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New Market Opportunities and FCC Building Blocks

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
March 23, 2011 - 01:48 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]The National Broadband Map was developed to embody the spirit of the Internet.
Let me explain what I mean. The Internet is a two way street. At its most basic, the National Broadband Map shows how quickly Americans can give and take information over our national networks.
The Internet is also highly dynamic; it is constantly changing. The Map, too, was built to not only support but encourage change.
Since the product launched, we've seen some cool developments that use the Map's building blocks to make other projects better and more powerful. We think these developments lead to new opportunities -- new markets, new jobs, and new ways of tackling tough issues.
Here’s the first big example: The team at Broadband.com has integrated two of the FCC's APIs -- one for Census Block Conversion, the other to access the crowdsourced data points of the FCC Consumer Broadband Speed Test -- into their own mapping tool. This helps show the speed at businesses' locations -- a hugely important data point to surface as the speed of broadband to business and industry only climbs in importance in our connected market place.
On the government side, the excellent data team at the U.S. Department of Education just released a map product that visualizes one of the most vital aspects of broadband deployment in America: broadband availability for U.S. schools. Moving forward, the National Broadband Map will be collecting more information about Community Anchor Institutions – the places like schools and libraries that often are the central locations for public broadband access – that will help grow the functionality in products like the Broadband Availabilty map.

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Architectural Framework for Public Safety Broadband Network

March 18, 2011 - 11:06 AM

Do we need one?

On Jan 25th, 2011, the Commission adopted Long Term Evolution (LTE) as the common air interface for the nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety in the 700 MHz band. This order also adopted a set of LTE interfaces to ensure interoperability and roaming. To this end, this item set a minimum level of requirements to establish the technology and standards on which a nationwide interoperable broadband network is to be developed. This was a significant step but certainly not the last one towards nationwide interoperability. Considerable work remains in establishing and adopting rules to ensure nationwide interoperability for this network.

In the same item, the FCC also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that addresses a host of issues related to achieving nationwide interoperability. This includes questions about an architectural framework for the network. When we talk about architecture, it may sound like we are building a house; but in our case, this architectural framework will provide a view of the final network build out, a roadmap to signify the evolution steps for network, and the capabilities offered to users.

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Reducing Barriers for Small and Minority-Owned Businesses

March 17, 2011 - 03:17 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:224:height=90,width=70]]The business and technology landscapes can change quickly. Every three years, the FCC fulfills its Congressionally-mandated review that identifies and eliminates unnecessary rules that no longer benefit the businesses we work with.

This review also helps the commission promote policies that favor a diversity of media voices, vigorous economic competition, and technological advancement.

Section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934 (Communications Act) requires that the FCC review and report to Congress every three years on the Commission’s (1) efforts to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers to entrepreneurs and small businesses and (2) and identify and provide proposals to eliminate unnecessary statutory barriers to market entry by those businesses.

In this 2009 Section 257 Report to Congress (2009 Report), the Commission examines regulatory actions taken to reduce market entry barriers by each rule-writing Bureau and Office within the Commission since the last triennial report.  Further, in the 2009 Report, we also make recommendations for legislative action to reduce statutory barriers to market entry.

In addition, as our mandate requires, we also identify other barriers which, if not addressed, have the potential to limit market entry by entrepreneurs and other small businesses.  One such barrier is a general lack of data on minority participation, which could inform decisions and help the Commission gauge the effectiveness of its actions on an ongoing basis.  Another barrier is a lack of outreach to the very parties who could benefit from agency actions.  While the actions described in this report do not curtail these barriers, it is important to recognize them so that they may be addressed in the future.

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Continuing a Conversation About the FCC’s Merger Review Process

March 17, 2011 - 01:55 PM

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Six weeks after the FCC completed its high profile review of the Comcast/NBCU transaction, Commissioner Meredith Baker (no relation) suggested that the agency’s transaction review process should be overhauled. I have been involved in merger reviews on both sides of the table for most of my career — working with private parties advocating or questioning deals, and at the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice as well as the FCC — putting me in a unique position to address some of the issues that Commissioner Baker raised.

