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Blog Posts by Mignon Clyburn

The FCC's Amazing Crew in Gettysburg, PA

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
March 15, 2011 - 06:30 AM

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 - 05:30 AM

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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Is a unified platform the key to upward mobility?

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
January 28, 2011 - 05:30 AM

I recently experienced my second visit to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Across the many acres of displays, demonstrations, lectures, and booths, I found myself almost unable to comprehend how much technology has advanced in only one year. From tablets, tablets and more tablets to clean energy concepts, interactive gaming and the ever-growing concept of “TV everywhere,” the new and innovative offerings are awe-inspiring. You literally need a half dozen days to take it all in. I had two…

Every other article in the tech trade press devotes a lot of attention to the emergence and ever-growing use of Internet-enabled television sets. I’ve read about them and have seen a few “in action,” but I felt it necessary to experience GoogleTV on my own. I stopped by their display to witness a test run, and what I saw made me further understand what all the fuss is about. The ability to match a viewing screen with endless content on the web is an exciting opportunity for consumers to enhance their home enjoyment, and we should all be excited about the further evolution of this user interface.

I also spent a good amount of time at Panasonic’s display, learning about the company’s green technologies and energy initiatives. I learned more about the use of lithium ion batteries in hybrid electric vehicles, and the new uses of solar power generators and household fuel cells. Panasonic intends to invest $1 billion toward the development of green technologies between now and 2012, and from an environmental standpoint, that is exciting.

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My Idea of Working From Home

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
October 19, 2010 - 06:30 AM

This week I had the pleasure of traveling home to South Carolina to deliver remarks at the Rural Cellular Association’s Business and Technical Conference. When I heard RCA wanted me to drop by, I was honored, naturally, but when I saw that this event was being held in South Carolina, I realized that they are excellent planners, too. This is not just because the Palmetto State is home to me, but also because South Carolina, with its rural communities and economic struggles, is a good example of the challenges this Commission must address if it really wants to meet the National Broadband Plan’s goal of promoting world-leading mobile broadband infrastructure. South Carolina is also a great example of the challenges facing the 90 or so wireless service providers, all members of RCA, who are trying to bring the benefits of advanced mobile voice and data services to all parts of rural America.

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My First Visit to One of the FCC's Field Offices

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
October 19, 2010 - 06:30 AM

I just returned from a 36-hour trip to Georgia, during which I visited a great group of folk at the FCC’s field office in Duluth (which is overseen by our Enforcement Bureau). It was my first experience with one of our field offices, but interacting with our people on the ground – my hard-working colleagues outside of the bubble of Washington – was an invaluable experience for me…and one I intend to replicate soon.

Upon my arrival, I was picked up by Doug Miller, the District Director of the field office, in one of the FCC’s Mobile Direction Finding (MDF) vehicles. While it looks like a run-of-the-mill SUV on the outside, it contains state-of-the-art detection equipment that Doug and his team use to detect illegal (“pirated”) radio broadcasts. Armed with technology and experience, innumerable unauthorized radio broadcasts, which trespass into the airwaves of licensed programming as well as airplane/airport transmissions, have been located and shut down by the FCC’s Duluth team.

The field team also walked me through the technology and labor needed to detect and stop illegal cell phone jamming. This practice is increasingly prevalent throughout our prisons and schools, and my FCC colleagues showed me how jamming devices operate and how small and inconspicuous they can be.

Later in the evening, I met and spoke to the Federal Communications Bar Association’s Atlanta chapter. I saw some old friends and met many new ones, and listened to their feedback regarding what we’re doing in DC and what they’re doing in and around metropolitan Atlanta. I truly enjoy chatting with communications practitioners and attorneys throughout the country, as they offer so many insights that I don’t regularly hear in Washington.

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Broadband Comes to Harlem

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
October 8, 2010 - 06:30 AM

Taking part in last Friday’s “Broadband Comes to Harlem” was a great pleasure for me. The open event felt much like a town hall exchange with seniors, students, politicians, policy makers and anyone wanting to learn more about broadband availability and how it can improve their lives. I had the honor of meeting Florence M. Rice, the host of the event and the founder of the Harlem Consumer Education Council (HCEC). At 91 years of age, Ms. Rice is just as active and committed as ever in her quest to keep Harlem’s citizens informed and empowered.

I shared with those gathered my experiences with my Grandmother in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina, and how the “protocols” of the past had the potential to perpetually stifle one’s ambitions. Affordable and available high-speed internet can and will take any granddaughter beyond the structural limits of those “unpaved roads”, and has the capacity to boost the confidence and abilities of an entire household.

The adoption numbers affirm that seniors in America are just learning the benefits and joys of being online, through word of mouth or from peering over the shoulders of their children and grandchildren as they type away and share memories, pictures and a host of experiences. They are re-discovering old friends and making new ones. They are realizing that fascinating information is just a click away, and that access to hobbies and places to visit await them. They are saving time and money by purchasing goods and services online and spending less on transportation by accessing essential government information and services with these technologies.

