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The Unique Experiences of Women are Enhancements to Leadership

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 21, 2011 - 06:30 AM

Last week, following my trip to Boston, I had the honor of traveling to Orlando to speak at the Women in Public Safety Communications Leadership Conference, hosted by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International. This event is of course near and dear to my heart, as it combines two of my passions: promoting public safety and empowering women. Women face unique challenges in the workplace, so I always jump at the opportunity to share my experiences in arriving at where I am today.

The most important lesson I attempted to impart at the Conference was to understand and embrace the fact that there are many paths to becoming a leader in this industry. Over the years, I have spoken with a number of women who have conveyed their discouragement in the fact that they are unable to advance into leadership positions in their respective fields. I always stress, however, that there is a big difference between being a leader and having the title of leader – the ability to take charge and to be a model for others to follow is what defines a leader, not necessarily the position one holds.

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Apps for Communities

by Clay Johnson, Partner, Big Window Labs
April 14, 2011 - 10:38 AM

The Knight Foundation and the FCC are putting on a contest called Apps for Communities to improve civic connectivity and services in cities and towns across the United States. The goal is to create apps that use publicly available data to help people in communities across the country – for example, by giving them information on public transportation, health care, or other public services. Similar contests like Washington, DC's "Apps for Democracy" and New York City's "BigApps" have been notable successes. The only problem is that a lot of smaller towns don't have the kinds of communities or the budgets to put contests like these together. Apps for Communities takes location out of the equation-- we're looking for developers to use technology and data to help improve access to services in any community across the country.

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Need for Speed, Part II

by Walter Johnston & James Miller, Office of Engineering and Technology
April 13, 2011 - 12:18 PM

Consumers may need better information to determine which broadband service to purchase to meet their needs. Yesterday, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) released a Public Notice requesting comment on this topic. As CGB Bureau Chief Joel Gurin noted, the metrics for broadband speed and performance are not as meaningful to consumers as, say, measures of fuel economy:  “Most people don’t understand megabits-per-second in the way they understand miles-per-gallon.”

But in another way, fuel economy and broadband performance are similar—they’re complex measurements influenced by many factors. How much gas you use depends on everything from how full your tires are to how cold it is outside to how aggressively you drive. Similarly, a single user checking email at 10 AM might find a lower speed broadband service to be sufficient, but the same connection might not support a household with a heavy gaming user, a VoIP- and VPN-using telecommuter, and movie fans watching HD-quality streaming video in the living room at 7 PM. 

It’s no simple task to determine how “fast” your Internet connection is; just developing a measurement methodology that accurately captures and represents performance is a serious technical challenge.

The FCC took on this challenge when we set out to test broadband performance in the homes of 10,000 volunteers across the nation. To do this test, we contracted with SamKnows, a consulting company that conducted a similar effort in the United Kingdom with the regulatory authority for the UK communications sector. Our nationwide test is the first precise U.S. measurement of internet services as delivered to the home by the service provider.

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Reforming Intercarrier Compensation for Broadband

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
April 13, 2011 - 12:10 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:119:height=100,width=71]]In February, the Commission took a pivotal step to reform government policy to better reflect the world of broadband today and in the future.  In adopting the USF/ICC Transformation NPRM, the Commission launched major reform of the nation’s universal service and intercarrier compensation systems, building momentum to get the job done as soon as possible.  The current system, based on a voice-centric world, actually deters investment in 21st Century Internet protocol networks.
One part of this effort will examine and learn from the actions that state partners have taken to reduce intrastate access rates – rates that service providers charge one another to complete long distance calls within a state.  By taking action to reform these charges, states further the FCC’s goals of modernizing the intercarrier compensation system for a broadband world, reducing incentives for regulatory gamesmanship, and paving the way to lower long distance and wireless rates for consumers.

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The Beantown Media and Technology Experience

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 13, 2011 - 06:30 AM

Last week, I spent a few days in Boston, aka Bean Town, aka Cradle of Modern America. Since the purpose of the trip was to participate in Free Press’s National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR) and visit Verizon’s LTE Innovation Lab in nearby Waltham, I anticipated being impressed by the level of creativity and excitement at both venues. The trip exceeded my expectations. The majority of the attendees at NCMR are folks who have dedicated their lives to “building the movement for better media” on both traditional and new media platforms. Thursday evening, my legal advisor, Louis, and I had dinner with Jay April and Sean McLaughlin. I knew that both are accomplished and acclaimed veterans of community radio and television. They are also very charming and intelligent.