To provide context, I want to begin with what the FCC accomplished in terms of process during its Comcast/NBCU review:

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Chairman Genachowski: The Clock is Ticking

by George Krebs, New Media
March 16, 2011 - 04:55 PM

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This morning Chairman Genachowski spoke on spectrum, consumers and America’s small businesses, delivering the keynote address as part of the Mobile Future Forum. He called attention to the growth of broadband in America, the looming spectrum crisis and our solution of voluntary, market-based incentive auctions to free up that spectrum. He emphasized that “we must act” to set the pace for 21st century technology and said, “there’s no other choice than for the U.S. to lead.”

Given the theme, the event was held at Voxiva, a mobile based information solutions firm recently named one of the most innovative companies in the world. Peter Rysavy of Rysavy Research released a report prior to the Chairman’s talk entitled The Spectrum Imperative: Mobile Broadband Spectrum and its impacts for U.S. Consumers and the Economy. Here's an excerpt from the Chairman's speech:

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:228:]]To some, it was a surprise that the Broadband Plan included major sections on mobile broadband. At the time, many assumed that broadband was what you got when you connected your computer to the modem plugged into your wall.…Mobile broadband is being adopted faster than any computing platform in history. The number of smartphones and tablets being sold now exceeds the number of PCs. The Mobile Future report released this morning puts a fine point on this. According to their report, quote, “The clock is ticking, with rising demand and rapidly closing the gap with existing supply. The consequences of inaction are severe, widespread and wholly negative for consumers and the U.S. economy."

The point deserves emphasis: the clock is ticking on our mobile future. Demand for spectrum is rapidly outstripping supply. The networks we have today won’t be able to handle consumer and business needs.

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Aiding Japan Disaster Relief Fundraising Efforts

by William Lake, Chief of the Media Bureau
March 16, 2011 - 02:39 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:222:height=100,width=70]]While there have been other disasters during our lifetime, few are of the magnitude Japan is experiencing.  Over the weeks and months to come, much help will be needed to rebuild the lives of those affected by the continuing devastation the earthquake and tsunami have caused.  To assist with Japan relief efforts, the Federal Communications Commission today announced procedures on how noncommercial educational (NCE) stations can request a waiver to conduct on-air fundraising in support of these efforts.

The Commission’s rules generally prohibit NCEs from on-air fundraising on behalf of any entity other than the station itself.  However, the Commission has previously granted waivers for limited fundraising programs or for station appeals for disasters such as Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the Haiti 2010 earthquake, and the September 11th terrorist attack, among others.  Stations are already requesting waivers and we look forward to granting as many as we can in support of this important cause.

More information can be found in the public notice issued today.

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Your Consumer Advisory Committee

by Scott Marshall, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
March 16, 2011 - 01:39 PM

The Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) is yet another means by which the consumers’ voice is heard at the FCC.

Originally established in November 2000, CAC advises the commission on consumer issues within its jurisdiction and facilitates the participation of consumers -- including people with disabilities and underserved populations such as American Indians and persons living in rural areas -- in proceedings before the FCC.

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On December 30, 2008, the commission announced the rechartering of the Committee for a fifth two-year term thru November 2010. As a federal advisory committee, CAC membership is required by law to represent a balanced point of view.  Accordingly, of the committee’s 28 volunteer members, 12 represented interests of consumers, minorities and low-income communities, five represented the interests of people with disabilities, six represented the interests of Tribal, state and local governments and five represented the telecom industries.  Debra Berlyn, formerly of the Digital Television Transition Coalition and presently the National Consumers League, chaired the committee.  

Last November, the committee was rechartered for another two year term (PDF) through 2012. Applications for committee membership were solicited and are currently being reviewed.  It is expected that Chairman Genachowski will make appointments to the CAC in April.

