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Faces of Distracted Driving: The Stories Behind the Statistics

November 17, 2010

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We're honored to have this guest blog post from Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. This week DOT debuted Faces of Distracted Driving, a web video series that tells the stories behind the statistics.

Believe it or not, I wasn't always so outspoken about the dangers of distracted driving. Like a lot of folks, I just didn't give a lot of thought to it.

But that all changed as I met people from coast to coast who told me about the loved ones they lost in senseless crashes caused by texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. And it was their stories — of dreams shattered and lives cut short — that turned the fight to end distracted driving into my personal crusade.

These people have had a profound effect on me. And I think their stories will have a profound effect on you.

I'm proud to announce "Faces of Distracted Driving," a new online video series featuring people from across the country who have been injured or lost loved ones to distracted driving. We're launching this today with three videos, and we'll add a new one every few weeks.

We also invite others who would like to share their stories to post their own videos on YouTube and email a link to faces [at] distraction [dot] gov.

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Our Innovation Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges

November 16, 2010

Earlier today, Chairman Genachowski spoke at the annaul meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Atlanta. In concert with the conference's "Keeping the Focus" theme, the Chairman spoke to the primary focus of the FCC: the economy and jobs. We're serving this mission through harnessing the opportunities of communications technology and putting an emphasis on innovation.

Read Chairman Genachowski's full speech.

(This is cross-posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

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Wrapping up Open Developer Day

by Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer
November 12, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:43:]]On Monday, November 11, the FCC successfully held (we think) a first-of-its-kind event in the U.S. federal government! 

FCC Open Developer Day attracted about 100 web developers and other technology professionals to our headquarters building in Washington. We spent a day learning about open data sets and APIs, brainstorming together about how they could be combined to benefit citizens with new apps, and starting coding projects toward those goals.

One focus of FCC Open Developer Day was accessible technology. By facilitating the use of fully-accessible technologies - in line with the FCC’s support for our Accessibility and Innovation Initiative - the FCC is promoting innovation and collaborative problem-solving in the field. One exciting fact: FCC Open Developer Day marked the first time many developers in attendance sat and chatted as a group with others using assistive technologies.

The most valuable take-away from this first foray was the opportunity to build the FCC developer community. The momentum from this event will hopefully help bring the popular activity of Developer Day and "hack-a-thons" to the a federal agency. We were grateful, and a bit surprised, at the number of people who came in from out of town to this event.  It was incredibly exciting to the see the Commission Meeting Room, usually set up for formal hearings and presentations, organized in tables for eight people and laptops plugged into power strips.

Here are some cool things we got from having the event:

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Houston, We Have A Solution: HP E-rate Fraud Case Settled

November 12, 2010

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This week the FCC notched another win for America's taxpayers, and especially for America's students. Working with the Department of Justice, and acting on tips from whistleblowers, the FCC investigated allegations that a group of companies that included Hewlett Packard Company (HP) lavished gifts on Houston and Dallas Independent School District personnel to lure contracts that included some $17 million in HP equipment. These improper actions constitute E-rate fraud, threatening the integrity of a crucial educational program, and have resulted in a settlement. Since 1996 the E-rate program has brought Internet connectivity to millions of students and virtually every classroom across the nation.

The charges are as eye-opening as they are disappointing. Yachting trips and pricey meals; tickets to see Tom Brady and the Patriots as Houston hosted the 2004 Super Bowl; and other varied and alluring entertainment packages. These contractors pulled out all the stops. All to sway officials to skirt a competitive bidding process that is vital to ensure that government funds provided to schools and libraries for our kids' education stretch as far as possible.

In the settlement ironed out between the Department of Justice, FCC and HP, HP agreed to pay the government $16.25 million, most of which will be returned to the E-rate program. Further, the FCC will oversee a compliance agreement to prevent future foul play. HP will undergo audits of its E-rate business and has agreed to train its employees thoroughly on FCC gift and E-rate rules.