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Broadband Service: Tell Us About Your “Need for Speed”

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 11, 2011 - 01:39 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=71]]Imagine that you're in the market for a new car - but in a different marketplace than the one we're all familiar with. In this parallel universe, fuel efficiency is not described in miles per gallon, but in measure called "miles per blodget" that you pretend to understand, but don't. The car you're interested in is advertised as getting "super mileage" of "up to 50 miles per blodget," without any exact mileage number. And you've heard from friends and news reports that no one has actually measured whether this car, or any car on the market, gets the mileage that it claims.
That's the situation facing many consumers who are trying to choose a new broadband service. As the FCC found in a 2010 survey, 80 percent of Americans with broadband don’t know what speed they’re getting. It’s a safe bet that most of us don’t know what a given number of megabits-per-second translates into in terms of our own online experience. And ads that promise “blazing fast” speeds aren’t giving consumers precise information to help them make comparative choices.
Internet service providers have recognized this problem and have taken some good steps to help educate their customers about the services they offer. Today, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC issued a Public Notice that builds on their work to open a national discussion on the “need for speed.” We’re asking some basic questions: What internet speeds, and what other factors in broadband performance, are important to consumers? How do consumers’ broadband needs vary depending on the applications they want to use, from email to gaming? And how can that information best be made clear and easy to understand?

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Disaster Response

by Louis Sigalos, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau - Southwest Region
April 11, 2011 - 11:45 AM

Hurricane Katrina changed so much for so many.  For those who lived in the path of the storm, the change was devastating and profound.  Their lives were forever changed.  For the Federal Communications Commission the change was not nearly as dramatic, but from these events we were changed as well.
Among the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was an obliterated communications infrastructure.  Following the storm, the White House called upon every federal agency to participate in the relief effort.  So, there we were, the FCC on the ground in Louisiana.  What could we do?  How could we help?
Many times out of adversity, ingenuity reveals itself and, in this case, there was an immediate need to know which licensees, especially fire departments, police, hospitals, and broadcasters had communications capabilities. Well, at the FCC we are uniquely qualified to do that and we call the equipment and software that provides us with that capability “Roll Call.”  It’s a package of radio spectrum analyzers, scanners, antennas, and computers that can sweep the spectrum and catalog activity in specific frequencies that we license.  Simply put, we scan the airwaves, take the gathered data and cross reference it against our licensing database.  The result is a report that shows who is broadcasting/transmitting and who is not within a specific geographic region.  This is incredibly valuable information when trying to assess the impact of a hurricane on the communications infrastructure.

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Rulemaking at the FCC

by Joel Kaufman, Office of General Counsel
April 11, 2011 - 11:17 AM

Most FCC regulations are adopted by a process known as “notice and comment” rulemaking.  Under that process, the FCC gives the public notice that it is considering adopting or modifying rules on a particular subject and seeks the public’s comment.  The Commission considers the comments received in developing final rules.

The Office of General Counsel has posted on its web page a series of questions and answers about the rulemaking process so that members of the public may more effectively participate in it.  We include a description of how the rulemaking process works, how to file comments at the FCC, how to find comments filed by others, and tips for making your comments more effective.

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A Secure Public Safety Broadband Network

by Kurian Jacob, Electronics Engineer, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 11, 2011 - 09:48 AM

It clearly is important to have a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network for the nation’s first responders.  Interoperable communications during incidents such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katharina, would have improved the rescue efforts by many fold.  To establish a first baseline to ensure nationwide interoperability for public safety broadband communications, in the Third Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Interoperability Order and NPRM), the Commission mandated LTE as a common technology platform and asked for comment on a range of technical issues.
If the public safety network is not secured, the sensitive information it carries could be compromised by intruders which may lead to wide-ranging disasters. As recognized in the Interoperable Order and NPRM, it is essential that the information it transports be secure on an end-to-end basis.  Although having LTE as the common technology alone won’t ensure that the network is secure, it does provide a platform for having a common set of security features.
Accordingly, in the Interoperability Order and NPRM we are looking for inputs on mandating the optional security features of LTE.  And we are also trying to understand whether these security features are sufficient to ensure that the information carried over the public safety broadband network will be secure or if additional steps must be taken.  We look forward to reviewing the comments on this important issue.

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The 4.9 GHz Band, RF bits and pieces

by Pat Amodio, Chief of Radio Frequency Engineering, ERIC, PSHSB
April 8, 2011 - 01:53 PM

In February, the FCC held a workshop on the 4.9 GHz band, spectrum dedicated to Public Safety for Broadband use. This 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band (4940–4990 MHz) is the largest spectrum allocation for public safety broadband services. The workshop consisted of two panels.  The first, which I had the pleasure to moderate, discussed how the 4.9 GHz band is currently used by public safety.   What did we learn from this workshop? Let me offer the perspective for a Radio Frequency (RF) Engineer.

The first panel had excellent state and local representation and included panelists from the Brookline (MA) Police Department; the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT); the Missouri Department of Public Safety; and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California.

Scott Wilderfrom Brookline Police Department explained that their wireless network allows officers to access all public safety databases from their vehicle mounted laptops. Officers can, among other things, upload reports accessing criminal databases and download video and images of missing and wanted persons. The antenna is installed on the roof of the police cruiser. The network equipment and antennas are mounted on light poles within Brookline – ideal for propagating a signal to and from police vehicles.

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