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Blog Posts by Mignon Clyburn

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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Seeing It All at the Cable Show in Chicago

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 22, 2011

Having just spent two days at the Cable Show in Chicago, IL, I can safely say that the content and programming industries continue to amaze me. As I walked through the many acres of floor displays and demonstrations, I noticed that the tastes and preferences of viewers continues to expand, and that content providers stand ready to cater to virtually every facet of human interest.

Content wasn’t the only attraction, as innovation is flourishing as well. High-speed delivery is only getting faster, and the ability to watch recorded and stored programming from different household TVs and platforms is finally here. DVRs are evolving to fit every time-shifting whim, and on-screen displays are becoming more user-friendly, more attractive, and come with far more options. I watched a number of demonstrations, and can affirm that the at-home consumer experience has been wonderfully enhanced. Individuals can customize their content.

As was said numerous times in Chicago, broadband is a platform for everything, and is the number one growth path for small businesses. I applaud all of the innovators and content providers underneath the colorful cable umbrella, and can’t wait to see even more mind-blowing offerings next year.

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Broadband Availability: It’s So Much More Than Just Access to the Internet

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 24, 2011

Last week I was in Omaha, Nebraska to engage in several discussions about the importance of ubiquitous and affordable, high-speed Internet. As you know, we are spending a lot of time at the Commission considering how to reform and modernize the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation regime (ICC) to ensure that broadband is available throughout the nation. And we continued a discussion with consumers, industry, and our colleagues at various state commissions about our pending proposals last Wednesday at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

For broadband to be truly available to consumers, we have to consider more than their physical access to it. We also must take into account their ability to adopt it. We know that of the 1/3 of Americans who haven’t adopted broadband, most haven’t done so because of the costs involved. For these consumers, they must rely on Internet access at their jobs, local libraries, schools, and family and friends’ homes. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Charles B. Washington Branch of the Omaha Public Library to see how this neighborhood anchor is meeting the high-speed Internet needs of the local community. There are terminals all throughout the library. The children’s section has computers. There are two computer areas for adults and another area just for teens. A recipient of BTOP funds, the library will be expanding its access to more computers for citizens, as the demand is very high. This isn’t surprising, of course, because we know that high-speed Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Without it, citizens are disadvantaged in finding a job and communicating. I saw first-hand the benefits of Internet access—the Internet research, commerce, and communicating that the citizens of North Omaha engage in at their local library.

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SMARTBoards and Other Brilliant Uses of Broadband to Educate our Future Leaders

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 11, 2011

I recently visited Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia where President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and other government officials visited this past March. There they lauded the extraordinary progress the middle school has made by leveraging advanced technology. The President discussed his initiative to reform the current “No Child Left Behind” system, by noting how important it is for our Nation to invest in innovative ways to keep those students fully engaged in the classroom. After reviewing the President’s remarks, I wanted to see the school for myself.

Kenmore is an Arts and Communications Technology Focus school. The Principal, Dr. John Word, believes that his 720 students perform better when they are excited about school. Children are already enthusiastic about the arts and advanced technology, so the faculty and staff encourage their existing interests by finding innovative ways to integrate the technology into the core curriculum. Each year, Kenmore picks an artist to be the center of study, and the students learn about the different facets of that artist’s life. This year, they are learning about jazz musician Duke Ellington and they are using their on campus media production studios to create a photo story tribute to his life and his work.

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The Unique Experiences of Women are Enhancements to Leadership

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 21, 2011

Last week, following my trip to Boston, I had the honor of traveling to Orlando to speak at the Women in Public Safety Communications Leadership Conference, hosted by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International. This event is of course near and dear to my heart, as it combines two of my passions: promoting public safety and empowering women. Women face unique challenges in the workplace, so I always jump at the opportunity to share my experiences in arriving at where I am today.

The most important lesson I attempted to impart at the Conference was to understand and embrace the fact that there are many paths to becoming a leader in this industry. Over the years, I have spoken with a number of women who have conveyed their discouragement in the fact that they are unable to advance into leadership positions in their respective fields. I always stress, however, that there is a big difference between being a leader and having the title of leader – the ability to take charge and to be a model for others to follow is what defines a leader, not necessarily the position one holds.

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The Beantown Media and Technology Experience

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 13, 2011

Last week, I spent a few days in Boston, aka Bean Town, aka Cradle of Modern America. Since the purpose of the trip was to participate in Free Press’s National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR) and visit Verizon’s LTE Innovation Lab in nearby Waltham, I anticipated being impressed by the level of creativity and excitement at both venues. The trip exceeded my expectations. The majority of the attendees at NCMR are folks who have dedicated their lives to “building the movement for better media” on both traditional and new media platforms. Thursday evening, my legal advisor, Louis, and I had dinner with Jay April and Sean McLaughlin. I knew that both are accomplished and acclaimed veterans of community radio and television. They are also very charming and intelligent.

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The FCC's Amazing Crew in Gettysburg, PA

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
March 15, 2011

I spend a lot of time at the FCC’s main building in southwest DC. Days can pass with me not even venturing across the street at lunch time for a sandwich. So, when my schedule offered me the opportunity to travel outside of this fine city to see what my FCC colleagues are doing in one of our field offices, I jumped at the chance and headed north.

The 200+ dedicated FCC workers in the Gettysburg, PA office deal with a variety of subject matter, all of it being crucial to the FCC’s mission and operations. Many bureaus are represented, from the Office of Managing Director to Wireless to Media. All are in constant communication with our DC headquarters and the other field offices around the country.

While there, I visited their spectrum auction room, which is used to monitor those transactions that the Commission conducts annually. Equipped with state of the art technology and security, the auctions are run smoothly and effectively, all under the watchful eyes of my FCC colleagues.

But the highlight of my visit was being able to observe our staff take calls from the general public. The Gettysburg office serves as the primary intake center for all FCC inquiries and complaints, and my colleagues tirelessly attempt to address any issue that is brought up during a consumer call. Some calls, as one might expect, are livelier and more animated than others, but it is a vital part of our mission to hear what everyday consumers and technology users think about the changing media and telecommunications landscape and how the Commission is regulating it. As I so often note, we are charged with the protection of consumers and whether certain decisions that we contemplate are in the public’s interest, and it’s a mission I take very seriously.

I want to again thank all of my FCC colleagues in Gettysburg for their gracious hospitality. Please keep doing what you do, and I hope you will invite me back soon.

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The Big and the Up-and-Coming

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
March 8, 2011

Spending two days in New York City can be exhausting. I had a number of meetings with mega news organizations and their executives in order to discuss the ever-changing media landscape, which continues to modify the way we view and access news content. Do you peruse the headlines on your blackberry while riding the subway, or do you prefer the feel of an actual newspaper? Do you listen to podcasts of Charlie Rose while working out or do you watch him interview his guests while sitting on your couch? Media companies are dying to know the answers to these questions as they continue to simultaneously innovate and study consumer habits, making this a fascinating time to have an eye on the industry. I greatly enjoyed learning about the myriad new approaches being used to deliver content to the innumerable devices we now carry, and I look forward to watching how future trends will form.

But the highlight of my time by far was my visit to People’s Production House. PPH is a non-profit that educates students in how to effectively conduct televised interviews and instills general production skills. Additionally, PPH serves as a type of tutor and information resource for individuals looking to develop plenary and basic computer literacy skills and the knowledge necessary to access all that the world wide web has to offer.

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