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Examining Network Reliability & Resiliency

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 8, 2011 - 10:58 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:height=106,width=70]]Today the Commission initiated a comprehensive examination of the reliability and resiliency of communications networks, including broadband networks, particularly their ability to provide services during major emergencies, such as natural or man-made disasters.
The recent events in Japan illustrate the importance of resilient critical infrastructure.  No one would disagree that communications services are critical and central to our lives.  This is so because of how many segments of our Nation’s economy are dependent on resilient communications services, and because most aspects of our daily lives seem to revolve around access to communications services.
If you get a call to come pick your child up from school because he or she isn’t feeling well, and you ask that homework assignments be emailed to you, and then stop at the pharmacy on the way home and purchase medicine by swiping a card, you’ve consumed communications services in three different ways, each important to you.  Worse still, try to imagine the value you would place on being able to contact your family in the wake of a disaster.  Now, imagine a scenario where your child – or your spouse – needs urgent or life-saving attention.  Can you reach 9-1-1?  Does the ambulance have the information to know exactly how to find you?  Can the emergency room doctor receive medical records transmitted electronically to hasten treatment?  The stakes of reliable communications rise greatly where protection of human lives is involved.

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Digging for More Broadband Deployment

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
April 7, 2011 - 12:52 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:119:height=98,width=70]]It’s easy to forget that the virtual reality of the Internet depends on the gritty reality of wires hung on utility poles, wireless signals carried by antennas and receivers on towers and fiber buried under streets and railroad rights-of-way. But the cost of reaching consumers and businesses with broadband Internet access depends in no small part on the time and expense required to string wires on poles and dig under streets.
To reduce costs and delays, the FCC is working to reform infrastructure policies through its Broadband Acceleration Initiative.  The goal: help broadband providers get robust, affordable wired and wireless broadband everywhere.  Today, that initiative bore fruit when the FCC approved real reform in the arcane world of pole attachments.
Consider this: some communications companies report that it can take many months or even years for utility companies to do the work necessary for broadband providers to attach their wires or antennas to utility poles.  Wireless providers, for example, report that faster and more predictable attachments could save them over $5 billion – money that could be better spent on deploying and upgrading broadband for consumers across the country.  So today we adopted rules that will make expanding and improving broadband networks faster, cheaper and more predictable.

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Getting your work done on the new FCC.gov

by Haley Van Dyck, FCC New Media
April 7, 2011 - 12:44 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:153:height=104,width=70]]The FCC’s online presence is a lot of things to a lot of people. Reimagining FCC.gov means maximizing the value that all of the agency’s stakeholders – consumers, businesses, public safety and telecommunications professionals – derive from the site.

The overall redesign of FCC.gov is taking place in two phases. The first phase, currently taking shape on the live beta site, is focused on making the site more citizen-friendly by emphasizing plain language, limiting the use of obscure acronyms, and making it easier for the public to engage with our agency.

The second phase of the redesign will bring many of the FCC’s legacy systems and databases up to speed. Many of these systems facilitate billions of dollars in transactions that are vital to American prosperity in a global, connected economy. We can use the lessons we’ve been learning from the beta launch to simplify data collections, improve time to market, and facilitate transactions at the speed of 21st century technology. We’ll have more details on this next phase soon.

To help our daily FCC.gov users get better acquainted with the new site, we’ve created a cheat-sheet describing some of the major changes:

EDOCs -> Official Documents

Looking for an NOI or a recently released PN? Check out the new “Official Documents” section of the site—a large feed of the dozens of official documents the agency produces daily, equipped with filters and sorting tools to help you quickly find what you’re looking for.

Electronic Comment Filing System -> Public Comment

ECFS isn’t going anywhere—it’s just getting a bit of a new skin. You can find ECFS in several places on the new site:

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National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week - April 10-16

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau
April 6, 2011 - 04:31 PM

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The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau would like to thank and honor the men and women who serve everyday as public safety telecommunicators during this year’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week  (April 10-16, 2011).
 
First introduced by Congressman Markey, in 1991 during the 102nd Congress and Senator Biden, in 1993 during the 103rd Congress, a presidential proclamation was made for the second week of April to be designated as the National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week by then President Clinton in 1994. 
 
The National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week honors all local police, fire, and medical professionals, including Federal public safety officials, by recognizing their dedicated service in helping those in need through the use of telecommunications. Although this week is proclaimed for emergency responders, their valuable service should be applauded and held in the highest regard all through the year, for without their commitment, devotion, and hard work, countless number of lives and property would be in jeopardy. Thank you for helping our communities and keeping our nation safe. 
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Making Emergency Alerts and 911 Accessible

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 6, 2011 - 01:48 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:height=106,width=70]]Emergency alerts and 911 are the two sides of the emergency communications coin.  Alerts warn the public of impending emergencies and 911 gives the public immediate access to emergency services.  It is a primary responsibility of the FCC to ensure that both of these essential services are available on a non-discriminatory basis to U.S. consumers, including the 54 million Americans with disabilities.
To commemorate National Deaf History Month, I would like to take a moment to share some steps that the Commission and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) are taking to ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing have full access to emergency communications services.
Emergency Alerts
Emergency Alerts are an essential way for the government, whether Federal, State, local or tribal, to warn the public of an impending threat to life or property. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is used by state and local governments to issue several thousand weather-related and other emergency alerts every year, and provides the President with a platform from which to address the nation in the event of a national emergency.  The Commission’s EAS rules require that all televised EAS alerts be provided in visual and aural format.  as well as to make EAS alerts, as well as any other emergency information, accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  This means that critical information about an emergency must be provided through closed captioning or other visual means.

