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Blog Posts by Mignon Clyburn

Spreading the Good Word about Lifeline

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
September 8, 2014

Most Americans take their home phone service for granted. But for families who are struggling to pay for food, clothing and shelter, phone service is a luxury that often must be put on hold for better times. Unfortunately, those better times may be elusive without the connection that basic phone service provides to jobs, support from family and friends, and emergency services.

That's where the FCC's Lifeline program fits in. Since 1985, Lifeline has offered a discount on phone service to low-income consumers so that everyone can have access to the jobs, opportunities and security that a home phone provides. This week, the FCC is teaming up with our partners in the states to host Lifeline Awareness Week to get out the word about this vital program. We want to make sure that low-income consumers are aware of the program – and understand the rules for participation.

Together with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, our partners in Lifeline Awareness Week, we have posted on our web site important information about program benefits and the rules for companies and consumers alike. For example, companies must only sign up consumers who are eligible, and consumers must recertify their eligibility annually – or else lose their Lifeline service. This way, we preserve Lifeline for those who need it the most.

The most important point of Lifeline Awareness Week is this: empowering the neediest among us with the benefits of basic communications benefits society as a whole by helping lift families out of poverty and expanding opportunities. Spread the word!

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Opportunity Abounding in STEM

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 30, 2014

You would have been both amazed and encouraged if you had accompanied me across the Potomac River to northern Virginia recently. I had the pleasure of spending a stimulating afternoon at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, the real-life high school made famous by the inspirational hit movie, “Remember the Titans”. But the buzz surrounding this day was not about the football team; it was all about technology and innovation, and how tech executives, entrepreneurs, developers and policy makers came together to engage and inspire students to pursue careers and entrepreneurial opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“Innovation Afternoons” is part of a program in which an earnest and committed group of business leaders, entrepreneurs and educators are nurturing a pipeline of diverse future STEM leaders. Under the banner of the Equal Footing Foundation, community leaders also fund, launch and sustain “computer clubhouses” in partnership with local governments, businesses and nonprofits.

The result is an innovative, after school learning center where students 8-18 can work with adult mentors to learn, develop and explore their interests as future STEM leaders. Many of these students do not independently have access to technology, so the computer clubhouse is their gateway to the web and all that it holds for young technologists. Today, this program supports 1,500 students every week, and hosts 30,000 individual visitors every year. It has been recognized and awarded for outstanding academics, citizenship and peer-to-peer mentoring.

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The Caged Bird Sings . . . My Brief But Incredible Brush With Greatness

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 28, 2014

A remarkable woman once told us: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  That woman was the indomitable Dr. Maya Angelou.

When I was asked to do a live radio interview with one of the most talented souls to ever take pen to paper, I had a groundswell of feelings—honor, joy, apprehension and humility—sentiments stirred up to that point only by the call from the White House asking me to serve on the FCC.

As I carefully collected my thoughts in advance of my maiden interview with Dr. Angelou, I was filled with anticipation because I knew she was going to delve into the historic significance of my appointment.  She is – and was—one of America’s most cherished chroniclers of history and culture, and this moment would not be lost on her.

In retrospect, I say somewhat immodestly, our interview went very well.  But honestly, it was not because of me, but all because of her. Our discussion was notable and noteworthy because she brought her “Angelou” soul to the microphone.  We were sisters, talking about a uniquely American historical moment, sharing accolades and smiles, even though we were separated by hundreds of miles.  Her incomparable depth of knowledge and her unmistakably mellifluous tone added warmth and texture to the instant rapport.  She had a special way of bringing you in close enough to get a little glimmer of her world, with all of its mahogany richness and melodramatic reality, just long enough so you felt the depth of her humanity.

My heart is heavy, as I join millions who mourn the loss of this wonderful soul who serenaded us with words and wisdom, yet I cannot help but smile just a bit, because I will never forget how she made me feel.

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Preserving An Ever-Free and Open Internet

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 7, 2014

Over 100,000 Americans have spoken.

