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Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Speaker Series

by Susan Fisenne, Outreach Specialist, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division
August 26, 2013

Those of us working at the FCC strongly believe that the power of technology should benefit and be available to all Americans, including those with disabilities.  Communications technology is empowering to all, but for people with disabilities, it is especially promising.  It can enable someone to telecommute or run a business out of their home; shop online; get involved in their community; receive remote healthcare; take online classes; stay connected with friends and family.  The list goes on and on, but all of these opportunities would be lost if people with disabilities do not have access to the Web.

Dr. Yevgen Borodin and the company he co-founded, Charmtech Labs LLC, are driven by the social cause of making the Web universally accessible for all.  And for that reason, the FCC’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau is honored to have Dr. Borodin as the guest presenter at the Accessibility & Innovation Initiative Speaker Series scheduled for September 14, 2013, from 10 am to 12 noon in the Commission Meeting Room.  The Accessibility & Innovation Initiative launched its speaker series earlier this summer to raise awareness and encourage innovation in accessible communications technologies that will benefit people with disabilities. 

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Adding Local Voices to the Radio Airwaves

by Bill Lake, Chief, Media Bureau
August 12, 2013

The FCC recently announced that it will accept LPFM license applications between October 15, 2013 and October 29, 2013.  I am extremely excited about the new opportunities presented by the window, which is the result of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 and the work of the Commission to implement that legislation. 

As Acting FCC Chairwoman Clyburn recently said: “Local groups across the country will have a unique opportunity in October to apply for a license to provide LPFM radio broadcast services to their communities.”

The LPFM service was initially established in 2000 to create opportunities for new voices to be heard on the radio.  The FCC envisioned LPFM stations would serve very localized communities of underrepresented groups within those communities.  An LPFM station can be authorized to operate with up to 100 watts and will typically have a service radius of approximately three and one-half miles.  LPFM stations are available to local, nonprofit educational entities, Tribes, and public safety organizations, but are not available to individuals or for commercial operations.  LPFM stations are authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting only, and LPFM licenses generally cannot own or have an interest in any other broadcast stations.

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FCC Supports National Council of La Raza at Annual Conference Rise As One

by Keyla Hernandez-Ulloa, Associate Chief, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division
August 1, 2013

In late July, I had the privilege of representing the FCC at the annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference.  NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

True to its theme, Rise As One, the 2013 conference’s workshops and presentations emphasized the importance of collaboration among all communities across the nation to find viable solutions to the similar challenges we face.

This year’s conference addressed issues of great interest to the Hispanic community, including: economic development, collaborative fundraising, K-12 education, social media, financial literacy, immigration reform, disaster preparedness, and the importance of obtaining a college degree.  

The conference’s Líderes Summit, a national program designed to create opportunities for Latino youth, included workshops on preparing for job interviews, public speaking, and applying for a federal government job.

At the FCC exhibit I provided information on a variety of topics, including: informal complaints, cable television rates, indecency, bill shock, and the September 2015 deadline for low-power TV stations’ (LPTV) transition to an all-digital format.

There was also great interest about the October 15 – 29, 2013 application window for low-power FM radio stations (LPFMs).  Consumers seeking more information on the LPFM window, including how to file FCC Form 318, were directed to the User Guide at the Media Bureau's Consolidated Database System (CDBS) at  http://licensing.fcc.gov/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbs_ug.htm and/or advised to contact the Audio Division Help Desk at (202) 418‐2662.

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AAPI Roundtable

by Celeste McCray, Asian American Outreach Team
July 26, 2013

The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division is responsible for reaching out to many of our underserved communities. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to meet the needs of the diverse communities we serve. 

