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FCC on YouTube

by Beverlie Sopiep, New Media
July 28, 2010

New Media Intern Beverlie Sopiep

Missed the July Commission Meeting live? Don’t know what spectrum is? Need help filing a complaint with the FCC?

All these videos and more are on the FCC YouTube channel. Our YouTube account serves as a repository for all Open Commission Meetings, workshops, and events. So if you missed a live event on Reboot or need to re-watch past meetings or events, it will most likely be here.

Through these videos, we aim to give the public a better sense of what we do as an agency as well as a behind the scenes look at some of the faces creating these policies and initiatives. As the FCC video library expands, we’re working on setting a great standard for video quality, featuring interesting and informative content that’s presented well. I think we’ll be there soon.
We want our videos to be interesting to watch. Please let us know in the comments below what kinds of videos you would like to see, what you like and don’t like that we’ve done so far.
 
Below is an example of one video that I like.
 
Members from the Broadband taskforce visited parts of Europe and talked about how they pursued national broadband policy. What I like about the video is not only the content but also creative shots showing the Eiffel tower outside of the window. These small details make the video more interesting.
 
Thanks for watching!
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One-Stop-Shopping For Consumers

July 27, 2010

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The FCC's website has always had lots of information of interest to consumers but, starting today, this information is just one click away. Today we are launching the Consumer Help Center. This site makes it easy for consumers to learn about our work and take action. Here, in one place, consumers can do read about consumer issues, get practical advice for avoiding problems, file a complaint, comment on our rulemakings, or read what our FCC experts are saying in our Consumer Blog. The site includes links to

  • Everything consumers need to know about Bill Shock and Early Termination Fees — two common issues that affect wireless customers;
  • Savvy Traveler tips — advice on making phone calls when travelling abroad;
  • Broadband Speed Test — consumers can test the speed of their broadband service;
  • Fact Sheet Library — more than 150 consumer Fact Sheets on telecom subjects;
  • Links to additional resources on a range of issues, including privacy;
  • Links to file a complaint to the FCC or comment on our rulemakings;
  • Blog posts about consumer issues — with consumer comments welcome;
  • News releases, statements, and FCC actions.

This is a work in progress and will be updated as more information is added. Please let us know what you think about the site. We're listening.

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Another Savvy Traveler: I did my homework and saved money

July 27, 2010

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Using a wireless phone in other countries can be easy and economical if you do your homework before you start your trip. The best solution for me was to leave my U.S. smartphone turned off and to purchase a world phone (the phone on the right in the photo above).

I knew I wanted to take a wireless phone on a trip to Europe earlier this summer, but I was concerned about the cost – especially unknown roaming fees. I did my homework and looked at the options. The solution for me was to use a wireless world phone I had already purchased online. But I did check with my wireless provider here in the U.S. about standard international and discount plan rates to see if their rates were lower than my world phone's. After comparing the numbers it was clearly cheaper for me to stick with my world phone than to go with my U.S. phone provider's discount plan. A representative at my wireless provider's retail store even agreed.

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My needs were simple. I had free WiFi where I stayed so I didn't need to retrieve email or do any web browsing on my phone. All I wanted was to place and receive wireless phone calls for making or confirming restaurant reservations, asking for directions, and just to have for emergencies — that sort of thing. My world phone was perfect for this. I went to the provider's site and looked up the per minute charges for calls to and from France and Spain, and to and from the U.S. I probably made about a dozen calls during my 8-day trip and when I returned home and checked my online statement, I was charged exactly as quoted on the site, no more, no less.

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Bureau Waiver Fosters Innovation and Competition in the Mobile DTV Marketplace

July 27, 2010

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The Media Bureau's recent decision to waive some of the tuner requirements for Mobile DTV devices not only gives manufacturers greater flexibility in how they design and market these new receivers, it ensures the devices can be in the hands of consumers in time for the 2010 holiday season. Mobile DTV, or MDTV, is a kind of television service designed for use on-the-go instead of in a single location.

Current FCC rules require that all television receivers have the ability to get both digital and analog signals. Although full-power television stations stopped broadcasting in analog last year, the analog broadcast standard remains in use by some low-power broadcasters. Until the requirement is removed, television manufacturers must ask the Commission's approval if they want to produce a device without an analog tuner.

A group of Mobile DTV manufacturers recently asked for this approval which, among other things, would eliminate their having to produce a potentially larger, heavier and pricier device that uses more power. We promptly approved their request, furthering the Commission's commitment to foster innovation and competition in the marketplace.

Where the service is available, consumers will be able to watch live MDTV on compliant netbooks, smartphones and portable TVs in their cars. Many MDTV devices also will be able to receive standard television. Look on the packaging to see whether a particular model receives MDTV signals only or if it also gets nationwide standard DTV signals. The device will not only provide news and entertainment while on the move, it will be another way to receive critical information in times of emergency.

