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Retrospective Analysis at the FCC

by Ruth Milkman, Special Counsel for Innovation in Government, FCC
August 9, 2011 - 09:06 AM

On July 11, 2011, the President issued an executive order to the heads of all independent agencies, including the FCC. The new executive order builds on the President's January 2011 Executive Order on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, and asks independent agencies to conduct both retrospective and prospective regulatory analyses, consistent with law.

In a recent communication to staff, Chairman Genachowski said the agency would act in accordance with the new executive order, and that he expects all FCC Bureaus and Offices will perform their responsibilities consistent with the order. The Chairman asked me to oversee development of a plan to follow up on this directive.

The President's directives are consistent with the values and philosophy we apply here at the FCC. In a press conference following the release of the July 11 Executive Order, Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in OMB, noted that the FCC has a robust regulatory review process in place. Under Chairman Genachowski's leadership, we are proud of the progress we have made so far.

We've eliminated more than 50 unneeded regulations and we're working toward eliminating 25 unnecessary data collections.

We're focusing on developing innovative market-based policies that help advance important policy goals, such as Incentive Auctions for repurposing spectrum; increasing the flexible use of spectrum; and market-based mechanisms to more efficiently and effectively distribute Universal Service Fund support.

We've responded to calls from industry to review our rules and initiated proceedings on Retransmission Consent, and on Out-of-Band Emissions in the Broadband Radio Service (BRS) and Educational Broadband Service (EBS) bands to permit operators to use licensed spectrum more efficiently.

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Bringing Broadband to Rural America: The Home Stretch on USF and ICC Reform

August 8, 2011 - 01:46 PM

Since we voted unanimously in February to frame a path forward for fiscally responsible reform of the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost program and intercarrier compensation system, the Commission has been diligently reviewing comments, engaging with stakeholders, crunching numbers, and refining proposals. Three public workshops were held, including one in Nebraska. And we’ve met with the diverse participants in the universal service and intercarrier compensation system, including state officials; consumer advocates; phone companies and broadband providers of all sizes; Internet content and application developers; and many others. Indeed, since February, the staff and Commissioners have held more than 400 stakeholder meetings on these issues and we’ve received more than 900 comments.

As part of this effort, we challenged stakeholders to come to us with serious proposals that reflected the core principles set forth in February. We are pleased that several parties, including the state members of the Joint Board on Universal Service and a group of large and small telephone companies and associations, have worked hard to present comprehensive reform proposals.

To assist in our review of these and other proposals, last week the Wireline and Wireless Bureaus released a Public Notice requesting comment on specific aspects of the proposals and on additional issues that are not fully developed in the record. We encourage parties to focus their feedback on the specific questions the Bureaus have raised.

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Chairman Announces Challenge.gov Competition Winners

by Jordan Usdan, Attorney and Policy Advisor
August 5, 2011 - 11:08 AM
This morning FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the winners of the agency’s latest contest on Challenge.gov, a competition for scientists and software developers to engage in innovative research and create useful apps that further the understanding of Internet connectivity and network science. A video of the Chairman’s remarks and the award presentation are available. 
 
The three winning teams were recognized at a ceremony with remarks by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C.  The winning teams also presented their apps and research to the Commission. 
 
The three winning teams are University of Michigan & Microsoft Research; School of Computer Science, Georgia Institute of Technology; and The ICSI (International Computer Science Institute) Netalyzr Project. Descriptions of the winning entries are detailed below.
 
The Open Internet Challenge sought to encourage the development of innovative and functional applications that provide users with information about the extent to which their fixed or mobile broadband Internet services are consistent with the open Internet.  The research component of the challenge sought academic papers that analyze relevant Internet openness measurements, techniques, and data.  The challenge was designed to encourage and reward the creation innovative and useful research. 
 
The challenge is posted on Challenge.gov, a new website and digital platform where entrepreneurs, innovators, and citizen solvers can compete for prizes by providing novel solutions to problems large and small.  Details of the challenge are posted.
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Media Diversity, Open Internet, and Adoption Efforts in Massachusetts

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
August 4, 2011 - 06:30 AM

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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Attorney Honors Program Launches

by Julie Veach, Deputy General Counsel
July 29, 2011 - 04:59 PM

I am delighted to be able to say that the FCC has launched the Attorney Honors Program. Our program is a two-year employment and training program designed to introduce new and recent law school graduates to the field of communications law and policy. We are accepting applications from law students in their final year of study and judicial clerks serving in the 2011-12 judicial term for openings in the Fall 2012 class. Applications must be received by September 23, 2011.

Many prior Honors Program participants are still here at the FCC and have assumed positions of leadership, advised Commissioners, defended the agency before federal appellate courts, and led teams working on some of the most challenging problems before the agency. Others have taken opportunities at private companies, law firms, public interest organizations, and on the Hill. The Program aims to prepare new attorneys for the greatest challenges of communications law practice in the context of doing the work of the agency and serving the public interest. Consider applying. Visit our Attorney Honors Program page for more information, eligibility criteria, and applications instructions.