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Launching the TAC Blog Series

November 12, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:157:height=100,width=75]]Last Thursday afternoon I had the honor of chairing the first meeting of the FCC’s new Technical Advisory Council, or TAC. The TAC exists under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which follows a proud tradition of providing the Federal Government with outside consultation, dating back to the George Washington Administration and the first President’s Committee on the Whisky Rebellion. Thankfully our Council’s challenge does not involve such physically dangerous circumstances! This is the 5th TAC that the FCC has convened and in this iteration, our Council has been charged with another specific, critical task: To help the Commission identify important areas of innovation and develop communications and technology policies that will drive job creation and economic growth.

Our TAC has been convened at a dynamic time at the FCC and for the communications and technology industries. When the first TAC was suggested in the 1990’s, the FCC was an agency overseeing multiple analog networks. The digital world has changed that. IP has pushed activity to the edge and innovation has followed. The Census Bureau estimates that most of the net employment gains from 1980-2005 came from firms younger than 5 years old—and those firms looked more like the distributed networks that connected them than they did the centralized networks of old.

Amidst this change, the challenge for the TAC in its advisory role is to answer several questions.

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Open Developer Day's First Chapter

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director
November 9, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=106,width=70]]In a packed Commission Meeting Room on Monday, a coalition of tech developers and accessibility advocates made FCC history.

By organizing and hosting the FCC's first Open Developer Day – one of the first of its kind in the federal government, and the first hosted at a federal HQ – the Commission took another big step towards realizing the full potential of the broad community of folks that FCC data and FCC tools have the potential to impact.

The success of the event proved that citizen developers are eager to engage in open collaboration with the FCC to find innovative uses for government data. Cooperative efforts like this help find efficiencies for users, open the door to new economic and creative opportunities, and stretch the value of the .gov dollar in ways we're continuing to explore.

Open Developer Day also highlighted the ways that FCC initiatives can create efficiencies across the landscape of other government agencies – a pillar of the Gov 2.0 approach. The long-term success of these methods depends on agencies' ability to cultivate an active community. I think this event shows us that we've made a great start, and we're learning how we continue to improve on the steps we've taken so far.

Our own wrap up of Open Developer Day is coming, but I wanted to share this great video interview shot in our new, soon-to-be-released FCC TEC lab. O'Reilly Media's Alex Howard sat down with Gina Trapani – a Developer Day veteran herself – to talk about the take-aways from the event. If you attended in person, watched via the livestream, or participated on the #fccdevday hashtag, leave your thoughts in the comments below. Tell us what you thought worked well, or pass on your ideas for the next FCC Open Developer Day for us to read.

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Seeking Nominations for the Chairman's AAA

by Pam Gregory, Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
November 9, 2010

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At the July 19th event celebrating the anniversary of the ADA, Chairman Genachowski launched the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative and announced the establishment of the Chairman’s Awards for Advancement of Accessibility (or Chairman’s AAA).  The Chairman’s speech, "Empowering Americans with Disabilities Through Technology" was presented at the FCC’s Americans with Disabilities Act 20th Anniversary Celebration. The A&I Initiative and the Chairman’s AAA are based on recommendations in the National Broadband Plan.

The AAA Awards will be given to pioneers in accessibility and innovations.  Contenders could be individuals or organizations, public and/or private entities, academics, students, application developers, and represent mainstream or assistive technology industries.  In addition to recognizing the development of individual mainstream or assistive technologies introduced into the marketplace, the awards could also recognize other accessibility advancements, such as the development of standards or best practices that foster accessibility, or the development of a new consumer clearinghouse of disability-related products and services.  We also believe that teaching modules and tools that could help students learn universal design and other accessibility practices could be worthy of recognition.

