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Workshop on Expanding Disability Access with Wireless Technologies

by Ruth Milkman, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
May 12, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:186:height=100,width=70]]Wireless technologies present tremendous opportunities to benefit all Americans, including those with disabilities. At the FCC, we are excited about these possibilities for innovative communications services, applications and devices. We want to better understand how such technologies can bring more access to more people, and how the FCC can help ensure new technologies as inclusive as possible.

On Thursday, May 13th, the Commission will be exploring these issues during a workshop called "Expanding Disability Access with Wireless Technologies." I hope that everyone who is interested will join us in the Commission Meeting Room or via the web from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If that time doesn't work for you, the workshop will also be available online afterwards.

The first panel will focus on current access challenges. We will be discussing mobile communications access issues facing people with disabilities and disparities in technology access. During that session, we will be asking our panelists to give us their thoughts on questions such as:

  • What are the key disabilities access challenges that need addressing?
  • How is current technology trying to meet these challenges?
  • What emerging technologies will better meet these challenges?
  • Are there current regulatory barriers that deter technological innovation or negatively affect emerging technologies?

Our second panel will explore technology trends. During this session we will discuss ways in which new technologies can offer opportunities to overcome challenges in access to mobile communications. We will be looking at issues such as:

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Consumer View: Stop the Shock

May 11, 2010

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It could happen to anyone, and it happened to me. Last year, I took on a consulting job that involved working out of town. Without realizing it, I began using my cell phone more frequently and for longer conversations. By the time I caught the problem, my monthly bill had gone from about $300 a month to well over $500, two months in a row. I worked out a compromise payment with my carrier and changed to a plan with more monthly minutes. I had learned about bill shock first-hand.

Bill shock – surprising jumps in cell-phone bills that happen without warning – is a common and serious problem. The FCC's Consumer Center receives complaints all the time from people whose bills may double or triple, going up by hundreds of dollars in a single month. Sometimes cell-phone carriers contact customers when they see an unusual calling pattern, as mine did, to their credit. Often they don't, and the bills go up.

Bill shock has been a major problem in Europe, where you can go into an international calling zone, at international rates, with as little effort as it takes Americans to drive from one state to another. The European press has reported many cases of bills reaching thousands of Euros. Now the European Union has taken action. Cell-phone carriers in Europe are now required to alert their customers when they're approaching the limit of their calling plans. This simple solution, which has just gone into effect, should be a practical way to prevent bill shock. At the least, it will ensure that every customer has fair warning.

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Panel to Discuss Future of Spectrum Dashboard 2.0

by James Brown, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
May 10, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:120:height=100,width=70]]Last week the FCC announced the eleven panelists for the Spectrum Dashboard public forum this Wednesday, May 12th.

With wide experience in the public and private sectors, the panelists will share their perspectives on the Spectrum Dashboard - how they currently use it and what they would like to see in a Spectrum Dashboard 2.0, anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The forum is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 12 from 10:00am to 1pm (EDT) and is open to the publi.  For those attending in person, the event will take place in the FCC’s Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.  Note that attendance is limited by available seating, but the event can be viewed online at http://www.fcc.gov/live or using Webex.

Meet the Panelists

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Louisiana, Mississippi, And Alabama Bring First Responders Closer Together As U.S. Takes Action To Contain Gulf Oil Spill And Protect The Shoreline

May 7, 2010

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States of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as Orange, Beach, AL, Create Seamless, Interoperable Communications from the Texas Southeast Border to Pensacola, Florida

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As the crew of the MV Joe Griffin is in the Gulf of Mexico working to lower a 100-ton concrete and steel containment dome over the oil well that erupted on April 20, federal, state and local officials continue to take actions to help minimize further damage to the Gulf Coast's shorelines.

In any disaster, an effective response requires reliable, seamless and robust communications that enable all levels of government and first responders to communicate with one another and share time-sensitive information and relevant data. Information on the latest situation, the availability of resources and the capability to use those resources is critical to government's ability to continuously analyze the situation and deploy a rapid, effective and sustained response.