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Taking a Peek Under the Hood of the New FCC.Gov

by Benjamin J. Balter, New Media Fellow
July 26, 2011 - 12:41 PM

Public dot-gov sites are playing a big role in delivering on the promises of open government. As many people know, government sites -- WhiteHouse.gov for example -- are becoming active participants in this conversation between citizens, developers and dot gov teams. We’re proud that the new FCC.gov has been able to contribute, and we wanted to give an overview of the community-driven features that power our site.

wrench rustAs previously announced, the site relies on the open-source content management system (CMS) Drupal to organize and present the content that users see -- content such as the encyclopedia, newsroom and even this blog post.

While the open-source platform offers many features on its own, we’re leveraging other Drupal add-ons, commonly known as “modules,” to add functionality. Modules can either be purpose-built for a particular site, or taken from a common repository of open-source, community-contributed modules. Think of it as the difference between creating your own recipe and using one from your favorite cookbook. On the new FCC.gov, we use a mix of both custom and contributed modules.

Contributed Modules

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Second Annual Wireless World Travel Week

by Mindel De La Torre, Chief, International Bureau
July 19, 2011 - 04:49 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]Now that the summer season is in full swing, many of us will be traveling abroad. So, the FCC has designated the week of July 18th as the second annual Wireless World Travel Week. During this week, we are providing tips and information on “roaming” with your mobile telephone, for Americans heading abroad on vacation or other international travel. Roaming means that you are not using your local carrier any more, but your phone continues to work seamlessly on another company’s network as it moves with you. We are also offering tips on making international phone calls from the U.S. These tips focus on how to dial such calls, and how to find the cheapest rates. They are available on our Wireless World Travel page

Roaming.  You may find it helpful to use your mobile phone as you travel.  For example, you can call home, check e-mail, and access data.  But, you need to do some homework before your trip to make the most of your mobile device abroad, and avoid unhappy surprises.  If you don’t, you may find that your mobile phone is not compatible with the local network, or you may incur high charges that you won’t know about until you return home.

The key fact is that roaming is complicated.  So check with your service provider to verify that your mobile phone will work where you’re going, and find out the rates you’ll pay for using it.  You may want to ask about rates for four different uses while abroad:

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Hot Times for Spectrum Policy

by John Leibovitz, Deputy Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
July 19, 2011 - 03:19 PM

Things are heating up in Washington. Of course, we’re not referring to the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling, or even the 100-degree temperatures expected later this week. We’re talking about spectrum policy.

Last week, Republican and Democrat leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced discussion drafts of legislation that would allow the FCC to hold “voluntary incentive auctions” for rights to use electromagnetic spectrum—the airwaves. The draft bills follow bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate Commerce Committee last month.

Never mind the heat—it’s wonky talk like this that keeps people away from Washington in the summer (or all year round, for that matter). But actually, a very simple and powerful idea animates the proposed legislation.

Gordon Crovitz of the Wall Street Journal explained it lucidly in his column yesterday.

One of the FCC’s main responsibilities is to grant licenses to use spectrum. For many years, the agency determined the “best” licensee through an administrative process. In 1993, Congress granted the FCC authority to hold spectrum auctions. Nearly two decades later, FCC auctions have spurred hundreds of billions of dollars of private investment in wireless networks and generated over $50 billion in proceeds for the Treasury.

Now, as America faces a spectrum crunch driven by the spectacular growth of mobile broadband, we need to take the next step.

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Unauthorized Fees: What's Hiding in Your Phone Bill?

by Joel Gurin, Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
July 12, 2011 - 11:48 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:]]

If you're a savvy consumer, you know how small charges can add up over time. You may regularly scrutinize your bank statement for overdraft fees, scan your credit card bill for hidden charges, and pay careful attention to shipping and handling every time you order something online. But you may not realize that unauthorized mystery fees can also hide in your phone bill. Without realizing it, you may be a victim of "cramming," a fraudulent, illegal practice that the FCC is taking action to fight.

Cramming happens when a company puts a charge on your phone bill for a service that you never ordered and almost certainly don't need. Cramming companies don't even need to know your address to place a charge on your bill: They just need to find your phone number online or through a directory. These fake charges can be for services that sound like they're part of your phone service, like long distance service, or they can be for things as diverse as horoscopes, psychic hotlines, or diet plans. When crammers purport to provide a form of telephone service, the FCC generally has jurisdiction to take action against them; when a cramming company bills for an unrelated service, it falls under the Federal Trade Commission's jurisdiction.

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Exclusive Sneak Peek: FCC Technology Experience Center and #SeeTheSpectrum

by Tammy Sun, Director, Office of Media Relations
July 11, 2011 - 10:02 AM

TEC Center

Broadband is no longer a luxury.  It's an essential platform for new products, economic growth and job-creating opportunities and opening markets that allow businesses to start, grow and hire.

Mobile broadband is growing at an exponential rate and as demand increases, the benefits are more compelling by the day.  That’s why one of the top priorities of the FCC is to unleash more mobile spectrum through measures like voluntary incentive auctions, a proposal that the President has championed along with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and more efficient spectrum management policies.

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