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Making Universal Service and Intercarrier Compensation Reform Happen

March 15, 2011 - 11:58 AM

When we voted unanimously to approve the USF/ICC Transformation NPRM last month, each of us made clear that we are committed to reforming the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) system, and to doing so as soon as possible. We must eliminate waste and inefficiency and modernize USF and ICC to bring the benefits of broadband to all Americans. We can’t afford to delay.

As part of our process, today we’re announcing the first of a small number of open, public workshops to identify solutions to key issues in the USF/ICC proceeding. This first workshop at the FCC on April 6th will focus on ICC issues. At least one of the others will be held outside of Washington, DC, and all of them will be live-streamed on the Internet and will enable online participation. More details on the workshops will be released soon.

At these workshops, we’re looking forward to robust discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders. And we’re expecting participants to come prepared with responses to our reform proposals—and/or proposals of their own—that recognize that reform will entail compromise and shared sacrifice, as well as shared opportunity.

In addition to the workshops, we of course encourage parties to file comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). As a reminder, the first comments on certain issues are due on April 1, and the last reply comments are due on May 23. While the NPRM included many reform ideas, there may be others that merit consideration as well. We remain open to considering all ideas put forth in the workshops and comments.

Once the record is complete in late May, we look forward to moving to an Order within a few months—it’s going to be a busy spring and summer.

The time is right to make reform happen, and to do so through an open, public, and participatory process.

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The FCC's Amazing Crew in Gettysburg, PA

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
March 15, 2011 - 06:30 AM

I spend a lot of time at the FCC’s main building in southwest DC. Days can pass with me not even venturing across the street at lunch time for a sandwich. So, when my schedule offered me the opportunity to travel outside of this fine city to see what my FCC colleagues are doing in one of our field offices, I jumped at the chance and headed north.

The 200+ dedicated FCC workers in the Gettysburg, PA office deal with a variety of subject matter, all of it being crucial to the FCC’s mission and operations. Many bureaus are represented, from the Office of Managing Director to Wireless to Media. All are in constant communication with our DC headquarters and the other field offices around the country.

While there, I visited their spectrum auction room, which is used to monitor those transactions that the Commission conducts annually. Equipped with state of the art technology and security, the auctions are run smoothly and effectively, all under the watchful eyes of my FCC colleagues.

But the highlight of my visit was being able to observe our staff take calls from the general public. The Gettysburg office serves as the primary intake center for all FCC inquiries and complaints, and my colleagues tirelessly attempt to address any issue that is brought up during a consumer call. Some calls, as one might expect, are livelier and more animated than others, but it is a vital part of our mission to hear what everyday consumers and technology users think about the changing media and telecommunications landscape and how the Commission is regulating it. As I so often note, we are charged with the protection of consumers and whether certain decisions that we contemplate are in the public’s interest, and it’s a mission I take very seriously.

I want to again thank all of my FCC colleagues in Gettysburg for their gracious hospitality. Please keep doing what you do, and I hope you will invite me back soon.

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App Accessibility: Are We at a Tipping Point?

by Pam Gregory, Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
March 11, 2011 - 02:33 PM

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Everyone is always talking about some new app, and I simply can’t keep up!

Recently, I ran across something called the “iPhone App Directory.” The British magazine, now in its sixth issue, reviews, rates and lists download costs for apps.  I was curious to see how many of the 947 reviewed apps had potential for assisting with most disabilities, and I ended up very pleased and surprised.

Dare I say we might have reached the tipping point in technological universal design?  It seemed there were many apps that could be beneficial to people with cognitive disabilities, although interestingly, some of those were not user friendly and therefore not recommended.

It was refreshing to see the number of new educational apps that may help persons with learning disabilities.  Knowing that this magazine couldn’t cover all the new apps, I launched a search for similar magazines and found a good site that listed endless publications that also rate and compare new apps.

Here are some apps that I thought were particularly interesting.

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