And during the past few weeks, tens of thousands of consumers, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, schools, educators, healthcare providers and others have reached out to ask me to keep the Internet free and open. 

While the calls, emails and letters are new, my commitment to Internet freedom is not.  In fact, my public efforts to preserve a free and open Internet began many years ago.

While it is my normal practice not to comment in advance on items which are on circulation out of my deep respect for the integrity of our regulatory and administrative process, given the high level of attention and the outpouring of expression on the notice of proposed rulemaking on Open Internet, I felt it was important to highlight my previously stated views.

When I voted to approve the 2010 Open Internet Order, I voiced four concerns about the scope of the rules and the legal theory upon which the Order was based.

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Broadcasting Anew

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 15, 2014

It is always special to be in attendance at the annual National Association of Broadcasters Show, and this year was no exception.

The NAB does a good job of matching its members with FCC Commissioners and staff for informative, engaging and often spirited discussions. This was the case for me when I informally met with a group of network affiliates from around the country. They persistently—though politely—pressed me on some recent FCC decisions which affected their business interests, and in the absence of a final rule on at least one key issue—media ownership and attribution rules-the broadcasters were left to question our words and our wisdom pretty much unanswered. But what I took away from our discussion was the realization that today's media universe can no longer be viewed through myopic lenses and historic silos, and that the demarcation between over-the-air, cable, internet and satellite broadcasting makes erstwhile legacy distinctions much harder to maintain.

Secondly, I always appreciate the chance to walk the show floor to see, firsthand, the innovative developments in broadcast technology. This time around, I was impressed by Next Radio and 8K technology, both of which are fascinating, consumer friendly and, I suspect, soon-to-be financially successful.

Finally, the NAB provides a unique opportunity for regulators to talk to the industry professionals and operators who do not typically make it to Washington to lobby on policy issues. These real-world workers provide us with a perspective that is both realistic and refreshing, and I always learn more than I leave behind.

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Crossing the Digital Divide

by Mignon Clyburn, Acting Chairwoman
June 7, 2013

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My posts here at the FCC --first as a Commissioner and now as Acting Chair, have taken me across  the country, to other parts of the world – and occasionally, right over the bridge to Alexandria, Va.

That’s where I met a wonderful group of kids on June 2 at the Murraygate Village Community Center. Their energy eclipsed the enthusiasm shown by the many guests at their Boys and Girls Club. On a normal day, I was told they’d be poring over their homework in what Wonhee Kang, Fairfax County Regional Director of the Boys and Girls Club, dubs “The Power Hour.” But on this day, they broke their routine and welcomed guests like me who overflowed the modest facility to celebrate a major step forward in closing the digital divide. Cox Communications Virginia and Connect2Compete – along with a host of corporate, nonprofit, state, regional and local officials – were on hand to announce the launch of the collaborative initiative that aims to extend affordable broadband Internet access to all.

In my remarks, I noted that almost a year ago to the day, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was in San Diego, with Cox CEO Pat Esser, to launch the first-ever Connect2Compete pilot program, which made discounted broadband available to tens of thousands of southern California families. What a difference a year makes! Now I’m in the role of Acting Chair of the FCC and the Connect2Compete has made its way to Northern Virginia, where families will have the same opportunity to get online at a price that fits their budgets.

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Sri Lanka and Singapore

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
November 29, 2012

This October, I was fortunate to travel to Asia, where I spent over a week meeting with regulators, industry groups, and business leaders from around the world.  This was not my first time representing the FCC abroad, but this trip took me on a journey through more time zones than I remember.  On the first leg, after leaving Washington on long trans-Atlantic flight, I arrived in Dubai – only to continue on to Qatar – before finally arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city. 

