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Spanish Version of the National Broadband Plan Release

July 12, 2010

En un número creciente de hogares americanos se habla español, pero más de la mitad de todos los hispanos no tienen acceso a la banda ancha donde ellos viven.

Esta comunidad de habla hispana puede beneficiarse únicamente de acceso a la banda ancha, adopción, y conectividad. Y esa misma comunidad – como todos los americanos – no se le puede permitir que se quede atrás cuando se despliega el futuro de la banda ancha.

Para dirigirse a éstas y muchas otras cuestiones sobre la banda ancha, la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones (FCC por sus siglas en inglés) entregó un plan nacional de banda ancha al Congreso. Titulada Creando un Estados Unidos Conectado: Plan Nacional de Banda Ancha, el plan presenta una agenda ambiciosa que proporciona recomendaciones para conectar a todos los americanos a la banda ancha.

Hoy, este documento, titulado Creando un Estados Unidos Conectado: Plan Nacional de Banda Ancha, está disponible en un formato descargable para consumidores que hablan español.

La información en cuestiones como las barreras de costo para la adopción y utilización de banda ancha y la alfabetización digital es sumamente importante para la comunidad de habla hispana. Hoy, la FCC está orgullosa de entregar el plan directamente a la comunidad.

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Great FCC Employee Poll Results: On the Road to a Model Agency of Government

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director
July 12, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=106,width=70]]When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the new leadership team and I came to the FCC a year ago, we had one mission in mind – work with the great staff of the FCC to do all that we could to make the FCC a “model of excellence” in government. This was a worthwhile but daunting challenge – during transition, we had learned that the FCC placed 28th out of 32 small agencies in the Partnership for Public Service’s 2009 “Best Places to Work” report based on OPM’s Federal Employee Survey.  Over the course of the last year we set out to make the FCC a great place: We improved employee communication and openness through technology and new media, specifically creating the FCC “Reboot” intranet site which focuses on sharing information, gathering information, blogs and anonymous feedback. Chairman Genachowski established an SES “Senior Counsel on FCC Reform” –  a position that focuses on openness and transparency at the agency and reports directly to the Chairman (Note: The creation of this position also marked the return of Mary Beth Richards to the FCC which, if you know Mary Beth, surely accounted for improved morale).  In the last year, we worked to make management accountable for employee satisfaction, specifically briefing management on results and establishing goals in key leadership areas as well as coaching managers; and we worked on leadership development, specifically the establishment of executive leadership forums. This is all in addition to working through low-cost upgrades around the building, a focus on greening the agency, focus on charitable giving and community outreach, and much, much more.

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FCC'S Open Data Initiative: A Bit of Background about the FCC's Data

by Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer
July 9, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:43:height=100,width=70]]Post: FCC Data Innovation Initiative Journal, Day 17, Washington DC.
For Comment: Media Bureau MB Docket No. 10-103; Wireline Competition WC Docket No. 10-132; Wireless Telecommunication Bureau WT Docket No 10-131.
Resources: reboot.fcc.gov/data/review

Last month we announced FCC's Data Innovation Initiative including a new cross-agency data team and initial public review of 340 data sets from the Media, Wireline Competition and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus.

Yesterday, the Commission announced a Notice of Public Rulemaking WC Docket No. 10-141 to consider requiring tariff filers to file using the FCC's existing Electronic Tariff Filing System and to standardize tariff filings to ease review by the public and the FCC.

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Wireless World Travel - Connecting with Consumers at Dulles International Airport

July 2, 2010

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By the FCC Dulles Airport Passenger Visit Team: Yul Kwon, Dan Rumelt, Marissa Astor, Erik Chamberlin, John Cochran, and Sam Rodriguez.

During Wireless World Travel Week we went to Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC to tell people about Wireless World Travel Week. We distributed our tip sheet, Wireless World Travel Made Simple, talked to international travelers about their calling experiences, and told people about ways to save money on international wireless calls. We also warned many travelers about possible hefty phone bills if they didn't use their phone properly while overseas.

