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Blog Posts by Mignon Clyburn

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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The Women’s Initiative: Going Mobile and Connecting Women

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
February 15, 2012

I am proud to announce that the FCC's International Bureau has launched a new Women’s Initiative which will leverage the experience, resources, and connections of the international ICT community to improve the status of women, their communities, and their countries.

During my trip to East Africa in 2011, I saw first hand the potential power of ICT collaboration and its impact on women and their communities. The same realities were true during my trips to Ghana, Senegal, and Gambia the year before where I saw the exponential increase in the usage of mobile phones in Africa and the doors that connectivity open for users. Our hope is to use the Women’s Initiative as a means of promoting mobile applications, connecting mobile application creators, and encouraging the creation of new mobile applications specifically targeted to women. We want this Women’s Initiative to help the global community make applications more flexible and adaptable to the changing technological needs of women. We hope to connect leaders at various companies, government agencies and NGOs in order to leverage resources to improve the lives of women. 

During my travels in Africa, I also had the incredible opportunity to meet with key NGOs like the Southern African NGO Network, which is already promoting the strategic use of ICTs for socio-economic development and poverty eradication in that part of the world. In addition to that, we anticipate facilitating women’s access to useful and practical applications through this effort.

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The Women’s Initiative: Going Mobile and Connecting Women

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
February 15, 2012

I am proud to announce that the FCC's International Bureau has launched a new Women’s Initiative which will leverage the experience, resources, and connections of the international ICT community to improve the status of women, their communities, and their countries.

During my trip to East Africa in 2011, I saw first hand the potential power of ICT collaboration and its impact on women and their communities. The same realities were true during my trips to Ghana, Senegal, and Gambia the year before where I saw the exponential increase in the usage of mobile phones in Africa and the doors that connectivity open for users. Our hope is to use the Women’s Initiative as a means of promoting mobile applications, connecting mobile application creators, and encouraging the creation of new mobile applications specifically targeted to women. We want this Women’s Initiative to help the global community make applications more flexible and adaptable to the changing technological needs of women. We hope to connect leaders at various companies, government agencies and NGOs in order to leverage resources to improve the lives of women.

During my travels in Africa, I also had the incredible opportunity to meet with key NGOs like the Southern African NGO Network, which is already promoting the strategic use of ICTs for socio-economic development and poverty eradication in that part of the world. In addition to that, we anticipate facilitating women’s access to useful and practical applications through this effort.

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Back to the Future – Another Amazing Trip to CES

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
January 24, 2012

I kicked off another New Year by once again being the envy of my high tech gadget friends back home. For the third time in a row, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from January 10-12. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which is responsible for organizing the event, needs to bottle and sell their secret for hosting a successful event year after year.

My visit began on Tuesday afternoon accompanied by Peter Slen, host of the CSPAN program, The Communicators. During a tour of a few exhibits, what intrigued me most was how energy efficiency initiatives, though not much discussed in marketing CES, were becoming more prominent on the floor. This is particularly appropriate and significant because as these CES shows forecast the increase in demand for advanced electronics, naturally this would also lead to an increase in the demand for electrical and other energy sources. Peter and I also spoke about how these incredible innovations are opening up a host of options and opportunities for those with physical and cognitive challenges.

Afterwards, Julie Kearney, Brian Markwalter, and other members of the CEA staff were gracious enough to take me on a tour of some of the exhibitors that had developed mobile health services and applications. It seemed as if CEA devoted an entire floor in the South Hall to these new technologies. These exciting applications ranged from monitors that help those who are suffering from difficult chronic diseases to high tech treadmills and other gym apparatus for those who want to meet and exceed the work out challenges they set for themselves. It is clear that the communications, information management, and health care industries are collaborating and leveraging mobile technological advances to improve the lives of so many people.

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Media Diversity, Open Internet, and Adoption Efforts in Massachusetts

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
August 4, 2011

A quick trip, last week, to Massachusetts gave me another opportunity to learn about activities outside of the Beltway that promote three important initiatives: greater diversity in traditional and new media outlets, open Internet, and wider broadband adoption.

My first stop was to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, located on the Harvard Law School campus, in Cambridge. The Center considers itself an entrepreneurial non-profit whose mission “is to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions.” It enjoys a world wide reputation for ground breaking scholarship. During the development of the National Broadband Plan, the Commission asked the Berkman Center to conduct an independent expert review of the broadband deployment plans pursued by other market oriented democratic countries in the transition to the next generation of connectivity. One of the Berkman Center’s founders, Professor Jonathan Zittrain, is currently the FCC’s Distinguished Scholar.

This was my first visit to the Center, and Managing Director Colin Maclay organized a terrific roundtable discussion to introduce me to some of the fellows, faculty, and staff that contribute to the incredible work they do. These folks quickly impressed me not only with their dedication and intellect, but also with their charm and humor. I was particularly excited to learn that the Center and I share mutual interests in: creating more opportunities for diverse programming of high quality; promoting an open and free Internet; and, educating our Nation’s youth on how best to harness and protect the creative possibilities of their interactions in cyber space.

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