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Cable Diversity Week highlight of Big Apple Tour

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
September 16, 2010 - 06:30 AM

I just spent 2.5 days in New York City focusing on cable TV as the industry celebrated Diversity Week. I had the pleasure of meeting with the Board of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Cable - NAMIC, a 30-year old organization that promotes diversity in the cable industry by emphasizing diversity as a business strategy with their focus on programming, marketing, operations, technology, and leadership. They also provide training, awards, grants, mentoring, and guidance and networking opportunities.

Early Tuesday morning, I attended NAMIC's breakfast meeting where this year's Most Influential Minorities in Cable were recognized. I also learned about NAMIC's Executive Leadership Development Program from a most successful panel of graduates, and heard from several second generation NAMIC Board members who are carrying on their parents' tradition in the cable industry by working to increase opportunities for minorities and women in the creation, distribution, and marketing of cable programming. I was honored to present the keynote address at the morning session during the 24th Annual Conference entitled 3D: Diversity, Digital, Demographics.

An hour later, I had the opportunity to join an impressive group of women on a panel at the Women in Cable Telecommunications' Conference. Luckily, it was right down the hall from NAMIC. Each of these women is a remarkable leader in her field, and they were all willing to share their personal experiences and tips for success. We shared a wide range of stories from the most heart-breaking to the side-splitting. I think we all learned something about the challenges and rewards of being a woman in industries that had not initially welcomed us as participants, but where we have managed to make inroads to become leaders in our respective fields.

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Importance of Broadband

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
August 26, 2010 - 06:30 AM

Last week, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a public hearing on the “Future of the Internet” sponsored by Free Press, Main Street Project, and the Center for Media Justice. Much already has been written about that event in the mainstream press, so I wanted to share with you the part of my day which has not been featured—my visits with Minnesota Public Radio and the South Minneapolis WorkForce Center. Both of these visits reinforced the ongoing work of the Commission to ensure that every American has access to affordable high-speed Internet service.

Minnesota Public Radio

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) has been at the forefront of serving its community, through local and regional news and music over FM radio, for many years. Several things struck me as I was touring MPR’s impressive studios, soundstage, newsroom, and the Fitzgerald Theatre (home of The Prairie Home Companion). First, by hosting regular public discussions on the issues of the day in the beautiful UBS Forum, the public has the opportunity to be engaged on important matters through interactive dialogue. Citizens can tune in and listen, but they also can actively participate in these sessions. Second, independent voices have the opportunity to be heard and to find an audience—and by this I mean those voices that happen to be accompanied by musical instruments. MPR offers bands whose music would never be featured on most commercial stations a platform for exposure on The Current. Third, by offering local and regional news and actively expanding its news staff, MPR can better serve the public with the information it needs.

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Foreign Diplomacy In D.C.

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
August 2, 2010 - 06:30 AM

I had the pleasure last week of meeting several distinguished international colleagues, beginning on Tuesday morning, with a delegation from the Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones (CMT). Members of the Spanish telecommunications regulatory authority met with various U.S. companies and government agencies to learn more about the U.S. telecommunications market, and specifically, the FCC’s regulatory agenda—particularly in the area of broadband deployment, open Internet, next generation networks, and Internet governance. Then on Wednesday afternoon I had a delightful and informative meeting with Emmanuel Gabla, Commissioner for the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) and his delegation. Among the many obligations of CSA is the responsibility for implementing France’s digital television transition. The French began the switch to standard definition DTV in 2009 on a regional basis and established a 2011 cutoff for all analog TV broadcasts. In France, several agencies govern different aspects of communications policy. Since Commissioner Gabla has worked at agencies that regulate the wireline, wireless, and now media communications, he was able to educate me on the history of a wide-range of French communications policy. I really appreciate the time that these delegations spent with me this week and would like to recognize the tremendous support of Mindel De La Torre and her staff at the International Bureau for making these exchanges possible.

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My Journey to Alaska

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
July 13, 2010 - 06:30 AM

I’m back in the Washington, D.C. heat after staying cool for almost a week in Alaska. Senator Mark Begich and his staff ensured that I experienced urban, rural and extreme rural Alaska with visits to Anchorage, Cordova, Kotzebue and Kiana. At each stop, Alaskans proved to me that Southerners do not have a monopoly on hospitality. They welcomed me with friendly smiles and full plates of Copper River Red Salmon that melted in my mouth, fresh Alaskan King Crab legs (for breakfast!) and even corned beef hash (my childhood morning obsession)! While I enjoyed every bite, I also benefited from an earful of feedback about the National Broadband Plan and proposed or current FCC policies.

Before the trip, I heard about all of the ways in which the “Great Land” differs from “the lower 48.” As I flew across the State and met with consumers, providers and other stakeholders, I gained an appreciation of the unique challenges faced by Alaskans. But I was more struck by the similarities. Fundamentally, we all share common goals – the improvement and enhancement of the communities in which we reside. Alaskans, like everyone else, recognize the power of broadband to help achieve these goals.

Connecting the urban, rural and extreme rural Alaskan communities allows individuals to expand their horizons. It also helps strengthen communities while maintaining cultural identities. Connecting to one’s cultural home should not be jeopardized by lack of access. Ubiquitous broadband can ensure that Alaskans and other individuals always have the option of staying close to home without sacrificing opportunities.

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