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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

by Lisa Fowlkes
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"

by Michael Krasnow
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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More on Speed: Just How Satisfied Are Customers

by Joel Gurin
June 2, 2010

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Our survey report on broadband speed yesterday attracted national attention and some additional questions. We've been asked for more detail on our findings about customer satisfaction with broadband speed. As we reported, 91 percent of fixed broadband customers are "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with that service, compared to 71 percent who are satisfied with the speed of mobile broadband. A closer look gives a fuller picture.

For fixed broadband, 50 percent of customers were very satisfied with the service overall, 41 percent were somewhat satisfied, 6 percent were "not too" satisfied, and 3 percent were not satisfied at all.

For mobile broadband, we asked specifically about satisfaction with speed, a slightly different question. Here, the numbers were lower: 33 percent very satisfied, 38 percent somewhat satisfied, 8 percent not too satisfied, and 5 percent not satisfied at all. (The other 14 percent said they didn't know.)

What to make of these numbers? A few things.

First, consumers are fairly well satisfied with the speed of the broadband they get at home. Having 50 percent say they are "very satisfied" is a strong showing, although it still leaves room for improvement. Even if people are satisfied with their home broadband speed, however, they may be paying hundreds of dollars a year more than they need to. Consumers still need better information to know what speed they need for the applications they run. And given the split between "very" and "somewhat" satisfied customers, more information on broadband speed would also help consumers choose between different providers.

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Broadband Speed: When Ignorance is Costly

by Joel Gurin
June 2, 2010

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For several months, the FCC has been working to help consumers get more information about the communications services they buy. Our Notice of Inquiry last August asked how we can help consumers make more informed choices about phone, television, and broadband services. That Notice brought out a lot of good ideas from public interest groups, the communications industries, and consumers themselves.

This year, we've followed up with a number of consumer initiatives coordinated by the FCC's Consumer Task Force. We've written letters to wireless carriers about their early termination fees, taken on the problem of bill shock, and started to look at broadband speed.

Today, we're releasing the results of a national survey that shows just how large the information gap is when it comes to broadband. According to this survey, fully 80 percent of Americans with broadband at home don't know what speed they're getting. This survey was done through a major firm and drew on a national sample of three thousand consumers.

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Our Sleeves Are Rolled Up: We Are Ready to Do Whatever It Takes

by Jamie Barnett
May 28, 2010

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The 2010 Hurricane Season forecasts predict as many as 15 named Atlantic storms, several of which could reach hurricane-level strength in the Southeast and Gulf Coast.

In my job with the Federal Communications Commission, I am constantly impressed with the leadership, dedication and true heroism of America’s first responders, all of whom make daily sacrifices to serve their communities.  Nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina I still remember hearing the stories following that devastating disaster about how first responders and hospital personnel were stranded in New Orleans without communications and had only limited essential resources with which to survive. Like many others in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, some local public safety officials and first responders were stranded on rooftops, but were still making efforts to assist those in need, to do what they could to help others survive until rescue teams could get to them.  Their efforts were amazing and showed that they were willing to do whatever it took to get the job done—even in the most challenging and trying circumstances.

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21st Century Emergency Alerting: Leveraging Multiple Technologies to Bring Alerts and Warnings to the Public

by Lisa Fowlkes
May 26, 2010

When potential threats to life and property are imminent or disasters strike without warning as did the tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas that claimed innocent lives recently, we all know how critical it is for all of us to 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. Early and accurate public alerts are a key element in all of this and can make the difference between life and death.

On June 10, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will co-host a workshop to address emergency alerting. This workshop – 21st Century Emergency Alerting – will bring together experts from Federal and state government agencies, the broadcast, cable, wireless and wireline industries, the disability community and others to discuss how we as a Nation can leverage multiple technologies to provide timely and accurate emergency alerts to the public. The workshop will also present an opportunity for the public to learn about the progress that has been made to enhance the Emergency Alert System (EAS), develop and deploy the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and develop and deploy the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

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Public Safety Outreach in the Carolinas

by Todd Mitchell
May 25, 2010

By Louis Sigalos, Robert Kenny, Todd Mitchell, Paul Coburn, and Doug Miller, Public Safety Outreach Team.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:150:height=98,width=70]]With an outreach and education mission, traveling via the long lonesome highway, covering two states in three days, five intrepid travelers set forth from the comfort of their offices on May 11, 2010.  And now members of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) and the Enforcement Bureau have met with public safety officials in two more states that could be vulnerable during the upcoming hurricane season. We were also joined by a National Communications System (NCS) staff member.  A similar outreach tour with our federal partners of the Gulf States in 2009 included stops in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and meetings with more than 350 public safety officials to hear their stories.  Now, we have added the Atlantic Coast States of South Carolina and North Carolina.

In South Carolina, we learned that the biggest concerns are hurricanes, nuclear plant disasters, hazmat spills, AND earthquakes. In fact, that morning of May 12, residents in Charleston, SC experienced an earthquake that registered 2.8 on the Richter scale.  The state sits on a fault line, and unfortunately projections do call for a much larger earthquake to occur in that region at some point according to scientists.  We were also invited by South Carolina officials to participate in a major planning exercise being conducted in June and we learned that South Carolina has implemented a program called SC HEART that enlists hospital workers/HAM operators to provide back-up communications during emergencies.

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