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The Perfect, the Good, and the FCC

December 1, 2010
Guest Post by Kevin Werbach
 
It has been a busy week in U.S. communications policy, with an FCC meeting adopting important spectrum policy reforms, an FCC complaint about Comcast’s approval policies for cable modems, and a dispute between Comcast and Level 3 over fees for Internet backbone traffic.  And late last night, it got even more interesting.
 
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reportedly circulated a draft Open Internet order, to be considered at the FCC’s December 21 meeting.  According to a statement given to reporters, the order builds on the compromise terms from Congressional negotiations led by Representative Henry Waxman this fall.  What does that mean?  I’m confident of two things: Hardly anyone will like the proposal; and it’s the right thing to do.
 
Advocates of network neutrality will be disappointed the FCC isn’t going forward with “reclassification” of broadband access as a regulated telecommunications service, while many Republicans and network operators will complain about a “power grab” to “regulate the Internet” even after Democratic losses in the midterm elections.  Both should  put aside their ideologies and look realistically at the situation.
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Strengthening Accessibility through Global Coordination

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
November 24, 2010

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In 2006, the United Nations agreed on the language of a treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The treaty is going through a process of signing and ratification among many countries. In 2009, President Obama signed it in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A related endeavor is called G3ict, a public-private partnership encouraging policies to ensure that information and communication technologies (ICT) are accessible to people with disabilities. Such ICT can equalize opportunities for independent living, social inclusion, higher education, and gainful employment — empowering people everywhere, and especially in developing countries.

As part of a collaboration with G3ict, George Washington University hosted a policy forum last week. Leaders in ICT policy from around the world convened with partners from the U.S. government, industry, and consumer groups. Karen Peltz Strauss, Elizabeth Lyle, and I were able to participate on behalf of the FCC. This is an exciting time period in which unprecedented coordination is occurring among ICT-related proceedings to set accessibility standards and policy, such as those related to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. We all shared perspectives, identified problems, and brainstormed solutions.

The ideas and connections were invigorating. Let me highlight some common themes as follows:

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9-1-1's Next Frontier

November 23, 2010

This morning Chairman Genachowski, Public Safety Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett and a collection of FCC staff visited a state-of-the-art response facility at the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center in Arlington, Virginia. Following the vision laid out in the National Broadband Plan, the event marks the announcement of steps to revolutionize America’s 9-1-1 system by harnessing the potential of text, photo, and video in emergencies.

Our communications needs are increasingly reliant on mobile devices. In fact, 70% of 9-1-1 calls originate from mobile phones and users rely regularly on texts and multimedia messages. While a subsequent evolution of our 9-1-1 system seems a natural -- and obvious -- step for digitally aware citizen, our current 9-1-1 system doesn’t utilize the superb, possibly life-saving potential within our existing mobile devices. With videos, pictures, texts -- and other untold mobile innovations surely on the horrizon -- next-generation 9-1-1 will position public safety officials a step ahead with critical real-time, on-the-ground information.

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Popular Science's '100 Best Innovations of the Year'

by Pam Gregory, Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
November 19, 2010

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Geek Alert! Popular Science is out with its annual 100 Best Innovations of the Year. Reliability cool any year, this year's list is also notable for a number of innovations that stand to make technology more accessible and lives easier for the disabled.

A few of my personal favorites:

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The Gold Rush in Kansas

by Pam Gregory, Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
November 19, 2010

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They’re going for the gold in Kansas, with plans to make broadband available to everyone in the Sunflower State.

I recently was fortunate enough to witness this gold rush first-hand by attending the Kansas Broadband Summit, where current state of broadband deployment was discussed, as well as the plans for future deployment of broadband services. Stanley Adams, the broadband planning manager for the state’s Department of Commerce reported that Kansas received over $250 million in broadband deployment grants and loans from the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration (NTIA), which is part of the Department of Commerce and the Rural Utility Service (RUS), which is part of the Department of Agriculture. That’s a lot of amount of money for a smaller state, but Kansas has a significant rural population, and its leaders are aiming to make broadband available to all.

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Highlights of the Spectrum Summit

by Anousone Muongpack, FCC New Media
November 18, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:197:height=100,width=70]]In late October, the FCC held a spectrum summit, bringing together creative thinkers to solve the looming spectrum crunch and ensure enough airwaves are available for Americans’ growing appetite for mobile broadband.  Key players in industry, government, academia, and the investment community offered their take on the spectrum crunch and how to solve it.  While the summit in its entirety has been available online for some time, we also put together some highlights from the event in a brief trailer, which we are making available today. Enjoy!

 

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Spectrum Dashboard Gets An Upgrade

November 18, 2010

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On Wednesday, November 17, the first in a series of enhancements to the Spectrum Dashboard were released. Along with this release, we are excited to announce that the Dashboard is no longer in beta.

The response we've received about the Dashboard has been remarkably positive and in the eight short months since its initial release, almost 200,000 searches have been conducted. To crunch those numbers further – the Dashboard is being searched about 25,000 times a month or in other words, 800 times a day. Wow! What's more impressive is the volume of activity has been pretty consistent month-to-month.

While this week's release may not be the biggest or the flashiest, it is however, the starting point for bigger and better things to come. For example, in the next few months, the Dashboard will include additional releases to track leased spectrum, search for licenses across tribal lands, customize maps, and use Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to access data from the Dashboard. We don't plan to stop there. We will continue to evaluate potential candidates for future enhancements.

Here are some of the changes to the Dashboard released this week.

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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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