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June Meeting

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 17, 2010

We just concluded our June agenda meeting. There was a big crowd hanging on to every word of the discussion regarding the Commission’s now-adopted Notice of Inquiry about the scope of our authority over broadband service. The Commission’s settled understanding of our authority was thrown into doubt as a result of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision this past April in Comcast v. FCC. After much deliberation, Chairman Genachowski proposed a thoughtful and creative approach to our dilemma.

As I noted in my statement today, powerful industry forces see this as an opportunity to eschew all oversight. Let’s face it, large companies who dominate the market like to call the shots. They also like to call Capitol Hill and state officials. In the first quarter alone, the two largest telecom companies spent a combined $10.65 million in their lobbying efforts. There is little question that figure will approach a whopping $50 million by year’s end.

While the FCC does not have its own army of paid lobbyists – and thus, we cannot reasonably compete for air or face time like major industry players – our dedication to our principles is no less fervent. When I signed on for this job, I made a commitment to the American people to operate in the public interest, and I will not be deterred despite being outspent. We have too much at stake and I’d like to think there are still some reasons to have faith in Washington these days.

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NTIA Sets July 1 Deadline for Additional State Grant Applications for Broadband Mapping, and Regional Broadband Efforts

June 15, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:255:height=100,width=70]]The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced in a press release last month that it will accept supplemental grant applications from state governments and other existing awardees in its State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program for additional broadband improvement and mapping activities. Act quickly: the deadline is July 1.

The NTIA noted that one of the primary purposes of the grant program is to “assist states in gathering data on the availability, speed, and location of broadband services” in furtherance of the purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009  and the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008 (BDIA). The broadband data states compile will be used to help create the National Broadband Map that the Recovery Act requires NTIA to make publicly available by February 17, 2011. This map, which NTIA plans to update every six months, should provide consumers more precise information on available broadband services and facilitate government efforts to increase broadband availability nationwide.

In addition to mapping, this NTIA grant action can be used for other purposes, including  implementation of Recommendation 9.11 in the National Broadband Plan  that “federal support should be expanded for regional capacity-building efforts aimed at improving broadband deployment and adoption.”  Eligible initiatives cited by the NTIA include state broadband task forces or advisory boards, technical assistance programs, local or regional technology planning efforts, and programs to promote increased computer ownership and Internet usage.

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Back in the Midwest: Chicago

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 14, 2010

I flew out to Chicago yesterday to attend the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s 39th Annual Conference. This morning I opened a panel entitled “Wireless Spectrum Needs: What is the Best Way to Serve All of the American People?” Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and President of Rainbow PUSH, was kind enough to introduce me, along with Adrienne Biddings, from Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation.

I offered some brief remarks about a few of the important questions facing the Commission and Congress as we think about long-term spectrum policy. I highlighted my concerns about the diversity implications of spectrum reallocation, what role wireless should play in terms of the success of broadband adoption, and the need to provide new entrants and small businesses meaningful opportunities to acquire spectrum licenses. These are all issues that have a significant impact on communities of color.

It was great to see Rep. Maxine Waters in Chicago, as well as legendary civil rights leader Reverend Willie T. Barrow. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to spend in the Windy City as I have to head back to D.C. for a full week of meetings. Most notably, we have our monthly Commission agenda meeting this Thursday to chat about a little thing called “classification.” But I’ll save that for another day.

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Consumer View: Staying Safe from Cyber Snoops

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
June 11, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=71]]Recent news reports have focused attention on a growing concern: The ways in which wireless and WiFi networks can make consumers’ private data accessible.

In May, Google reported that its Street View cars – used to develop Google Maps – had mistakenly collected personal information sent over WiFi as they drove around, in addition to gathering less intrusive data about the WiFi networks themselves.

Now this week, a group of hackers reported that it had gotten the e-mail addresses of more than 100,000 Apple iPad owners by hacking the Web site of AT&T, Apple’s partner. The hackers also got the ID numbers the iPads use to communicate over the network. The Google and AT&T incidents are different kinds of intrusions, each worrisome in its own way, and each with a different remedy.

The iPad incident appears to be a classic security breach – the kind that could happen, and has happened, to many companies – and is exactly the kind of incident that has led the FCC to focus on cyber security. Our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is now addressing cyber security as a high priority. The FCC’s mission is to ensure that broadband networks are safe and secure, and we’re committed to working with all stakeholders to prevent problems like this in the future.

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St. Paul Postscript

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 11, 2010

What a great ending to my four-day trip to the Midwest. There was no better way to spend it than with my new friends at the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Community broadcasting is essential to the overall fabric of our communications landscape and I enjoyed chatting with this talented and diverse group about the challenges they face.