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Early Termination Fees: Share Your Story

July 26, 2010

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For several months, the FCC has been studying early termination fees (ETFs): those fees that wireless carriers charge if you sign a long-term contract and cancel it early. Generally, in return for signing a contract with an ETF, wireless customers can get substantial discounts on their handheld devices. With the advent of smart phones, many wireless providers have increased both the discounts and the ETFs. Other contractual services, including some broadband services, now have these early termination fees as well.

You can read about our work on ETFs, including the correspondence we’ve had with wireless carriers and our survey on consumer awareness of ETFs. Now we’d like to give you a chance to join the dialogue. Please comment to this post to let us know your views or your experience with these common fees.

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The Problem with Pay-for-Play

July 26, 2010

Yesterday, the Enforcement Bureau entered into a settlement with Univision Radio, Inc. to resolve serious allegations that station employees secretly accepted thousands of dollars in bribes to play the music of artists from the Univision Music Group (UMG) record label.  Federal law allows radio stations to accept payments for material they broadcast, but does not permit them to conceal that fact from the public.  The purpose of this law is to protect consumers from deceit – or, as the FCC has long explained, to ensure that listeners understand who is trying to persuade them.

In a companion action, another Univision company pled guilty to criminal charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  The Univision company admitted that UMG executives, employees and agents made illegal cash payments to radio station program managers from 2002 to 2006, in order to increase airplay of UMG recordings.  The coordinated actions of the federal government attacked both ends of the enterprise – DOJ’s action primarily addressed the record label that paid the bribes, while the FCC focused on the Univision radio stations that accepted them.

All told, Univision will pay $1 million to resolve the cases.  But the FCC settlement is about more than money.  Univision must also change its business practices, hire a Compliance Officer, and take other concrete steps to avoid future violations, so the music that secretly pays the most, no longer plays the most.

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Short questions, big return

by Dan McSwain, New Media
July 23, 2010

It might seem obvious and simple, but it remains true: FCC.gov and the rest of our online properties exist to serve consumers' and citizens' needs.

The best advice this agency can get about our websites comes from you, the people that make up our online audience.

To meet that goal, our team recently launched a new way for users to make a direct impact in improving our sites. Our user feedback tool will play a hugely valuable role in helping us design better and more useful websites.

There are several challenges we're keeping in mind as we work to improve.  These sites need to be accessible, efficient, and easy-to-use for a broad range of users. Throw in some government rules that haven't quite kept up with the technological times, and the job gets even more challenging.

That's what makes your input so important. Your voice will help us make data-driven decisions about how we can improve the FCC.gov experience. And you can be a part of our continued emphasis on public participation and engagement in our online work.

Oh, and one more thing. Behind the scenes, we're preparing for a major redesign of FCC.gov this year. This feedback will be a valuable part of the data we consult in this redesign process -- and we want as many website users as possible to take part. The National Archives recently solicited citizen feedback on how to best serve their audiences through a redesigned page. The team at the National Archives deserves recognition for running an open and participatory process – and their work will definitely inform ours moving forward.

Take a simple step and tell us what you think.

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Openness and Transparency: A Digital Dialogue

by Benjamin Balter, New Media
July 22, 2010

The internet’s continued evolution has given rise to countless avenues of communication not imagined just two-decades earlier. Today, executives can leverage the power of e-mail to broker deals halfway around the globe at near-instantaneous speed. Former classmates can exchange photos or reminisce about their favorite elementary-school teachers, countless years after graduation. Scientists and researchers can share their latest findings or can query humanity’s collective knowledge, all without leaving their chair. And pet lovers across the country can upload more than 300,000 videos of their kittens. At the FCC, this innovation provides ever-evolving avenues for openness, transparency, and continued dialogue between government and the citizens it seeks to serve.

For the FCC, openness is not simply about making information obtainable for those who seek it, but rather, making sure that information is well known, easily accessible, and freely open to all. Whether on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or the FCC’s numerous RSS feeds, the agency makes information regarding its actions – past, present, and planned – readily available across today’s most popular social media platforms for users to share, comment, and most importantly, learn what the government is doing on their behalf.

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Americans with Disabilities Act 20th Anniversary Celebration

July 21, 2010

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On Monday the country marked an extraordinary milestone as we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To commemorate the occasion the FCC, along with the White House and the Department of Commerce, held a technology showcase displaying the remarkable advances in assistive technology. A short program followed featuring a host of speakers including Chairman Genachowski (whose remarks you can read here) and the President’s Special Assistant for Disability Policy, Kareem Dale. Awe-inspiring performance troupes dotted the event. The piece performed by the stunning Wild Zappers, an all male deaf dance company, marked a high point. This video was shown as an introduction to the program.

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/WhatYouAreLookingFor

July 16, 2010

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Here at the FCC over the last year, you may have noticed new features and functionality the FCC has been rolling out to improve and modernize its Web presence. One quiet and continuing goal has been to improve the user experience by creating simple pages with easy-to-remember URLs where you can reliably find what you are looking for. This is a work in progress and far from complete, but we wanted to highlight a few such hubs of information that are worth looking into and keeping an eye on. Each new release will continue to mature through iterations, so join the discussion by letting us know your ideas. There's much more to come.

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