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FCC Launches Connect America Fund

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
April 25, 2012 - 04:51 PM

The principle of universal service is that all Americans need access to affordable communications.  In the last century, universal service programs connected virtually the entire nation to telephone service.  Now, in the 21st century, when high-speed Internet has become the essential communications tool for jobs, innovation, economic growth, education, healthcare, public safety and building communities, our goal must be to connect every American, regardless of where they live.  To do this without imposing new funding burdens on consumers means eliminating inefficient rules and bad incentives that have plagued the Universal Service Fund for years. 

That’s exactly what the Commission did last year when it voted unanimously to reform and modernize the Universal Service Fund, it set the express goal of bringing broadband access to the more than 18 million Americans, mostly rural, who lack it.  The centerpiece of this modernization is the Connect America Fund, or CAF, which transforms the old voice-centric universal service fund for rural areas into an engine for rural broadband deployment.  To meet these goals without growing the fund beyond its current size, the FCC also imposed long-overdue fiscal responsibility and accountability measures, limiting the universal service fees paid by consumers and business across the country.

Today, we take two important steps toward reaching these goals.

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Wrap Up: FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Antoine Green, Information Systems Support Specialist
April 20, 2012 - 01:40 PM

The goal of our first developer day (perhaps even the first of its kind in government) was to further innovation in accessible technologies and foster citizen participation in open government. That event was well received by the developer community and many were eager for the next.

Naturally when we announced our next developer event, it was met with great excitement from the developer community and other federal agencies. The goal of the .Gov Developer Meet-Up was to expose the developer community to most of the .gov developer resources currently in production or launching in the next couple of months. “The approach today is much more of an organic nature. We really wanted to hit the meet-up style,” said Michael Byrne. We decided to go with a simple “meet-up” style event rather than a traditional code sprint because there was an expressed need for this kind of forum.

Although the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski was unable to attend in person, he recorded video remarks which played during the first moments of the event. During his remarks he stated, “...you represent the right trend and in many ways the cutting edge in government data, finding new and novel ways to deliver transparency and greater openness.”

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New FCC Website to Help Consumers Beat ‘Bill Shock’

by William D. Freedman, Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 19, 2012 - 01:24 PM

The arrival of spring brings with it good news for consumers suffering from that malady known as bill shock: the appearance, like April dandelions, of sudden and unexpected overage charges on their wireless bills.  Bill shock can happen when a subscriber is charged for unknowingly exceeding plan limits for data, voice, or text, or is traveling abroad and gets hit with unexpected international roaming charges.  Thanks to the recent agreement by a group of carriers that account for service to 97 percent of U.S. wireless customers, important information is on its way that will allow consumers to save money on their monthly bills. 

And now, the FCC has added a portal to its website that will let wireless customers know which carriers are providing this information.

In 2010, the Commission identified the growing problem of bill shock and proposed rules that would require carriers to send usage alerts to consumers when they approach and reach monthly plan limits, and also send alerts when they were about to incur international roaming charges.  Last year, while the Commission’s staff was reviewing the comments that had been filed about these proposed rules, CTIA- the Wireless Association approached the FCC and proposed that, instead of the rules, its member carriers would agree toprovide the types of alerts that the Commission had called for.  Last October, CTIA revised its Consumer Code for Wireless Service to require that its participating carriers provide these alerts. 

Although these carriers are not required by the Code to start offering these alerts until October 17, 2012, according to CTIA, some are already providing their customers with some of this critical information.  

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Launching the Broadband Partnership of the Americas

by Mindel De La Torre, Chief, International Bureau
April 17, 2012 - 04:52 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]President Obama’s visit to Colombia last weekend for the Summit of the Americas included an exciting new broadband announcement: the Broadband Partnership of the Americas (BPA), a vital new collaboration to expand broadband access in the Americas.  The Summit of the Americas is convened every three or four years to bring together heads of state in the Americas to discuss issues critical to the region.  This year’s Summit theme -- Connecting the Americas:  Partnership for Prosperity -- focused on the role of physical integration and regional cooperation in fostering economic growth and development across the Hemisphere.  Not surprisingly, access to broadband played a lead role.

Studies show that broadband networks and broadband connectivity drive economic growth and development, and provide an important platform to address social issues including poverty, health care and education.  A study by the World Bank found that in less developed economies, every 10% increase in broadband penetration accelerates economic growth by approximately 1.38 percentage points, even grater than the 1.21 percentage points increase found in developed economies. Over the past 15 years, the Internet has enabled as much economic growth per capita as the Industrial Revolution generated in its first 50 years.

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Roll Call: FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Brittany L. Stevenson, New Media Associate
April 11, 2012 - 07:05 PM

We are just five days away from the second FCC .Gov  /Developer Meet-Up being held in the FCC Commission meeting room April 16 from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM EDT. The .Gov /Developer Meet-up will introduce federal agencies with /developer resources on their own hosted websites to the /developer community. This event fosters the community of government transparency through sharing of open data.

The .Gov /Developer Meet-Up is designed to expose the /developer community to majority of the .Gov and developer resources currently in production and projects that agencies plan to release in upcoming months.  We have classified this event as ‘meet-up’ instead of traditional code sprint to harbor a more informal atmosphere for the developer community to share ideas.

We have an outstanding line-up, including video remarks from FCC Chairman Genachowski and an introduction and event welcome by US Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, and other notable presenters and attendees. So far, we have confirmed over 60 attendees, and 13 government agencies will give short ignite style presentations on their published application programming interfaces (APIs) and developer resources.

