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Welcome to WISENET

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
October 5, 2010 - 05:04 PM

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=71]]As we open WISENET, I am pleased to welcome everyone to this experimental site designed to bring women in ICT together to share their professional experiences.  As I have described the site to women all over the world, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. When I wrote to Minister Jasna Matic from Serbia, she was delighted that we were starting WISENET as she sees it as a complement to her program to promote careers for young women in ICT, an international “Girls’s Day/Girls in ICT” program to give girls an opportunity to explore ICT professions. This was the first time I had heard of this program and it is exactly the kind of "networking" and "information sharing" that we hope WISENET will engender.  Clearly, given the response to the pre-launch of WISENET, there is a need for just such a site. This is an opportunity for all of us to make it as successful as we can, so please do join us and participate. And thanks so much to those of you who have already responded with your ideas for WISENET.  I'm at the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, and I'm looking forward to introducing WISENET to an even broader audience. I'll send an update from the Plenipot.

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The Women of Plenipot

October 5, 2010 - 04:57 PM

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:243:height=100,width=115]]I am at the International Telecommunications Union’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Plenipot, as it is called, occurs every four years, and is where senior officials are elected, the budget established, and the strategic plan set for the next four years. In short, it is the most important conference for the ITU.

Given the importance of the Plenipot, it seems the perfect time to reflect on the status of women in the ITU. On the one hand, there is good news to report – participation of women at ITU conferences, and at this Plenipot, is up substantially. On the other hand, the situation is rather grim. There has never been a women elected to a senior post - Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, or Director of one of the three Bureaus. At this Plenipot, there is only one woman running for any of these posts; Veena Rawat from Industry Canada is running for Director of the Radiocommunications Bureau. Does it matter that a woman has never been elected to a senior post at the ITU? I think it does. I believe diversity of perspectives makes an organization stronger. The ITU has recognized that in encouraging a particular focus on women (as well as youth and people with disabilities) in its programs and requiring regional diversity in the elected officials and staff (which means that there is a measure of racial diversity at the organization). Yet, when it comes to women, there is a complete lack of representation at the senior levels. The elections for senior officials will occur next Thursday and Friday, October 7 and 8. I will keep you posted on what happens. In the meantime, I would be interested in your view of whether this is an issue we should be concerned about and if it is, what can be done to increase the representation of women in senior posts at the ITU.

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Trading in your wallet for your phone

October 5, 2010 - 04:43 PM

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

If you can't remember the last time you were without your cell phone, but you can remember your embarrassment when you forgot your wallet, you're a good candidate for a mobile wallet. What's a mobile wallet and where can you get one? Well, get in line. While all over Japan and Korea, people are waving their telephones over reader pads to pay for everything that you could pay for with cash, checks, or credit cards, we in the U.S. are pretty much still waiting. Even in the developing world mobile banking is allowing cash to travel as quickly as a text message to pay for all kinds of things. By now you've guessed that mobile banking is intended to replace your wallet with your cell phone (which for those of us who are trying to downsize our purses is reason enough to consider the option). For mobile payments to safely and securely catch on in the U.S., consumers, banks, merchants, and carriers must work together. I'll be blogging on this subject for a bit, so tune in and join in the discussion, as I look forward to learning from you as well.

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Lifeline Awareness Week 2010

October 1, 2010 - 12:51 PM

Can you imagine not having a phone? If your child is sick, how would you contact your doctor? If you are looking for a job, how would an employer contact you for an interview? Thankfully, two important telephone discount programs help "connect" phoneless residents by making telephone service more affordable for low-income folks. The Lifeline and Link-Up programs offer qualified consumers discounts on monthly phone bills and initial phone connection services.

I am concerned with estimates that less than 1/3 of those eligible in this country receive these benefits. This is why our second annual Lifeline Awareness Week was so important. Working with our colleagues at the FCC, states across the country are working together to let Americans know about these discounted phone services, which are especially needed during this difficult economy. Eligible low-income consumers can save $120 a year or more. By joining together the week of September 13th-19th — the Second Annual Lifeline Awareness Week — we have begun to get the word out to eligible consumers and get them connected!

So, what went on in New York State for Lifeline Awareness Week? Our Department of Public Service worked with other state agencies, human service organizations and telephone companies to promote Lifeline Awareness Week and focus attention on these important programs. We held three kick-off events on in Buffalo, Albany and New York City. Throughout the remainder of the week, our staff promoted the Lifeline/Link-up programs at our exhibit booth at outreach events across the state and in meetings with local human service organizations. In addition, we hosted a Lifeline webinar for representatives of service organizations that work directly with low income consumers.

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Do Corporations Have 'Personal Privacy' Rights?

September 30, 2010 - 10:24 AM

On Tuesday, September 28th, the Supreme Court granted the request of the FCC and the Justice Department to hear the case of Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc., No. 09-1279.  The case involves the Freedom of Information Act (commonly known as the "FOIA"), the federal law that permits the public to request and obtain copies of records from the United States Government.  In general, the law requires that federal agencies release the requested records unless they are covered by one or more of the FOIA's statutory exemptions.

The AT&T case involves FOIA Exemption 7(C).  That provision exempts from mandatory public disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, when disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of "personal privacy."  The question presented is whether Exemption 7(C)'s protection for "personal privacy" protects corporations like AT&T in addition to individuals (who clearly are covered).  A federal appeals court in Philadelphia held that corporations can have protected “personal privacy” interests under Exemption 7(C).  The Supreme Court agreed to take the case to review that decision.