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Delivering on Our Open Government Promise

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director
April 4, 2011 - 12:15 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=100,width=66]]Look across the landscape of government websites, and you see a common phenomenon: a dot gov site at rest, stays at rest.

Our own FCC.gov is proof enough. What was hailed in the late 1990’s as one of the leading federal web sites has sprawled out over time, moving with the organizational changes of the FCC, but largely resisting the outside forces of technical evolution and consumer expectations.

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What’s in a name?

by Mary Bucher, Technologies, Systems and Innovation Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
March 30, 2011 - 02:26 PM

I am happy to announce that the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Spectrum Management, Resources and Technologies Division has a new name. (Sorry to disappoint those looking for a discussion of Shakespeare or roses.)  We are now the Technologies, Systems and Innovation Division (aptly known as the Tech Division).  We’ve changed our name to more clearly reflect our core mission and responsibilities.
The Tech Division is primarily responsible for developing and managing the Wireless Bureau’s information technology tools, systems and programs.  This includes managing multiple automated systems, developing innovative web-based tools and providing advanced mapping and data analysis capabilities.
As part of our rebranding, we plan to place even more emphasis on adding additional transparency to Bureau processes and access to underlying data through the Bureau’s online presence using latest web methodologies.
The Tech Division also promotes fast and efficient licensing of wireless services through our licensing support and outreach functions which include the Universal Licensing System (ULS) Technical Support Hotline and attending industry trade shows to promote key functions of the Bureau.
The name "Technologies, Systems & Innovation" more accurately reflects these goals and responsibilities than the former name.  With this change, we will be better positioned to succeed in our mission of developing and managing innovative tools and systems, enabling data driven policy decisions and equipping the public with timely, useful information about wireless services.  Besides, the Tech Division has a nice ring to it!

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Supreme Court Confirms No Personal Privacy for Corporations

March 30, 2011 - 11:41 AM

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On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously (with Justice Kagan not participating) confirmed the longstanding position of the Commission that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Exemption 7(C) does not protect the personal privacy of corporations. Exemption 7(C) permits agencies to withhold from mandatory public disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes when disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of “personal privacy.” AT&T had argued that as a corporation it, too, was entitled to “personal privacy.” Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts indicated that Exemption 7(C)’s use of the word personal “suggests a type of privacy evocative of human concerns – not the sort usually associated with an entity like, say, AT&T.” He continued, “AT&T has given us no sound reason in the statutory text or context to disregard the ordinary meaning of the phrase personal privacy” as being limited to the privacy interests of individuals.

The Court’s decision supports the Commission’s commitment to increased transparency and openness in government by giving this FOIA exemption its natural and more limited reading, hence refusing to expand the universe of records that may be withheld from the public.

If you're curious about the case and want to learn more, here's the decision (pdf) as delivered by Chief Justice Roberts.

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Chief FOIA Officer Report Shows Continued Progress

March 30, 2011 - 11:37 AM

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The FCC’s second annual Chief FOIA Officer Report (Word doc) shows continued progress at the FCC in ensuring public access to Commission records through the Freedom of Information Act and by Internet posting. General Counsel Austin Schlick, the FCC’s Chief FOIA Officer, led a review of the Commission’s FOIA operations. Key points in the report include:

  • The FCC granted in whole or in part 97.9% of the initial FOIA requests it has received in FY 2011, up from 95.3% in FY 2010 and 94.2% in FY 2009.
  • The Commission is expanding the use of redaction software to ensure that records properly withheld under a FOIA exemption are properly redacted and marked with the applicable exemption.
  • The increase in records available on FCC.gov has reduced the need of the public to seek records through the FOIA. The FCC has more than doubled the number of pages of records available on its website since 2008. At the same time, the number of initial FOIA requests received by the FCC declined from 659 in FY 2009 to 598 in FY 2010 and is on pace to decline again in FY 2011.
  • The already small backlog of FOIA requests and applications for review is being further reduced. 
  • Much credit for the smooth handling of the Commission’s FOIA program goes both to members of the Office of Managing Director’s Performance Evaluation and Records Management FOIA staff and to staff throughout the agency that process FOIA requests. They work hard to ensure responses to FOIA requests are timely and complete.

The Chief FOIA Officer welcomes suggestions to help the FCC’s FOIA program continue to operate successfully and to improve.

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More News with the FCC Registration Numbers

March 29, 2011 - 03:22 PM

FCC license holders and others doing business with the Commission are likely to be already familiar with the Commission’s Registration System, also known as “CORES,” which primarily is used by registrants to obtain an identifying number called an FCC Registration Number, or “FRN.” These unique ten-digit number sequences allow registrants to submit or file applications to the Commission, as well as remit payments, and are used by all Commission systems to easily identify individuals and companies when they interact with the agency. They also serve an important role by aiding the Commission’s compliance with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which was enacted by Congress to address concerns that debts owed to the Federal government were not being properly collected.

On December 6, 2010, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing modifications intended to make CORES more feature-friendly and improve the Commission’s ability to comply with various statutes that govern debt collection and the collection of personal information by the federal government. One of the primary goals of this proceeding is to improve the interface with CORES so that you can use the system in a more efficient and effective manner. Some of the proposed modifications to CORES are summarized below, but the full text of the NPRM can be found on the Commission’s web site. Note that comments to the proposals raised in the NPRM must be submitted on or before March 3, 2011, while reply comments must be submitted no later than March 18, 2011.

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