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Worth a Thousand Words: The FCC Through a Camera's Lens

by Benjamin Balter, New Media
September 2, 2010

The FCC Flickr stream is a great, free resource for students writing reports, bloggers writing posts, and just about anyone interested in the agency’s daily happenings. As works of the Federal Government, all of the FCC’s more than 500 photos can be used, edited, or mashed up with other media, in almost any way you can imagine.

Although all the sets are too numerous to mention, some of the more recent pictures include:

FCC Headquarters, 12th Street Entrance

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FCC Seeks Membership to Public Safety Advisory Committee Focusing on Technical Issues and Interoperable Public Safety Broadband Communications

September 2, 2010

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Earlier this week, the FCC marked the achievement of another significant milestone in the implementation of the National Broadband Plan’s recommendations for the deployment of a nationwide interoperable wireless broadband network for our Nation’s first responders by calling for public safety officials and others in the public to serve on a advisory committee that will make recommendations to the Commission as it develops the technical framework for the network (see public notice seeking nominations). Over the past year we’ve met with public safety officials, lawmakers, government partners, and the communications industry with one goal in mind – deployment of a cutting-edge interoperable broadband network for America’s first responders, hospitals and other public safety officials. Teamwork among all interested parties is the best formula for one day making this network a reality.

Nominations for membership on the Emergency Response Interoperability Center Public Safety Advisory Committee are welcome and may be submitted through September 17, 2010. The establishment of this Federal advisory committee continues the Commission’s ongoing dialogue with public safety as the Commission develops a framework for nationwide interoperability and expands this dialogue by including members from a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the public safety community, such as representatives of state and local public safety agencies, public safety trade associations, federal user groups, and other segments of the public safety community, as well as service providers, equipment vendors and other industry segments involved in public safety.

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Five Years Ago

August 30, 2010

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As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is here, we are faced with a strong swirl of emotions and memories.  The unprecedented devastation that the Hurricane wrought was compounded by organizational troubles from many quarters. As painful as it is for America, I want us to remember the death and destruction inflicted on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I want us to remember the bravery and determination of the people who suffered through it. And I want us to remember the valiant first responders, volunteers, members of the armed forces, and others who worked to save lives and property. It is important that we not forget any of this.

As I and our FCC staff members reflect on the anniversary of this American tragedy, we consider lessons learned and how we have worked to ensure the tragedy and devastation of Katrina are not seen again. I was not at the FCC in 2005, but I am proud of the response of the FCC during Katrina. In fact, the White House Lessons Learned document that was issued following Hurricane Katrina expressly recognized the FCC for “What Went Right” and the Commission was cited for acting quickly to facilitate the resumption of communications services in affected areas and authorizing the use of temporary communications for emergency personnel and evacuees.

Despite our success at response, we also recognized that there are things we can improve. First, while the FCC was well-prepared for most emergency events, we learned the importance of having a formal incident management system to manage the required FCC response to an emergency of the magnitude of Katrina. Accordingly, the FCC quickly worked to create a new Bureau, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, where emergency response and incident management could be resident.

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PSHSB August 31 Speaker Series

August 26, 2010

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On August 31, PSHSB will welcome Dereck Orr from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as our latest headliner in the Bureau’s Speaker Series.  The Speaker Series brings representatives from other government agencies to the FCC to speak about their work involving public safety and homeland security.  Dereck is the program manager for Public Safety Communications Systems in the Office of Law Enforcement Standards.  The Public Safety Communications Systems program focuses on leading the development of wireless telecommunications and information technology standards, profiles and guidelines for interoperability and information sharing among criminal justice and public safety agencies at local, state and federal levels. 

Dereck has a very impressive background and is enthusiastic about how his office can advance the communications capabilities of the nation’s first responders. He has been at NIST for eight years, and during that time, he was detailed for a short time to serve as Chief of Staff for SAFECOM.  Because of this experience and many others, he has unique insight into public safety’s unique communications needs.

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Importance of Broadband

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
August 26, 2010

Last week, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a public hearing on the “Future of the Internet” sponsored by Free Press, Main Street Project, and the Center for Media Justice. Much already has been written about that event in the mainstream press, so I wanted to share with you the part of my day which has not been featured—my visits with Minnesota Public Radio and the South Minneapolis WorkForce Center. Both of these visits reinforced the ongoing work of the Commission to ensure that every American has access to affordable high-speed Internet service.

Minnesota Public Radio

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) has been at the forefront of serving its community, through local and regional news and music over FM radio, for many years. Several things struck me as I was touring MPR’s impressive studios, soundstage, newsroom, and the Fitzgerald Theatre (home of The Prairie Home Companion). First, by hosting regular public discussions on the issues of the day in the beautiful UBS Forum, the public has the opportunity to be engaged on important matters through interactive dialogue. Citizens can tune in and listen, but they also can actively participate in these sessions. Second, independent voices have the opportunity to be heard and to find an audience—and by this I mean those voices that happen to be accompanied by musical instruments. MPR offers bands whose music would never be featured on most commercial stations a platform for exposure on The Current. Third, by offering local and regional news and actively expanding its news staff, MPR can better serve the public with the information it needs.