When we arrived at the airport, we staked out a few prime spots in the main terminal and began handing out our tip sheets. We were pleasantly surprised to find that many people had already followed the cardinal rule of international travel: check with your wireless provider before departing. Unfortunately we met many travelers who didn't know whether their phones would work overseas and what the charges might be. Some people assumed their wireless phones would work abroad, especially if they were GSM-enabled.

One man was about to make a mistake with his iPhone that could have been costly. While he had a voice plan with unlimited data in the US, we told him that he needed to temporarily turn off many of the data applications so he wouldn't accidentally incur lots of unexpected data fees. Another traveler told us a story about how he traveled overseas multiple times in one month and came home to a phone bill hundreds of dollars more than he expected. So he decided to buy a world phone, a much cheaper option for the frequent world traveler. Some people told us they avoided unexpected international calling charges simply by leaving their wireless phones at home in the US.

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FCC's Data Innovation Initiative: Reinvigorating the FCC's Data Assets

by Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer
June 30, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:43:height=100,width=70]]As part of the FCC reform agenda to improve our fact-based, data-driven decision making, the Media, Wireline Competition, and Wireless Telecommunications bureaus have released simultaneous, identical Public Notices seeking comment on all aspects of how they collect, use, and disseminate data.

Along with Public Notices, we are also publicly announcing a cross-agency data team of Chief Data Officers in the bureaus, a Geographic Information Officer, and a Chief Data Officer for the agency to ensure a better connection between data and sound analysis in policy processes.

These actions are part of the FCC's Data Innovation Initiative publicly launched yesterday. They are the next steps of a journey that began last fall with the Commission's first-ever, agency-wide inventory identifying hundreds of distinct data sets. The Public Notices initiate an iterative process examining all the FCC's current and future data requirements, starting with these three Bureaus.

Yesterday's Public Notices invite you to join us on this journey for the next 45 days as we openly and transparently look closer at, and seek your comments on, nearly 340 data sets managed by the Media, Wireline Competition, and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus and consider future needs. Each of the three Bureaus has compiled a working inventory of their respective data collections to make it easier for everyone—not just those who file information year in and year out—to provide us with comments and insights on innovating how the agency collects, uses, analyzes, and shares information.

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Getting It: the FCC's Role in Bringing Broadband to Health Care

June 28, 2010

It's nice to hear from someone in the public that the FCC "gets it."

I heard just such a remark in California last month, when I had the opportunity to travel to the California Emergency Technology Fund's Rural Connection Workshop in Redding, California. CETF, if you are not aware, is a non-profit organization established by the California Public Utilities Commission, which provides leadership throughout the state to accelerate the deployment and adoption of broadband to unserved and underserved communities.

The Workshop provided a forum for community, state, local, and federal leaders to discuss broadband deployment progress made in California as well as obstacles still faced. I was honored to provide an update on initiatives in the FCC's Rural Health Care Universal Service Program, including the Rural Health Care Pilot Program, and to hear the many helpful ideas and comments from attendees.

In case you haven't heard of the FCC's Pilot program, here's what it does in a nutshell: it helps build high-speed broadband connections that connect public and non-profit rural health clinics with medical centers in larger communities. The Pilot is funding projects that will be able to provide rural America with real-time consultations with medical experts at research hospitals, using telemedicine to save lives and money, and bring other benefits that only robust broadband connections can bring in the information-intense world of health care.

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Morning with the ALA

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 28, 2010

“Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.”
-- Frederick Douglass

This past Saturday, I had the honor of addressing the American Library Association Conference. This group is not only important to me because of the work they do in communities across the nation, but also because my mother, Emily, is a retired librarian.

In many communities, libraries are the primary places where people receive digital literacy training. As I emphasized in my speech, knowing how to read is no longer sufficient to be “literate” in the 21st Century. For the nearly 100 million Americans who do not have broadband at home, 22% cite digital literacy as the number one reason for not adopting broadband. Libraries rode the technology wave and recognized the problem of digital literacy long before there was a National Broadband Plan.

My remarks highlighted portions of the National Broadband Plan that support libraries’ efforts to promote deployment and adoption of broadband, including: (1) overhauling the Universal Service Fund, which was successful in bringing voice service to nearly every American; (2) developing a Unified Community Anchor Network for institutions, including libraries, to better use their connectivity to improve the lives of the people in their communities; and (3) creating a Digital Literacy Corps to address digital literacy issues.