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Cutting-edge Health IT in the District at Children’s National Medical Center

by Jordan Usdan, Deputy Director, Public-Private Initiatives
March 30, 2012 - 03:11 PM

Last week I accompanied the Chairman for a tour, technology demonstration, and dialog on health IT and telemedicine at Children’s National Medical Center here in Washington, DC. 

We at the FCC, through the National Broadband Plan, Rural Health Care Pilots, and other telemedicine initiatives, are engaged in policymaking to improve the quality, efficiency, and availability of health care through communication technology.

I’ve read the news articles, policy briefs and heard from health IT professionals here at the FCC. But, nothing rivals witnessing firsthand how health IT is revolutionizing hospitals and doctors’ offices.

The first stop on the tour was the nurses’ station in the emergency department.  A half dozen LCD panels each listed the name, condition, wait time, heart rate, and status (pending laboratory and radiology studies) of the admitted patients.  This was previously tracked on a whiteboard in a static fashion. Moreover, all of this data is stored for quality analysis in patient records.

Next, we visited the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit where each room had a touchscreen with secure access to the patient’s essential aggregated health information.  We also learned that doctors can remotely monitor the live data feed from medical equipment from their home office or on their smartphone.

We then received a demonstration at Children’s National’s telemedicine center. Children’s National has affiliate offices regionally, nationally, and internationally that allow for telemedicine consultations with Children’s National’s expert doctors. This enables doctors to see more patients and saves travel time for both the patients and doctors.

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Incentive Auctions: The Concept Ratified, and the Work Begins

by Bill Lake, Chief, Media Bureau
March 27, 2012 - 03:53 PM

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Congress ratified a historic policy innovation by authorizing the Commission to conduct incentive auctions of spectrum.  Now the work begins to make that innovation a reality.  The new law codifies the vision of an incentive auction as offering new options to broadcasters.

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Opening the Hood-and Code-Behind FCC.GOV/Maps

by Eric Spry, Deputy Geographic Information Officer
March 20, 2012 - 03:33 PM

We have released a new module that drives our FCC.gov/maps page.  Often referred to as open sourcing our code, we are excited to release this for wider audience use and enhancements.

Over the past year, FCC.gov has gone through a major transformation.   The evolution of FCC.gov has been described on several occasions in the following blog posts: Taking a peek under hood new FCC.gov, MyFCC-BetaNew Features and Enhancements- FCC.gov, and Understanding Maps.  We use the open source software, Drupal, to drive our site. Presently, Drupal is the CMS behind more than 70.gov websites, (see: http://dotgov.benbalter.com/cms/drupal/ for a complete list) and more than 600,000 other sites. 

Open source technologies like Drupal allow users to add modules, features and enhancements, which plug-in to the main software.  The web experience can be easily tailored to the needs of each site's users by drawing from a wide range of contributed Drupal modules without the long development cycle of other website solutions. The result is a fast, customized website. 

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Announcing the FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Michael Byrne , Geographic Information Officer
March 20, 2012 - 02:23 PM

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Today, we would like to announce the FCC’s .Gov Developer Meet-Up, a follow up to our very successful developer day last year. The .Gov Developer Meet-up will introduce federal agencies with developer resources on their own hosted websites to the open developer community. The FCC will host the .Gov Developer Meet-Up on April 16, 2012 from 11:00AM- 3:00 PM in the FCC Commission Meeting Room. This event promotes open government and is not to be missed. 

The .Gov Developer Meet-Up is designed to expose the developer community to majority of the .Gov and developer resources currently in production.   The event will also give .Gov producers the opportunity to showcase their resources to the open developer community.  This is a ‘meet-up’ not a traditional code sprint.  We want to foster the developer community and interaction with FCC and other .govs.   Collectively we will learn what challenges and opportunities developers in other .govs face. We’ll also learn more about how developers are interacting with .gov resources.

Each of the 25 federal agencies with developer pages have been invited to give short ignite style sessions on their published application programming interfaces (APIs) or developer resources.   The .Gov Meet-Up will be a series of 7-10 minute ‘ignite’ talks, in which developers participate by asking questions and interacting with the core producers and the whole .gov/developer community, followed by an open gathering & discussion.  The meet-up will conclude with general session where developers can interact with the principals for each of these agencies, write code against these APIs, or present their use cases so government can understand how their assets are being consumed from the outside.  

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Data the Way You Want It – New GIS Data Formats for Mobility Fund Phase I

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
March 8, 2012 - 07:34 PM

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Today the FCC is taking another step in our approach towards open government. We are releasing additional formats of high-need data to make it easier to use for individual analysis. The data we are releasing is for the potentially eligible areas for the Mobility Fund Phase I of the Connect America Fund. We first published this data as files for use with spreadsheet and database software and as interactive map with the release of a public notice. While the map is very useful, and the data files thorough, we heard from some constituents who asked for additional help in accessing this data.

To answer that call, we have packaged the data in three ways for you to use, making the data more accessible to everyone. Now, in addition to the published map, the data behind the map is open for analysis by geographers, developers and analysts alike.We choose three of the most accessible data formats for geography to publish: shapfile, WMS, and Mapping Tiles. These formats are either industry standards, are established open standards or are extraordinarily fast approaches to analyzing and displaying the data.

One of the ways we are providing the data as a shapefile for download. The shapefile format is actually four individual files (.dbf, .shp, .shx, and .prj) all with the same prefix. This format is generally recognized as a standard transfer file for geographic information systems data. The shapefile is accepted transfer in just about every GIS software package.

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