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Multilingual Emergency Alerts: More Than Just Alerting

August 16, 2010

It is indisputable that broadcast radio and television plays a critical role during times of disaster.  One need only look at the role broadcast played in delivering critical emergency news and information during the snowstorms of 2010 that blanketed the Northeast, recent tornadoes, floods and the hurricanes of 2008 and 2005 to know the pivotal role broadcast plays in ensuring the safety of life.  When disasters hit, it is imperative that all of us receive timely alerts and warnings, access to the latest information about an emergency situation, and guidance from government officials on what we should do to protect ourselves and our families.  For most of us, access to this information before, during and after a disaster is so commonplace, it is taken for granted.

Imagine, however, being one of the significant population that does not speak English.  If you are lucky, you have access to least one broadcast station that airs programming in your language.  If a disaster occurs, you expect that you will be able to receive Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts, as well as other warnings and critical emergency information from that station.  But, what happens if that station has lost power and is no longer operating?  Where will you receive information regarding access to food or shelter?  How will you learn how to report or locate a missing relative?  How will you know about the best evacuation route?

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A regulatory what?

August 16, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:185:height=80,width=70]]The business of regulatory agencies can sometimes be a bit obscure.  There is a swath of legislation known as administrative law that governs how the Federal Communications Commission serves the public.  The same applies to sister agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration , and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  It is very important to all of us to make the FCC as open and transparent an agency as possible, but also to make the work that we do more understandable and accessible to everyone.  Whether blogging about upcoming litigation or sharing a screencast of how to file a formal consumer complaint, we’ll continue to scale out and revamp these efforts.   

Regulations.gov, EPA, and others recently held a contest asking citizens to submit videos explaining the federal rulemaking process and showing why it matters to you and me.  The winner was recently announced and we wanted to share it here at FCC.gov, too.  Enjoy! 

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Mastering the Web: An Old-Fashioned Notion?

by David Kitzmiller, Internet Working Group Chairman
August 12, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:161:height=100,width=70]]Dammit Jim, I’m a Webmaster, not a Digital Government Web Content Communications and Application Development Knowledge Management Specialist! ...or am I?

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Is the term webmaster an accurate description of the responsibilities of today’s web professional, or is that moniker just a quaint artifact from the simpler, earliest days of the web where someone akin to a similarly quaint notion of a Ringmaster juggled a circus of unwieldy text, spinning logos and blinking text?

Those were the 1990’s, and while the profession is still undecided on what to call it’s folks formerly known as webmasters, the web community has in fact moved on to figure out that it takes an entire web village – and now even other villages near and far – to run a modern web presence. This seems to be the consensus from recurring threads on the Web Content Managers Forum, the leading forum for  government employees who manage the content of government websites. This blog highlights many of the themes from those on-line discussions.

One comment in particular on the Web Content Managers Forum illustrates the incongruity of the old, one-person web shop by comparing the web to traditional print media processes. Does the IT staff of a newspaper or magazine manage the design and layout? Do the newspaper’s reporters deliver their stories to the paper’s back-shop IT for editing? Of course not.

These mismatched roles and responsibilities in the web world are the inevitable result of attempting to use limited resources to cover all of the various job titles depicted in the illustration. The titles in the illustration are all really just focused on two broad categories: content and technology, which can be broken down into the following basic components of running a modern website:

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The Disaster Information Reporting System and the Status of Communications Systems in Disasters

August 11, 2010

Unfortunately disasters happen.  Government agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Communications System (NCS) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House need to know the status of communications systems and services during and after a disaster. The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau developed the voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) to collect this information during major disasters.
When a disaster strikes, the FCC asks wireline carriers, wireless carriers, broadcasters and CATV providers to provide information on the condition of their systems in the disaster area.  This includes information on switches, E 9-1-1 call centers, broadcast stations, and fiber-optic cable routes. The DIRS system organizes the information into tables, charts and maps that will accurately depict the status of communications in the disaster area. This information can be used to determine which communications service providers might need assistance with restoration efforts. Although the information provided by companies into DIRS is treated as confidential, DIRS has been set-up to provide aggregate information almost instantaneously to those Federal agencies with a need to know.

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Top Ten Things You Should Know About Filing Comments on the FCC's Data Review

by Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer
August 9, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:43:height=100,width=71]]Post: FCC Data Innovation Initiative Journal, Day 41, 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

If you've given any thought about data at the FCC and filing comments on the opening round of the FCC's Data Innovation Initiative – the Public Notices of Data Reviews released by the Media, Wireline Competition and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus - this blog post is for you. Initial comments are due this Friday, August 13.

Though the scope of the Public Notices is significant and welcomes comments on any or all of 340 data sets across three bureaus, filing comments does not have to be a major project. You can make a difference with as little as 15 minutes of effort. The following Top Ten Things You Should Know explains why.

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