blogs, wikis, instant messages, or uploaded media files. Digital images, sounds, music, and video all can be accessed through the Internet to communicate ideas, share perspectives, and convey emotions from events both at home and halfway around the world.

I am so excited to join the FCC family as the new CIO. I realize I have much work to do to learn the full breadth and depth of the FCC's existing and historical IT efforts both internally and in collaboration with the public and private sectors. Everyone has been friendly and excited to communicate the Commission’s great endeavors. There is a palpable sense of purpose and mission here at the FCC. I am impressed by the number of people who have been here for fifteen, twenty, and thirty years or more, all who say they are here because of the role the FCC plays in enabling communication to support our national growth, prosperity, security, safety, and freedom.

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Updated: The Low Power FM Application Window Is Fast Approaching

by Bill Lake, Media Bureau Chief
October 21, 2013

Reposted from the September 19, 2013 post "The Low Power FM Application Window is Fast Approaching" with Updated Information

In August we had our first of two webinars on how communities and non-profit organizations can apply for new low-power FM radio station licenses during the next window, October 15 – November 14, 2013.  The webinar allowed viewers to ask questions directly to Bureau staff.  We were delighted to answer many questions during the session and have continued to respond to your inquiries since then.  The second webinar will be held on Thursday, October 24.  Before this next session, we want to give you these reminders and highlights on a number of important issues:

First and foremost, don’t forget you can start filling out your Form 318 application online now!  You won’t be able to file the application until the October 15 – November 14, window, but we highly recommend you complete the entire application as soon as possible.  This will allow you to avoid any last minute questions or technical issues.

Second, remember that, while you do not need a 501(c)(3) certification, you must be organized as a nonprofit educational institution, corporation, or entity under your State’s laws, as of the date of the application filing, to be eligible to apply for an LPFM license.  In other words, if you have only recently filed your incorporation papers and have not received confirmation as of October 29, you will not be eligible to apply. 

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