Toward that end, on Monday, July 22, 2013, we were pleased to host the first roundtable for leaders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community at the FCC’s headquarters.  We were honored that Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn opened the roundtable, which was also attended by Commissioner Ajit Pai who is now the Commission’s representative on the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders.  FCC policy makers gave presentations relevant to this community:  low-power community FM radio stations; small business opportunities; Lifeline; broadband; digital literacy; health initiatives; public private partnerships; connect2compete; Everyone On; [MW2] incentive auctions; and many consumer issues such as bill shock and cramming.

The ensuing discussions between the participants and FCC speakers were lively and intense, so much so that our meeting ran over the allotted time!  But it was time well spent because the FCC and leaders of the AAPI community forged a partnership that envisions an overarching framework of information exchanges to be supplemented by smaller committees to achieve specific goals – such as how to better address the need for culturally sensitive outreach materials in multiple languages.  

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FCC Releases New Incentive Auction Repacking Information

by Julius Knapp, Chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering & Technology
July 22, 2013

Today, the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force released a Public Notice that seeks input on certain data and updated computer software relevant to the repacking component of the upcoming incentive auction. 

Repacking is one of three major components of the FCC’s incentive auction, along with the reverse and forward auctions.  It refers to the process of reassigning broadcast TV channels to free up contiguous blocks of spectrum for mobile broadband use.

The notice and accompanying materials released today includes the results of a preliminary analysis of whether any particular television station could be assigned or reassigned to particular channels in the incentive auction repacking process, consistent with statutory and other requirements.  This information and analysis will permit broadcasters to validate the accuracy of the information regarding their stations or facilities contained in the FCC’s databases, to ensure that the staff has correctly identified all relevant constraints on repacking.  It also provides an opportunity for broadcasters to evaluate the range of channels to which they could be repacked consistent with the requirements of the Spectrum Act and the Commission’s rules if they are not a “winning bidder” in the incentive auction.

 This release was driven by the Commission’s continuing focus on transparency and desire to receive input from all interested parties.  Over the coming weeks and months, the public will have the opportunity to use this information, along with additional elements of the repacking process that we intend to make available, to better understand and to provide feedback on the work that our engineering and auction design experts have been doing.  Those additional elements include how we will select bids, how we will assign channels, and algorithms for carrying out these and other elements of the repacking process.

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Accessibility and Innovation Initiative Debuts Speaker Series

by Rebecca Lockhart, Outreach Specialist, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division
July 12, 2013

The FCC’s Accessibility & Innovation Initiative has a goal of bringing awareness and recognition to the creation and advancement of accessible communication technologies for people with disabilities by promoting collaborative problem-solving among academic, industry, consumer, and government sectors.  We have hosted several events at FCC Headquarters to promote our efforts including the “Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility” and a “Developing with Accessibility” event

We are very excited about the launch of this speaker series on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 and are honored to have Clayton Lewis, Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, as our first special guest. A full description of the event and more details about Dr. Lewis can be found here

In addition, there will be a technology showcase reflecting the themes of the morning’s presentation and exhibitors will be demonstrating their accessible technology solutions.  These demonstrations will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the FCC's Technology Experience Center (TEC).  The TEC is open to the public and offers a unique, hands-on opportunity for visitors to experiment with new technologies.  

The four demonstrations will include:

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Preparing for Text-to-911

July 1, 2013

For the millions of Americans who use text messaging on their wireless phones, it may come as a surprise that you typically can’t reach 911 by text message. That is beginning to change, however.

Text-to-911 service is currently available on a limited basis in a few locations across the country. Itcan provide a lifesaving alternative in many situations – where a person with a hearing or speech disability is unable to make a voice call, where voice networks are congested, or where a 911 voice call could endanger the caller. In fact, it has already saved lives and thwarted crimes, including preventing a suicide in Vermont and, in Iowa, protecting women and children from abuse who were silently able to text for help.  

To build on that progress, the four largest U.S. wireless companies – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon – have voluntarily committed to make text-to-911 available by May 15, 2014, in all areas served by their networks where the local 911 call center has the technical capability to receive texts.  

