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FCC Tech Cast: Aneesh Chopra on America's Mobile 'Killer App'

October 25, 2010 - 02:59 PM

Connecting people to their country and reimagining citizens’ engagement with their government is a America’s mobile “killer app.”
That’s the word from Aneesh Chopra, United States Chief Information Officer, in our very first edition of FCC Tech Cast.
As part of our #SpecCrunch summit on the looming mobile spectrum crisis, Aneesh shared his thoughts on mobile applications’ potential to unleash dramatic innovations across sectors.
Mobile platforms let us connect with people in ways we’ve never imagined, and bring new voices into the process of governing for the first time. In this FCC Tech Talk, Aneesh points to Manor, TX, to show how mobile technology and innovative applications are giving citizens high-tech access to leaders in their communities.
Watch the video, then share your thoughts about how the FCC can drive citizen engagement via our upcoming FCC.gov mobile application.

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Clearing things up with a Cloud

October 25, 2010 - 11:23 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:137:height=99,width=70]]Imagine you were a reporter and wanted to compare budgets for each of the 50 states.  Or, you wanted to compare the official schedules of governors in 20 states?  Dan Oblinger, Program Manager at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) suggests that if there were a single cloud for state and local governments, possibly supported by the federal government, the release of data to reporters and the rest of the public could be modernized and streamlined. 
Journalists say now that when they ask for government records, often they get print outs of electronic documents with black marker used to redact certain sections.  These releases can be hundreds of pages long, and completely unsearchable electronically. This is taking place in a context where newspapers are closing and reporters are being laid off.  The number of employed investigative reporters is declining and therefore there are fewer people to keep government at all levels - national, state, local - accountable to the public.
For example, suppose all states kept their birth, marriage, and death certificates and their court and police records on this single cloud.  Whatever format any single state used for its data, the cloud could provide the support to convert it into other useful formats (I understand now that this kind of conversion perhaps is often too costly for any single locality or state to support).  For the public who wanted to use these data, they could access it in a format useful to them, not just in the format the state/local government uses.

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Unleashing America's Invisible Infrastructure

October 21, 2010 - 02:20 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:88:height=93,width=70]]Just last week, President Obama said that to create jobs today and lay the foundation for economic growth and U.S. competitiveness in the future, “We need … a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century.”

When most people think of infrastructure, they think of visible projects like highways, bridges or high-speed rail.

But just as vital is our invisible infrastructure – the electromagnetic spectrum that travels unseen through the air and enables all of our wireless communications networks, cellular voice and data services, as well as radio, broadcast TV, and satellite.

Wireless innovation fuels economic growth and job creation. Sales of smartphone “apps” – an industry that didn’t exist a few years ago -- topped $4 billion in 2009; our new apps economy has created many jobs and can create more. Our invisible infrastructure also supports breakthrough tools to improve education through mobile online learning and e-books, enhance health care through potentially life-saving remote diagnostics, and promote energy efficiency by supporting the smart grid.

But we are at an inflection point.

The explosive growth in mobile communications is outpacing our ability to keep up. Spectrum is finite. If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to run into a wall – a spectrum crunch – that will stifle American innovation and economic growth and cost us the opportunity to lead the world in mobile communications.

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Crunching the Numbers Behind the Spectrum Crunch

October 21, 2010 - 12:45 PM

By Robert Alderfer and Tom Peters

The explosive growth of mobile communication is fueling our economy, creating jobs and spurring innovation at lighting fast speeds. But, it is also taxing our nation’s spectrum.

Spectrum is the finite national resource that makes all forms of wireless communication possible. Data usage over wireless networks is rapidly increasing as more consumers surf the web, check email, and watch video on the go, and more mobile device such as smart phones and tablets enter the market. This new demand for mobile spectrum is rapidly pushing us towards the point of running out of open spectrum.

The National Broadband Plan put numbers on the looming spectrum crunch, and made it clear that the time to act is now. The plan recommended that 500 megahertz of new spectrum be made available for broadband, including 300 megahertz in the next five years. The President has issued a call to action for wireless broadband. Clearly, new spectrum for wireless broadband is important to ensuring that we lead the world in mobile.

Today, the FCC is releasing a white paper entitled, “Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum.” This technical and economic forecast of mobile broadband market trends sets forth future spectrum needs in a concrete, data-driven fashion.

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Join us for the Spectrum Summit

October 20, 2010 - 07:22 PM

By John Leibovitz

At last week's Commission meeting, Chairman Genachowski announced that the FCC will be hosting a Spectrum Summit to bring together creative thinkers to solve the looming spectrum crunch and ensure enough airwaves are available for Americans' growing appetite for mobile broadband.

The Summit is now here — it kicks off at 10 am tomorrow (Thursday) — and will be carried live at FCC.gov/Live.  And we're very pleased that C-SPAN has agreed to join us as well.  You'll be able to find video archives there and in the FCC's video archive on the web.

It promises to be an interesting day.  Mobile broadband demand is growing at an astounding rate, and we're bringing together some the key players in industry, government, academia, and the investment community to discuss how we can best help spectrum supply keep up.

Check out the agenda here, and tune in tomorrow!

