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How We’re Investing Smart To Expand Rural Broadband

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
May 16, 2013 - 11:44 AM

The Connect America Fund is the FCC’s 21st Century solution to expanding broadband to unserved areas of rural America.  One reason why the Connect America Fund can stay within a budget as it accomplishes this task – while continuing to support traditional voice service as its 20th Century predecessor program did – is because we are targeting the right amount of subsidies to the right places: places where help is needed the most. The old universal service fund did little to protect against unneeded subsidies. Developing ways to stop this fiscal waste was a major focus of our 2011 Connect America reforms.

We are well on the way to implementing these reforms, including making initial decisions on a Cost Model that will calculate what level of support is needed, down to the Census block level.  Today, we’re adopting another set of policies to make sure that we don’t support providers in Census blocks where another provider is delivering service without subsidies.

It’s fiscally prudent to reserve the Fund for areas where there’s no business case to serve consumers. And it’s common sense that in areas where a provider delivers voice and broadband without subsidies, a business case has been made.  Moreover, giving subsidies to one provider and not the other is unfair.

So accounting for unsubsidized providers is critical as we distribute support for rural voice and broadband in this phase, Phase II, of the Connect America Fund.  Here’s how we are going to do it.

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DevEx Day: Developing Innovation at the FCC

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer, and Eric Spry, Deputy GIO, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis
May 15, 2013 - 12:14 PM

We recently experimented with a new idea at FCC: giving a small team 24 hours to create something new on their own. We called this DevEx Day (referred to as either DevEx or FedEx Day). The name is a play on the brand name FedEx, where products need to be delivered in 24 hours, combined with a developer day. This innovative approach arose from the tech industry and has expanded into other sectors. The idea is that for 24 hours, participants work on something new and different from their normal work. It is a focused day of learning new skills or honing existing ones, guided only by the participant’s interest. The day starts with each team member explaining his or her project to the group. The next day, members present their finished products, which are reviewed by the group. And like its original namesake delivery company, participants must absolutely positively deliver overnight.

This approach forces participants to focus intensively. Collegial competition adds the impetus to “deliver”. During the DevEx Day, no meetings are scheduled, no calls are taken, and email stays closed for the team.

The results were terrific. Each member of the entire team delivered working software code, and nearly all published this code on the site, github.com using free and open source tools. Several of these projects have already guided larger projects at FCC, and all have inspired new ideas from team members and reignited creative spark. Too rarely do the people writing the code have a say in the complete “stack” of the environment they are working with. DevEx Day puts them in the driver seat; we can learn a lot from where each driver takes us.

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Moving Forward with Technology Transitions Trials

by Sean Lev, General Counsel and Interim Director, Technology Transitions Task Force
May 10, 2013 - 12:59 PM

Today, the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force issued a Public Notice proposing to conduct real-world trials and seeking input on specific potential trials.  The goal of any trials will be to assist the Commission in ensuring that its policy decisions relating to ongoing technology transitions are solidly grounded in good data.

Communications networks are changing from copper to fiber and from time division multiplexing (TDM) to Internet protocols; wireless voice and data services are increasingly important.  These are exciting developments.  The ongoing technology transitions hold the promise for tremendous benefits for consumers.  Among other things, these new technologies can deliver higher quality service and higher speed broadband to more Americans.  IP-based networks also make it easier to deploy feature-rich next-generation 911 systems.   At the same time, we must ensure that the transitions preserve and advance the core values reflected in the Communications Act:  consumer protection, universal service, competition, and public safety.

To protect those core values, we need good data.  Indeed, Chairman Genachowski established the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force to “conduct a data driven review” as it formulates “recommendations to modernize the Commission’s policies.”  Accordingly, in March, the Task Force held a public workshop with experts from around the country.  The workshop focused on the capabilities and limitations of new and emerging technologies, the decisions consumers are making as they adopt voice and broadband services, and the plans of various providers in deploying the new technologies.

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Public Service: A Life of Commitment

by Roger Goldblatt, Associate Bureau Chief, CGB
May 10, 2013 - 11:34 AM

As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week this year, recognizing the hard work and best efforts of our federal, state, county, and local government employees, it gives me pause to reflect on my experience as a career public servant .  I have been fortunate to have worked in many great agencies, and have served under several White House administrations.  My job has enabled me to travel around the country and meet public servants in all corners of our 50 states.  It has also provided me with an opportunity to receive direct feedback from our citizens. I can find no words to convey how I feel when people of all cultures, backgrounds, and ages come up and say “thank you.”  I know they are not thanking just me, but the millions of public servants throughout the nation.

I recognize that, lately, it is a difficult time to be a public servant.  You’d think that the morale and efforts of those who serve the public would be dimmed, in light of the current environment.  However, as I look around at my coworkers and those I meet in other agencies, I see their lights shining as brightly as ever. Our public servants are as dedicated, passionate, and engaged as ever — working long hours, going the extra mile, and showing a level of caring for those that they serve.  I’m proud to work with such dedicated professionals.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
May 9, 2013 - 03:19 PM

The FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is pleased to commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) today.  Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a community-driven effort dedicated to raising the profile and heightening awareness of digital accessibility to the broadest audience possible.

Over the years, Congress has designated the FCC as the federal agency responsible for implementing various laws intended to make communication technologies more accessible to people with disabilities.  This post highlights resources toward available on www.fcc.gov.  We will also be tweeting messages with the hashtag #GAAD.

The FCC's Disability Rights Office performs most of our work in this area, and our AccessInfo service distributes email announcements about FCC news on disability-access issues.  Information on how to subscribe can be found here: www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/join-accessinfo-email-list.