During the question and answer session, I emphasized how, from the beginning of my tenure at the FCC, I have made a conscious effort to get input from organizations and institutions who work directly with the American people. In my view, that viewpoint is essential if we are to understand the implications of our actions at the federal level. I noted that I look forward to working with the ALA, as it represents such an important aspect of our National Broadband Plan. Thank to all the wonderful people at the conference who shared with me their thoughts and personal experiences.

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Tracking VoIP: What We Now Know

June 25, 2010

Until today, we couldn’t have told you this: out of 97 million residential phone lines in the U.S., nearly 20% were VoIP subscribers. (Annoying technical footnote alert:  this actually refers to “interconnected” VoIP, the most common form of VoIP service, which is voice service over a broadband connection that also allows users to both receive calls from and place calls to the public switched telephone network, like traditional phone service. We don’t track non-interconnected VoIP, which generally speaking, enables voice service between two computers on broadband only.)

Anyway, that VoIP fact comes from our latest Local Telephone Competition Report, which, for the first time, includes information about voice services delivered over broadband connections. Why, you may ask, has it taken so long for the Commission to get these numbers? Well, interconnected VoIP is a relatively new product, and the Commission is careful about imposing potential burdens, like data reporting, on nascent services. The Commission in 2004 began considering the idea of collecting VoIP data, and finally, in 2008, concluded that the time was right to collect those figures. While private data firms have for some time estimated VoIP penetration, the FCC now has hard data on VoIP subscribers, data that give us a more complete fact base for understanding voice services.

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Final Reminders: What should I do when I return home?

June 25, 2010

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This week we have covered pre-departure steps, overseas calling alternatives, and VoIP services, all focused on avoiding excess charges. Today we will wrap up the "Wireless World Travel Week" with an overview of the international calling tips, as well as a few final reminders.

  1. Check with your provider before you travel to see if your phone will work abroad.
  2. If your phone will work, check with provider to see if you can buy a SIM card in the foreign country to avoid roaming charges.
  3. If your phone will not work abroad, choose an alternative calling method that is best for you – purchase or rental of a world phone for instance.
  4. Disable push notification and wireless network settings on your smartphone as much as possible to avoid unintentional data transfer charges.

If you are using a mobile phone abroad, you will need to be able to charge it. Make sure you have the proper power adapters and converters for the country you are visiting, and any other equipment specific to your phone.

While you should be aware of all charges before you travel abroad, it is important to look closely at your invoice/bill to make sure that charges are accurate. If there are any discrepancies, notify your provider immediately. Keep in mind that roaming charges apply as soon as you arrive in a foreign country, so have a plan of action for placing calls abroad before you travel.

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Can I make calls over the Internet from Wi-Fi hotspots?

June 24, 2010

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[Addendum: The FCC does not endorse the VoIP services mentioned below or any distinct technology.]

We've gone over many different options for international calling which all revolved around use of wireless networks and landlines. However, there is another cheap and easy way to make international calls called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) through a Wi-Fi hotspot. This allows you to call someone using high-speed Internet service instead of a telephone service. Just make sure that your phone does not automatically connect to an international mobile network, which can be expensive to access.

Of course, you must have Internet access to use a VoIP service, as well as a computer with microphone or webcam, or a smartphone that has VoIP capabilities. Assuming you have access, you can use one of many popular VoIP services such as Skype, Fring, or Truphone. If you use a VoIP service to make a call to another person using VoIP, it will probably be absolutely free (not including any fees you may have to pay to access the Internet). If the person you are calling is not using VoIP on their computer, you can also call them directly on their phone. This is often cheaper than using a calling card or local SIM card.

The main advantage of using VoIP to make international calls is that it is very inexpensive (free in certain circumstances). The downside is that it requires Internet access, and a computer or mobile device that has the necessary VoIP application. Also, international equivalents of 911 and E911 may not be fully functional with VoIP calling. Make sure you are aware of these limitations before relying on VoIP as your primary calling method. Visit the following links to learn more about VoIP services and to look up calling rates to individual countries.

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