In Sri Lanka I represented the United States at the 12th Global Symposium for Regulators.  Organized under the United Nations, the GSR provides a world-wide view on the telecommunications industry.  Meeting with other delegates I shared the United States’ perspective on regulation, the FCC’s role, and what is being done in our country to promote ICT development.  I noticed an important characteristic of the telecommunications industry – nations across the world are addressing many of the same issues and problems as one another.  As I continued to meet with representatives, I gained more knowledge from hearing the perspectives of other countries.  The symposium brought forth the obvious: the spread of technology has circumvented borders, crossed digital divides, and brought even the most remote nations to address common concerns at our international table.

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Experiencing the Magic of Innovation in Silicon Valley

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
October 23, 2012

I have seen a lot during my three-plus years as an FCC Commissioner: executive offices at major cable and television networks, telecom and broadband-related meetings on different continents, NGO exchanges highlighting how simple flip-phone devices are saving lives and improving agri-business outcomes, and more broadcast studio control rooms than I can remember. But because of the pace and other demands of the post, I had been unable get out to that land called Silicon Valley. Two weeks ago, that all changed.

As we travelled up and down Highway 101, I saw a lot of relatively new signs and office complexes that are now household names and others that will undoubtedly soon join them. What is even more striking is that I saw countless numbers of young faces, heard from many eager personalities, and saw way more styles of denim and t-shirts than all of my years in junior and high school.

At Cisco, we discussed internet infrastructure, both wired and wireless. Innovation is alive and well and no matter what the naysayers put forth, America is not lagging behind. Cisco spends billions on research and development, and is increasingly using mobile technology in furtherance of its connectivity goals. The conversation touched on mobile healthcare technology, and how broadband is and will forever be essential for remote care. Additionally, the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in American schools cannot be overstated, as the speed of innovation must be matched by the ability of our citizens to grasp eve more complex concepts.

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Girls in Information and Communication Technology Day

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 8, 2012

On Thursday, April 26, I had the honor of speaking at the International Telecommunication Union's event marking Girls in ICT Day in New York. I joined successful, thoughtful and dynamic women to figure out how we can help get more girls and women into ICTs (information and communication technologies). You can watch the event, read about it, see the agenda, and view pictures too.

Girls In Tech Day - Commissioner ClyburnThe statistics reveal how real this digital gender divide is in the United States. The ICT industry accounts for one-sixth of the United States’ gross domestic product, but between 1990 and 2005, only one in four communications jobs created were filled by women. Of all Fortune 500 communications companies, women comprise a mere 15% of top executives. Why should women be left out of a field with such opportunity?

During my panel, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, said that ICTs could be the key to solving unemployment in Europe. She also spoke passionately about the urgent need to get girls into tech today so that they become tomorrow’s ICT leaders. I agree with her. As I told the conference participants, Dr. King had it right when he wrote from the Birmingham jail: "More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will."

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Remembering Congressman Donald Payne

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
March 7, 2012

My first real recollection of Representative Donald Payne was during a Congressional Black Caucus gathering in the mid to late 90s, which focused lack of diversity when it comes to creative content and roles for people of color in Hollywood.

I watched intently as this proud New Jersey lawmaker engaged a room filled with stars, writers, producers and just plain old people like me who were personally and professionally vested in this space. And while it is both sad and true that those very same issues are ripe today—some would say even to a more significant degree— I left that session inspired and motivated that somehow and in some way, I was now better equipped to make a difference.

For many years following that session, Rep. Payne would thank me (thank me!) for attending a session that still influences me to this day. I remember it like it was yesterday, saying, “No, thank YOU, for being so forward-thinking and in-tune with how important it is for us to be represented across all entertainment genres”. But he was just that type. A trailblazer and a kind, unassuming history maker who extended social and professional graces your way. But unlike many who shared his title or stature, Rep. Payne never seemed to care if those types of overtures were reciprocated or initiated by plain old folk like me.

My last vivid recollection of the first African American to represent New Jersey in the U. S. House of Representatives was during World Cocoa Day at the Indonesian Embassy. Meetings delayed his arrival, but as soon as he walked in the room, there was excitement. And yes, I must admit that to me, his proud gait seemed more gingerly. Nevertheless, there was no sign that his passion and commitment to global affairs were affected by any malady.

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