One highlight of my trip was a visit to KFAI, a non-commercial, FM, community broadcast station. One of the most incredible things about this 30-plus-year-old station is that, in addition to its four paid employees and two scholarship interns, it has hundreds – yes hundreds – of volunteers that help put the station on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

KFAI is in the process of overhauling its programming schedule, so it was a fascinating time to chat with the staff and volunteers about the dynamics of that process. And speaking of programming, it is hard to imagine a more diverse operational lineup. One of the unique aspects of the station’s content is its Ethiopian and Somali programming, which serves as a bridge to home for the many immigrants from those countries. Like countless other local radio stations, KFAI struggles to achieve the right balance of education and entertainment – especially when it comes to the 35-and-younger crowd. It is never easy to figure how to balance providing what the local community needs and what other factors suggest it wants.

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Mobile Wireless Competition Report

by Ruth Milkman, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
June 10, 2010

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On May 20th, the Commission released its Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the 14th in a series of annual reports to Congress, which reviews the state of competition in the wireless industry.

This year's report expands our analysis of what is traditionally called "Commercial Mobile Radio Service" into a larger understanding of competition across the full mobile wireless "ecosystem", including voice, messaging, and broadband services, as well as "upstream" segments (e.g., towers, spectrum, backhaul) and "downstream" segments (e.g., devices and applications). The broad perspective of the report reflects the increasing importance of mobile wireless broadband, as mobile devices that can access the Internet – such as smartphones – are gaining enormous popularity.

One of the main goals of the FCC staff in preparing this year's report was to bring as many relevant facts to the table as possible. In many cases, we've looked at trends from two or three different angles to reveal a fuller picture of how wireless marketplace is evolving. And, for the first time, we are making much of the data in the report available in machine-readable format for researchers and data practitioners. (Some data used in the report is from proprietary sources such as financial analysts which the Commission does not have the permission to re-distribute in machine-readable form.)

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From Kansas City to St. Paul

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 10, 2010

I traveled out to the heartland of the country for a two-city tour over the last few days. My first stop was in Kansas City at the Mid-American Regulatory Conference (MARC). MARC is a regional organization of utility and energy regulatory agencies from 15 states.

I am well-acquainted with many of the good folks here, as I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of them during my days as a Commissioner on the South Carolina Public Service Commission. On Monday night, I had the opportunity to attend the President’s Banquet, where I met Dr. Thomas Hoenig, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, as well as Missouri Public Service Commissioners Jeff Davis and Robert Kenny, and their wives. Dr. Hoenig, the evening’s keynote speaker, offered some insight into the risky behavior and other factors that caused the recent international economic crisis. Despite the downturn, he argued that there is reason for optimism as a number of signals already suggest that the economy is recovering.

My number was called Tuesday, as I addressed the general session with a look at the National Broadband Plan’s recommendations to reform the Universal Service Fund as well as other policies to deploy broadband in hard to serve areas. Universal service will be a major focus for the Commission over the next couple of years (and beyond). It is one of the most important and significant items on our ambitious agenda.

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Welcome to Clyburn Chat

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
June 10, 2010

I finally decided that it was time for me to catch up to the rest of the world by officially entering the blogosphere. My hope is that this space will give me a good opportunity to share with you what is going on in my professional sphere from time to time, and to give you a window into some of the interesting happenings in the telecommunications world. This blog, however, is not meant to be all-encompassing; it will focus more on the interesting people I meet and events I attend when I travel throughout the country and abroad. Here we go…

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21st Century Emergency Alerting Workshop on June 10th

June 7, 2010

Don’t Forget – On Thursday, June 10, 2010, the FCC and FEMA will co-host a workshop on 21st Century Emergency Alerting:  Leveraging Multiple Technologies to Bring Alerts and Warnings to the Public. The workshop will be held in the Commission Meeting Room of the FCC, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The workshop will bring together a host of experts from Federal and state governments and the communications industry to discuss a variety of issues such as the Next Generation Emergency Alert System, the Commercial Mobile Alert System and how to leverage broadband technologies to ensure that all segments of the public have access to timely and accurate emergency alerts.

For those not able to attend the workshop in person, audio/video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC's web page at www.fcc.gov/live.  The FCC’s webcast is free to the public and does not require pre-registration. For those watching via webcast, event-related questions can be emailed to livequestions@fcc.gov and we will try to answer as many questions as possible.

Attendees will be treated to a lively and informative discussion about emergency alerting. 

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Does a Corporation Have "Personal Privacy"

June 2, 2010

Does a corporation have "personal privacy?"  The FCC didn't think so, but a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, AT&T v. Federal Communications Commission (No. 08-4024), says "yes" -- at least when a corporation tries to block a federal agency from releasing certain records concerning the corporation's potential wrongdoing under the Freedom of Information Act (commonly known as the "FOIA").

The FOIA is a 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 grant such requests and release the requested records unless the records at issue are covered by one or more of FOIA's statutory exemptions.  One of those exemptions, known as Exemption 7(C), protects from mandatory disclosure agency records or information that have been compiled for law enforcement purposes where the public disclosure of the records could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of "personal privacy."

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