Briefs in the case will be due the end of the year, oral argument likely will be heard early in 2011, and the Supreme Court should issue its decision by June 2011.  For more background on this case, please see our post dated June 22, 2010, as well as the official webpage of the FCC’s Office of General Counsel.

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Next Steps on Nonvisual Cell Phone Access

September 24, 2010 - 05:06 PM

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Let me encourage anyone interested to submit comments to the Commission regarding accessibility of cell and other phone technologies to people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision, in furtherance of Section 255 of the Communications Act. Such comments are due by the end of Thursday, September 30, 2010. Initial comments have already been filed, and currently, a reply comment period is underway.

The public notice is entitled "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-blind, or Have Low Vision." It may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document from the following web address:

http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-10-1324A1.doc

Comments may be filed using the web form of the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), located at:

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/

A web form on that page allows one to upload a word processor document, e.g., in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be typed or pasted into a simpler web form called ECFS Express, located at:

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/hotdocket/list

At the prompt for the docket, input:

CG Docket No. 10-145

Comments may be of any length and address any relevant issue. They will affect how the Commission handles government responsibilities in this area.

(Cross-posted on Blogband)

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Super Wi-Fi is Super for Energy Too

September 24, 2010 - 04:46 PM

By Nick Sinai and Tom Brown

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We at the FCC are very excited about yesterday’s order to free up the unused "white spaces" spectrum between television channels, intended to spur a wave of innovation in new devices and applications. Most commenters have focused on the possible use of this spectrum in "Super Wi-Fi" networks with wider range and better structural penetration than is available today.

But Super Wi-Fi isn’t just for consumers; it’s super for improving how we transmit and distribute energy in America too. The National Broadband Plan made several recommendations designed to integrate broadband into the emerging Smart Grid and enable improved Smart Grid communications; white spaces spectrum is yet another option for utilities to use for their communications networks. As we have seen in a recent trial in Plumas-Sierra County, California, white spaces spectrum can be used effectively and securely for grid automation applications, as well as retail broadband services. Opening white spaces spectrum is also likely to have a particular impact on utility operations in rural areas, which often have challenging terrain and fewer options for broadband service than urban areas.

The FCC remains committed to doing its part to usher in a new era of utility communications, and we look forward to seeing the innovations in all sorts of "national purpose" areas – health care, education, and yes, energy – that will result from yesterday’s action.

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Enforcement Bureau Settles Case That Restores Nearly $22 Million to TRS Fund

September 22, 2010 - 04:15 PM

As the result of a settlement negotiated by the Enforcement Bureau and released yesterday, Purple Communications, Inc., will pay around $22 million to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund.  TRS is a vital service that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone – through an interpreter – with hearing people.  The settlement follows the FCC’s demand earlier this year that Purple restore millions of dollars to the fund for overbilling it in violation of FCC rules.  The issues under investigation included whether the company unlawfully offered financial incentives to inflate TRS usage and billables, and whether the company recovered not once but twice from the fund for business-related calls to or from Purple employees.  In addition to the payment to the TRS Fund, the settlement also requires Purple to adopt a detailed compliance plan to prevent future misconduct, and to pay $550,000 to the U.S. Treasury.

The action is a victory for consumers all the way around.  The settlement protects carriers and the general public from overpaying into the TRS Fund.  The $22 million paid back will directly offset what the fund will need in the future to pay for TRS service, and therefore what the public will need to pay to support it.  And, most important, the settlement ensures that the fund will be used for its intended purpose – providing affordable relay services for consumers with disabilities who need and want to communicate with hearing people.

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Modernizing FCC.gov from the Ground Up

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
September 22, 2010 - 01:52 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=106,width=70]]As IT tides shift in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission has a special opportunity to become an expert technology agency in the federal government.
We have been hard at work in redesigning FCC.gov: defining personas of citizens and business both current and potential, building our data infrastructure (as I mentioned in my O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 Summit talk), combing through first-ever site analytics and user surveys, and talking to people both online and off about how they would reimagine FCC.gov.
Today, I'm happy to announce that this agency will be rebuilding FCC.gov using Drupal. This decision is a significant step towards modernizing our own underlying online infrastructure -- a key stage in redesigning and rebuilding FCC.gov.
We're excited to join a group of pioneering agencies and offices -- like Whitehouse.gov, Commerce.gov, and Ed.gov -- that have helped activate a movement that embraces and promotes inter-agency website efforts, while helping to usher in systemic change. As an open source content management system, Drupal also enjoys a robust and active community of users, code contributors, and evangelists. We look forward to engaging with this community to help us innovate and learn, as we build out our own budding community of citizen developers.
We understand that citizen shareholders deserve a government that moves quickly to deliver information, facilitate transactions, and inform and engage Americans. As we continue to reimagine what FCC.gov can -- and will -- be, we're excited to do so alongside the Drupal community.

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A Case for Next Generation 9-1-1

September 22, 2010 - 11:31 AM

Like highways, communications networks can get snarled up when they have too much traffic.  Most people have experienced this in the form of the "Mother's Day effect."  A more serious form of this limitation occurs when an emergency results in a sudden surge of calls to a local 9-1-1 call center, resulting in congestion and call blocking.  Next generation 9-1-1 (NG911) uses IP-based technology to manage 9-1-1 call surges dynamically, minimizing blockage.

For more on NG 911 watch the video below:

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