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Modernizing and Streamlining the Universal Service Fund

by Haley Van Dÿck, FCC New Media
February 7, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:153:height=104,width=70]]This morning, Chairman Genachowski laid out a proposal to get broadband to rural America while cutting waste and inefficiency in two of the Commission’s largest programs.

Universal service has been core to the FCC’s mission since the Communications Act of 1934 created the agency and committed our nation to making vital communications services accessible to all.  The Universal Service Fund helped connect virtually every American to our 20th century communications grid.  But this program, along with Commission’s closely related Intercarrier Compensation rules, have become riddled with waste and inefficiency and are not up to our nation’s broadband challenge. Today, up to 24 million Americans have no access to broadband—fixed or mobile.

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At tomorrow’s meeting, the Commission will vote on the proposal to transform the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation rules from programs designed to support 20th Century voice networks to a force for expansion of 21st century fixed and mobile broadband and voice networks, while eliminating waste and inefficiency.

Read the full text of Chairman Genachowski’s speech here.

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Announcing IssueMap: Copy, paste, map

by Michael Byrne, Geospatial Information Officer
February 7, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]Everyone has seen a good spreadsheet go bad. Students, lawyers, public servants, accountants—if you’ve ever spent time with a complicated dataset, you’ve had a spreadsheet turn against you.

Maps are a data visualization tool that can fix a rotten spreadsheet by making the data real and rich with context. By showing how data -- and the decisions that produce data -- affect people where they live, a map can make the difference between a blank stare and a knowing nod. Maps are also a crucial part of a decision-maker’s toolkit, clearly plotting the relationship between policies and geographies in easy-to-understand ways.

I'm extremely proud today to announce the official launch of IssueMap, the result of a partnership between the FCC and FortiusOne. IssueMap is a long time coming. As a board member with the National States Geographic Information Council, some colleagues and I identified the need for a product that would produce maps from complicated data steps in just three steps: copy, paste, map. IssueMap is that product.

Along with FCC Deputy GIO Eric Spry, we shot a video to show this drop-dead simple tool in action. Check it out, then visit IssueMap.org and try it. You can use the social media functionality in IssueMap to share your map with your community, or even export in a KML file to mash up your map other online services. Leave links to your maps in the comments here, and let us know what you want to see from the next iteration of IssueMap.

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A First-Ever National Test of the Presidential EAS

by Lisa Fowlkes, Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
February 4, 2011

Yesterday we released an order that adopts rules establishing the basic framework for national tests of the Presidential Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies. Governors and state and local emergency authorities also use it — on a voluntary basis — to issue more localized emergency alerts. Under the FCC’s rules, broadcasters, cable operators, Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service providers, Direct Broadcast Satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit Presidential EAS messages to the public.

To date, the EAS has not been used to deliver a Presidential alert. While various components of the system are tested regularly, there has never been a nationwide, top-to-bottom, test of the system. In 2009, the FCC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Executive Office of the President (EOP) (collectively, the “Federal Partners”) began planning to conduct the first-ever national test. As part of this effort, on January 6, 2010 and January 26, 2011, FEMA, along with the State of Alaska and the Alaska Broadcasters Association, conducted two “live code” tests of the Presidential EAS within Alaska. A “live code” test uses the same codes that would be used during an actual activation of the Presidential EAS. The Federal Partners are using the results and lessons learned from these tests to complete a test plan for the first ever National EAS test.

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FCC Hosts Two from Wounded Warrior Program

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
February 1, 2011

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The Wounded Warrior Program is an internship program developed by the Department of Defense for injured service members who are convalescing at military treatment facilities in the National Capitol Region. The program provides meaningful activity outside of the hospital environment and offers a formal means of transition back to the military or civilian workforce. Placing these service members in supportive work settings that positively impact their recuperation is the underlying purpose of the program.

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The Wounded Warrior Program is a great opportunity for convalescing service members to build their resumes, explore employment interests, develop job skills, and gain valuable federal government work experience that will help them prepare for their adjustment to the workplace. The Department of Defense Computer/Electronics Accommodation Program provides for participating service members on assignment to federal agencies. This includes electronic equipment, transportation, sign language interpreter services, and other services they require.

I’m honored to report that the Federal Communications Commission has continuously participated in the Wounded Warrior Program since July 2008. Today, the Commission has two service members serving as emergency management interns with our Public Safety team while continuing their recuperation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Sergeant Lyndon Sampang, an Army veteran of eight years, was severely wounded on March 18, 2010 while on patrol in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne. Prior to his assignment to Afghanistan, Sgt Sampang had completed a tour of duty in Iraq. Sgt Sampang began his internship with us on December 7, 2010.

