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

by Pam Gregory, Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
November 19, 2010 - 03:45 PM

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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 - 01:00 PM

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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 - 03:20 PM

[[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 - 01:02 PM

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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 - 12:39 PM

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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 - 11:48 AM

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 - 05:12 PM

[[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 - 02:34 PM

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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 - 01:57 PM

[[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 - 04:45 PM

[[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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