In addition, the FCC has sought comment on proposed rules to require all wireless carriers and “interconnected” text message providers to likewise make text-to-911 available where the 911 call center has the technical capability to receive texts. 

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A Band Plan that Serves the Public Interest

by Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
June 21, 2013

The FCC’s incentive auction task force is making progress towards holding the world’s first incentive auction in 2014 which will free up valuable spectrum for mobile broadband use across the country.

Over the past few weeks, the Commission has received significant input from parties representing a range of viewpoints on the type of band plan we should adopt when we re-pack the 600MHz spectrum as part of the auction.  

Each addition to the record increases our knowledge and understanding of the complexities of this ground-breaking process and helps to ensure we act in the public interest.  We are grateful for the input. 

At last count, there were over a dozen proposed band plans in our record.  While some differ substantially, many seem at a high level to be quite similar - and without close review may even give the misleading impression that a “consensus” has in fact been reached.  But we all know that the devil is in the details, and in reality the proposed plans are dissimilar in notable respects.

A number of commenters support band plans that are in the “Down from 51” family.  But some plans would limit paired licensed spectrum to 50 MHz http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022426215, while others call for a larger number of paired bands http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022426525, http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022426263.  Some plans accommodate market variation by including television stations in the duplex gap in limited areas http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022426525, http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022426263, while others say there should be no market variation at all http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022426141. 

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Hitting the Ground Running with the Lifeline Accountability Database

by Kimberly Scardino, Chief, Telecommunications Access Policy Division
June 20, 2013

Nearly 600 participants logged onto our webinar yesterday demonstrating a key component of our comprehensive reforms to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in the FCC’s Lifeline program: the National Lifeline Accountability Database.  The database will ensure compliance with one of our most important rules to protect the integrity of the program: limiting Lifeline benefits to one subscription per household.  By harnessing communications and information technology to enforce this rule, the Commission will protect the universal service fund and the consumers who pay into it, promote fairness to beneficiaries and companies who play by the rules, and reduce the burden on providers.

My colleagues at the FCC, along with representatives from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the database vendor, shared information about the database and answered questions to ensure that Lifeline providers, states, consumers and others users can hit the ground running once the database is online.  We will conduct training workshops and additional outreach to ensure all interested parties are prepared for the database.

Implementation of the database will begin in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma and Washington this fall, with other states to follow shortly thereafter.  Importantly, USAC will “scrub” the subscriber information to eliminate duplicates BEFORE loading it into the database. The database will be operational by the end of the year and going forward will permanently detect and prevent duplicative Lifeline support before a consumer enrolls in the Lifeline program.

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FCC Hosts a Power-Packed Conference on Angel Investing for Small, Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses

by Calvin Osborne, Attorney Advisor
June 18, 2013

On July 11, 2013, from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m, the FCC‘s Office of Communications Business Opportunities (“OCBO”) will host an Access to Capital Conference and Workshop focusing on telecommunications and technology-related businesses interested in obtaining funding from angel investors.  This conference, which includes one on one breakout sessions, will be held at FCC Headquarters, 445 12th Street, Washington, DC on Thursday, July 11, 2013 from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm in the Commission Meeting Room. 

We have invited representatives from the angel investment community from across the country to discuss their investment strategies in the telecommunications, technology, and media-related industries.  Our panelists will examine what entrepreneurs need to know when seeking potential funding from angel investors and, once successful, how to navigate the investment relationship.     

The program will begin with a panel discussion from 9:00 am to 11:30 am.  The afternoon, from 1:00 to 4:30 pm, will feature one-on-one sessions between our panelists and any small business owners who would like individualized advice on angel investing and information on current funding opportunities. 

The goal of this program is to identify trends in angel investing, delve into the differences between angel investors and venture capitalists, and explain why would-be entrepreneurs should seek funding from angel investors rather than venture capitalists.  We will also highlight how angel investors select projects as well as the special challenges angel investors and entrepreneurs face in getting to an agreement. 

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