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FCC Files Court Motions Opposing Premature Challenges to Open Internet Order

January 28, 2011

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The rules that govern when and how parties may challenge FCC orders are clear, and Verizon and MetroPCS filed too early when they challenged the Open Internet order.

Today, the FCC filed several motions with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking that court to dismiss both companies' challenges as premature.

For easy public access, we have posted the motions below:

Cross-posted from OpenInternet.gov

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Is a unified platform the key to upward mobility?

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
January 28, 2011

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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Video: Crowd-sourced mobile broadband data

by Michael Byrne, Geospatial Information Officer
January 25, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]] We recently spoke at one of the largest federal mapping data events, the ESRI Federal Users Conference, where we presented a cool implementation of FCC APIs mashed up with other, powerful datasets.

Last Spring, the FCC launched a pioneering crowd-sourced data collection tool: the FCC Consumer Broadband Speed Test. Since then, the test has been run more than 1 million times, collecting results both from wired and wireless connections. This is real data, from real consumers, in real communities. To make the data more useful, we released an API to unlock those results and hand the keys to the developer community.

The presentation showed that crowd-sourcing data collections can yield great things—not just for agencies—but for developers in the private and public sectors that can take the data and build new products, services, and research.

By the numbers alone, we know the test has been popular. And for a crowd-sourced federal data container, we think it's a huge success.

The particularly exciting part of this presentation was the ability to display projected speeds at different geographies within standard error, all extrapolated out from the the speed test data points that were input by users. As we explain in the video, by using the 1 million+ records submitted by users, we were able to display a map that shows the probability of a certain level of mobile broadband speed at any given spot in the U.S.

These data sets are great tools at our disposal, especially in the run up to the release of the National Broadband Map. As we get closer to the product launch in February, watch this space for updates of interest to developers, geographers, and consumers.

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Haiti's Earthquake: One Year After

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
January 18, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]It’s one year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti and we at the FCC, like many other organizations that have worked to help with the recovery, look back and to the future to see what awaits the country.  International organizations, including the UN, agree that much remains to be done to help Haiti’s reconstruction.  Haiti is still hurting as a result of a natural disaster that, according to new estimates recently announced by the Haitian Prime Minister, killed more than 300,000 people and affected an estimated 3 million -- a third of Haiti’s population. 

Right after the earthquake, Haitians, many of whom struggled to obtain basic services even before the tragedy, became almost totally deprived of the ability to communicate with emergency relief services, relatives, friends and the rest of the world.  Restoring of telecommunications services, however, went relatively quickly and played a major role in rescue efforts after the earthquake.  Mobile phones proved very useful in helping find earthquake victims, and volunteers developed mobile apps to help navigate through the numerous dirt roads and alleyways in Port-au-Prince.  Telecommunications will also play a large role in Haiti’s ability to advance in the reconstruction of the country and as an aid in providing health-related and other basic services to the Haitian people.

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New Tools Allow Developers to Leverage Spectrum Data

January 14, 2011

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Today the Federal Communications Commission released two new Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) on our developer page at fcc.gov/developer. The new APIs leverage data from the Spectrum Dashboard and provide the developer community with direct access to these assets.

Managing spectrum is one of the FCC's primary responsibilities. These APIs are tools that unlock our substantial databases related to spectrum ownership, spectrum use, and spectrum capabilities at different locations.

Below is snapshot of the two APIs.

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Report from CES: Your Connected Car

January 14, 2011

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For years, a major topic at the Consumer Electronics Show has been the increasing sophistication of in-car electronics. Six-speaker sound systems and GPS mapping were only the beginning. New cars today are often available with options that provide news, entertainment, communication, route planning, and safety – all enabled by wireless broadband. Many auto manufacturers are pushing the envelope of car connectivity. For instance, General Motors has the prototype EN-V – a tiny concept car that can use broadband to navigate itself and that comes when you call it from your smartphone.

At a standing-room-only session at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, attendees heard from a roster of companies that are now providing apps for cars. OnStar, a pioneer in the field, is growing its paid-subscription service to provide vehicle security and safety. Pandora, which millions of people already use for a personalized radio experience, is seeking to become as easy to use in your car as it is on your laptop or smartphone. Other companies are specializing in speech recognition, in-car systems integration, and other approaches to make a range of automotive conveniences seamless and safe.

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