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Moving FCC.gov into the cloud

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
October 20, 2010 - 05:59 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=106,width=70]]To create lasting change in the dot gov atmosphere, its incumbent on us to build better websites on top of better architectures.
But too often, government agencies have struggled to keep pace with technological change at a fundamental level. Cloud computing environments haven't been within government agencies' grasp for very long. The reasons have been various — many of them well-founded and focused on keeping our nation's information, and our citizens, safe.
Thanks to clear vision and consistent execution from government leaders, agencies are increasingly empowered to leverage the benefits of cloud computing. Private sector innovation has moved at incredible speeds, and it's encouraging to see federal agencies — like the FCC — moving towards cutting-edge architectures in order to deliver quality services quickly to the citizens that depend on them.
As we continue to reimagine how FCC.gov can deliver dot com levels of service, getting cloud environments in the door and ready for implementation has been a primary focus. By hosting our new site in the cloud, we're equipping the developers and content creators in the Commission with leading-edge technology so we remain agile, responsive, and relevant to the consumers and industry groups that rely on FCC.gov.
We fully expect this move to pay dividends in the short and long terms. Starting now, we're able to wield highly-flexible sandboxes for our teams to innovate without bounds. And in out years, we save considerable costs — and mitigate impact to the environment — by hosting the new FCC.gov in the cloud instead of potentially inefficient and wasteful datacenters.

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My Idea of Working From Home

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
October 19, 2010 - 06:30 AM

This week I had the pleasure of traveling home to South Carolina to deliver remarks at the Rural Cellular Association’s Business and Technical Conference. When I heard RCA wanted me to drop by, I was honored, naturally, but when I saw that this event was being held in South Carolina, I realized that they are excellent planners, too. This is not just because the Palmetto State is home to me, but also because South Carolina, with its rural communities and economic struggles, is a good example of the challenges this Commission must address if it really wants to meet the National Broadband Plan’s goal of promoting world-leading mobile broadband infrastructure. South Carolina is also a great example of the challenges facing the 90 or so wireless service providers, all members of RCA, who are trying to bring the benefits of advanced mobile voice and data services to all parts of rural America.

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My First Visit to One of the FCC's Field Offices

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
October 19, 2010 - 06:30 AM

I just returned from a 36-hour trip to Georgia, during which I visited a great group of folk at the FCC’s field office in Duluth (which is overseen by our Enforcement Bureau). It was my first experience with one of our field offices, but interacting with our people on the ground – my hard-working colleagues outside of the bubble of Washington – was an invaluable experience for me…and one I intend to replicate soon.

Upon my arrival, I was picked up by Doug Miller, the District Director of the field office, in one of the FCC’s Mobile Direction Finding (MDF) vehicles. While it looks like a run-of-the-mill SUV on the outside, it contains state-of-the-art detection equipment that Doug and his team use to detect illegal (“pirated”) radio broadcasts. Armed with technology and experience, innumerable unauthorized radio broadcasts, which trespass into the airwaves of licensed programming as well as airplane/airport transmissions, have been located and shut down by the FCC’s Duluth team.

The field team also walked me through the technology and labor needed to detect and stop illegal cell phone jamming. This practice is increasingly prevalent throughout our prisons and schools, and my FCC colleagues showed me how jamming devices operate and how small and inconspicuous they can be.

Later in the evening, I met and spoke to the Federal Communications Bar Association’s Atlanta chapter. I saw some old friends and met many new ones, and listened to their feedback regarding what we’re doing in DC and what they’re doing in and around metropolitan Atlanta. I truly enjoy chatting with communications practitioners and attorneys throughout the country, as they offer so many insights that I don’t regularly hear in Washington.

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Internet Epitomizes Part of Our Society But Not Its Full picture

October 18, 2010 - 04:39 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:238:height=88,width=70]]On any day coming to the office, opening up my mailboxes at home, or scanning through my mail at the airport queue I come across an old friend who suddenly wants to link up with me, a vague acquaintance who wishes to see me at an exhibition, or an urgent petition that I need to sign.

The prospect of friends suddenly springing up from old times used to thrill me. I was delighted to sign petitions that would guarantee my democratic rights, and basked in the idea of going to an art exhibition. As always with novelties they are delightful only if they are rare enough to continue to be pleasant.

However, today the acceptance level of intrusion has been surpassed, and I only get moderately amused when acquaintances who hardly recognize me at a conference, insist on becoming my “friends” on Facebook.

So, now more than ever we must rethink our personal communications policies towards our parents, friends, and colleagues. Maybe I want to send photos of the latest birthday to parents, but not necessarily start a discussion that would be best fit for Sunday afternoon tea-time. I want to share lots of fun –or even silliness – with friends on Facebook, but that does not replace face-to-face encounters. I may not want all of my colleagues as my friends on Facebook (depending on the above-mentioned level of silliness displayed), but I expect at least an acknowledgment from them on all Emails sent with a professional query.

The Internet is splitting our personalities and recomposing them in accordance with the community networks that we adhere to. Now more than ever we need to keep control of our lives, information, and ideas.

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Senior Consumers Also Experience Cell Phone Bill Shock

October 18, 2010 - 01:42 PM

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The response from consumers to the Commission's actions on bill shock has been an encouraging sign that our initiatives are resonating with the people that need them the most.

Earlier this week, Chairman Genachowski spoke at the Center for American Progress about ways consumers can avoid cell phone bill shock. Consumers who have personally experienced bill shock were also on hand to share their stories. My conversations with consumers leading up that event gave me second-hand bill shock — I just cannot fathom getting an $18,000 cell phone bill!

Reaching out to consumers raised two points in my mind. The first was a creeping anxiety about my own family's cell plan. Did we really have the unlimited text and data plan I believed we did? Was I about to get the bill shock of my life courtesy of my texting tween at home? Thankfully, a call to my carrier was all it took to confirm my plan and clear my mind.

Secondly, I wondered how bill shock might affect America's seniors. I visited a local assisted living facility and, with the help of the Director of Resident Services, chatted with five residents. Sure enough, two of those residents had experienced bill shock. Ms. Ana's voice-only plan — typically $80 a month — jumped unexpectedly by over 50%. Unable to get help or a clear explanation from her cell provider, Ms. Ana gave up. She returned her phone to her provider's nearest retail store, terminated her contract and paid the early termination fee. She is now a very satisfied customer of AARP's Consumer Cellular plan.

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