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Global Network of Women ICT Decision-Makers and Girls in ICT

November 8, 2010

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:236:height=54,width=70]]In Serbia, we spearheaded the initiative to create a “Global Network of Women ICT Decision-Makers” with a proposal for amending Resolution 70 at the recent ITU Plenipot in Guadalajara, Mexico.  The main idea behind the network is to promote careers for young women in ICT, as well as encourage women and girls of all ages to use ICTs for social and economic empowerment. The main promoters of women in ICT will be the women already working in the sector, as there are a growing number of women in the ICT field with decision-making power, including relevant Ministries, national regulatory authorities, and the industry itself. Our intention is to bring together these women, on a global scale, through the “Global Network of Women ICT Decision-Makers” utilizing the international coverage ITU provides; and we have made great progress -- Resolution 70 was adopted on October 18, 2010.

Also, there is an additional effort to establish international Girls in ICT/Girl's Day to be held on every fourth Thursday of April.  This day would be a time when ICT companies, other companies with ICT departments, ICT training facilities, universities, research centers, government bodies, and all ICT-related institutions are invited to organize an open day for girls, where girls could see for themselves what a career in the field might bring, freely ask questions, or have speakers take part in a specially focused "women in ITC career days " at their local schools.  These ICT companies could also organize shadow projects (where girls could shadow a woman-leader in ICT for one or several days).  I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to join us in our initiative, as well as link in your initiative to the "virtual" network in an effort to create a "real" network for women and girls.

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Gearing Up for Open Developer Day

by Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer
November 4, 2010

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Ed. Note: Visit the Open Developer Day wiki for more info.

This coming Monday the commission will play host to a one-of-a-kind event in federal government. We’re calling on coders, programmers and developers of all stripes to join us at FCC headquarters for our first ever Open Developer Day. This will be a rare opportunity for developers in the public and private sectors to join forces. Out of this gathering will come innovations, collaborations, and continued open government partnership.

Central to Monday’s event will be three tracks weaving their way through the day. Equipped with our laptops and the fellowship of sharp friends we’ll be working through accessibility solutions and open APIs; and we’ll host a Free Develop, an open-ended developer free-for-all. FCC tech minds and leadership will open the event, situating our Developer Day within the larger open government movement.

Programmers from the Yahoo! Developer Network will be on hand to demo their tools and provide guidance. They will give an overview of YQL, their query language which allows developers to “access and shape data across the Internet through one simple language, eliminating the need to learn how to call different APIs.” We will also see a demonstration of their YUI Library, a set of “utilities and controls … for building richly interactive web applications.”

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Mystery solved: Consumers win in Verizon Wireless "mystery fees" settlement

November 4, 2010

Late last week, the Enforcement Bureau resolved a ten-month investigation into allegations that Verizon Wireless incorrectly billed 15 million customers for unauthorized data charges.  The settlement — the largest enforcement action in FCC history — ensures that affected customers will get at least $52.8 million of their money back and requires Verizon Wireless to make a record $25 million payment to the U.S. Treasury.  It also obligates Verizon Wireless to cease billing for unauthorized data charges, give consumers more (and clearer) information about data plans and options, and provide robust training to its customer service employees — so that consumers who have questions can get straight answers and prompt action.

Notably, Verizon Wireless customers themselves played a key role in bringing the "mystery fees" to light.  The settlement is a great example of what can happen when consumers speak up, and we're proud to have played our part in making sure that the voices of many millions of individual consumers were heard.

So, in addition to the money, what else do Verizon Wireless customers get out of the settlement?

  • Improved customer service
  • Data blocks on request, if they want to avoid or limit data charges
  • Right to request a refund for unauthorized data charges, if they do not receive one
  • Close monitoring of data charges by a new Verizon Wireless Data Charge Task Force
  • Strong accountability and compliance monitoring by the FCC

This is just the latest in the Enforcement Bureau's continuing effort on the consumer protection front.  We will monitor the company's compliance going forward, and remain committed to standing with and for consumers.  So, consumers, if you need us, our lights are always on.

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