In addition, the FCC's Accessibility Clearinghouse is an online database of information about accessible technology solutions.  

Below you will find links to 25 Consumer Guides that we have prepared on disability-access issues.  We hope you find this information useful:

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Commission Hosts 600 MHz Band Plan Workshop

by Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
May 7, 2013 - 08:35 AM

The FCC hosted a public workshop Friday as part of its LEARN program.  The workshop focused on how best to structure the 600 MHz wireless band plan in the upcoming incentive auction.  In proposing a band plan, the Commission focused on five key policy goals: utility, certainty, interchangeability, quantity, and interoperability.  The workshop focused on tradeoffs of elements within these goals to achieve balance.

At the workshop, FCC staff moderated a highly informative discussion among stakeholders representing a wide range of interests, including television broadcasters, licensed mobile broadband providers, device and component manufacturers, and other interested parties. 

Friday’s discussion indicated support for many of the band plan elements proposed in our Incentive Auction NPRM.  We also received valuable input regarding some of the more challenging issues associated with developing the 600 MHz band plan.  In particular, we had very productive technical discussions on intermodulation and harmonics interference, mobile antenna issues, filter pass band issues, and how to accommodate technical flexibility in the band.  

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4/25 #GIRLSTECHDAY Twitter Chat Recap

by Brittany L. Stevenson , New Media Associate
April 29, 2013 - 05:52 PM

On April 25, the FCC was proud to celebrate International Girls’ in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day with a Twitter chat focusing on how ICT has helped improve the lives of women and girls in their careerseducation, and health

The purpose of International Girls’ in ICT Day is to promote gender equality in the growing field of information and communication technologies by encouraging school-aged girls to consider a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEMeducation or a tech career.  Technology plays an increasingly important role in all aspects of our lives.

“ICT is one of the fastest growing job sectors and one of the best paying.  The U.S. Bureau of labor statistics estimates a 21.8% growth in ICT jobs in the United States by 2020. At the same time, there is such a big talent gap in ICT that there will only be enough qualified workers to fill one third of those jobs. On the bright side, this situation presents a great economic opportunity for anyone considering a career in ICT.” Excerpt from Opening Statement for International Girls in ICT Day Ambassador Betty E. King

For the 1ST time, an FCC commissioner, Mingnon Clyburn, participated in an FCC-hosted Twitter chat by giving opening remarks:

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Encouraging the Growth of Women’s Technical Talent

April 25, 2013 - 10:49 AM
Monique Morrow

I am a proud engineer and technologist, but it has not been an easy journey as a woman in a sea of men. Therefore, I am glad that there is a growing global movement to encourage female technical talent. Recent data shows that there is a business imperative to hire more women:

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The Network Technology Transitions: Enormous Opportunities, Some Key Challenges

by Sean Lev, General Counsel and Interim Director, Technology Transitions Policy Task Force
April 24, 2013 - 01:00 PM

The Technology Transitions Policy Task Force held its first workshop on March 18th.  We had many distinguished panelists—many of whom came from far outside the Beltway—and we are very grateful for their time and efforts.

As we had hoped, we learned many significant things from the discussion at the workshop that help us understand the technological transitions that are the focus of this Task Force—from TDM to IP, from copper to fiber, and from wireline to greater use of wireless networks.  I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few of the key takeaways.

First, we focused on capabilities and limitations of new and emerging technologies.  For example, panelists discussed MegaMIMO and its potential for stitching together overlapping wireless cells to increase data speeds for end users.  We also reviewed the cable industry’s DOCSIS 3.1 standard and its potential for serving businesses and consumers with speeds up to 1Gbps.  The panel also discussed how existing copper wires can provide significantly higher speed services through VDSL2 technology.  We also heard more about current trends in business voice and broadband—including the vociferous demand for wireless services among enterprise customers and the fixed-mobile convergence that IP-enabled networks will enable for businesses. At the same time, panelists emphasized that even with these technological evolutions that enable higher speeds over copper, there are limits to the technology, and copper may not be sufficient to meet broadband demand indefinitely. These and other  wired and wireless capabilities—and the financial and technical prerequisites for bringing those capacities to consumers—are important for us to keep in mind as we take a hard look at what these technologies mean for Commission policy.

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An Update: Driving Innovation and Reforms from the International Bureau

by Mindel De La Torre , International Bureau Chief
April 23, 2013 - 12:28 PM

The Commission recently adopted the Second Report and Order on Foreign Ownership (“Order”) to overhaul and streamline the way it reviews foreign ownership of U.S. wireless companies under sections 310(b)(3) and (b)(4) of the Communications Act.  These reforms will dramatically reduce the number of hours applicants spend to prepare required filings, as well as lower, by up to 70%, the number of such filings annually.;

This Order is the latest in a series of regulatory reform and data innovation efforts we in the International Bureau have taken under the leadership of Chairman Genachowski.  I’d like to take this occasion to highlight these reform accomplishments and to thank the excellent staff in the Bureau and the Commission for their efforts to streamline and improve the way we interact with industry and the public.

A guiding principle of our regulatory reform efforts has been to achieve flexible, common sense, market-based, data-driven and targeted regulatory frameworks that are informed by our experience and made in consultation with a broad set of stakeholders, including industry, commenters, and relevant Executive Branch agencies.  They also demonstrate that there are several approaches to regulatory reform, including identifying and eliminating unnecessary rules, streamlining required rules, and refocusing existing rules to meet technological and market sector changes.

In addition to the foreign ownership streamlining action, here are just a few of the significant reform efforts we have taken over the last four years:

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