There are many heroes emerging from this disaster. This week we received correspondence from Benjamin Bourgoyne, Communications Section Chief for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in the State of Louisiana. Mr. Bourgoyne informed the FCC and other federal partners that they, along with the State of Mississippi, and Orange Beach, Alabama, had taken the lead in creating an interoperable wireless communications network for states along the entire Gulf Coast, stretching from the Texas Southeast border to Pensacola, Florida. They were able to create this interoperable network by initiating a number of 700 MHz trunked public safety radio talk groups on the respective wireless information networks in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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State and Local Governments - We Need Your Help

May 7, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:258:height=100,width=66]]I first joined the FCC in 1999 and worked various positions within the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, including legal advisor to the bureau chief. I then moved to Office of Legislative Affairs as Special Counsel. Finally in October of 2008, I joined IGA as Chief.

The Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) was created to act as a point of contact within the FCC for state and local governments as well as other federal agencies.  One of IGA’s functions is to aid these entities in their understanding of the FCC’s programs, policies and rules.  However, we do not want the communications to be one-way.  We are looking for state, local, and federal input into FCC initiatives.  To kick this off, we are rolling out this blog with the hope that state and local governments will post comments about important developments in their jurisdiction.  With this, we expect the blog will become a path for dialogue on key issues of mutual concern such as rights-of-way and tower siting.

Your input will be useful to the FCC in understanding state and local perspectives as well as allow the FCC to pass on information pertinent to the state and local interests.  We also hope that state and local governments will take advantage of our new email account dedicated to the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs staff, by emailing us at iga@fcc.gov.   In the months ahead, we also expect to be reaching out to state and local governments through events such as webinars.  We also look forward to working with you in the implementation of The National Broadband Plan, which was released by the FCC last month.  For more information on the National Broadband Plan please visit: http://www.broadband.gov/  or click here to see The Plan.

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FCC's Own Service America Medal Finalists

May 7, 2010

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The Service to America Medals, or Sammies, are presented to members of the federal workforce for public service to the Nation and significant contributions which are innovative, high impact or of critical importance to America.  I was very pleased to attend a celebration May 5th at the Senate Russell Office Building, where Joe Casey and Paul Coburn, both outstanding members of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, were named as Finalists in the Homeland Security category.  Tim Peterson, our Chief of Staff, submitted the nomination, which highlights Joe and Paul’s innovation during and after Hurricane Katrina to start an initiative called Project Roll Call.

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The Future of Internet Policy in America

May 7, 2010

Read video transcript here.

Cross posted from Broadband.gov

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A Third-Way Legal Framework For Addressing The Comcast Dilemma

May 6, 2010

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When the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in the Comcast/BitTorrent case, it was clear the decision could affect a significant number of important recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, the Commission’s Open Internet proceeding, and other policy initiatives related to broadband.  In light of the uncertainty created by the decision, the Chairman asked me to investigate all of the options available to the Commission.  Other FCC staff and I have developed a proposal that we believe resolves the doubt created by the D.C. Circuit’s opinion while providing a firm legal basis for the Commission’s limited, but vital role with respect to broadband.  Whether, all things considered, the legal response to Comcast sketched out in our proposal is the best one for the Commission to adopt would be for the five FCC Commissioners to answer after public comment and private study.  In my judgment, it’s a question worth asking.

Read more about the proposal here.

Read Chairman Genachowski’s statement discussing his reasons for seeking comment on the proposal here.

[Cross-posted from Blogband]

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The Third Way: A Narrowly Tailored Broadband Framework

May 6, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:88:height=93,width=70]]Broadband is increasingly essential to our daily lives. It is fast becoming the primary way we as Americans connect with one another, do business, educate ourselves and our children, receive health care information and services, and express our opinions. As a unanimous FCC said a few weeks ago in our Joint Statement on Broadband, “Working to make sure that America has world-leading high-speed broadband networks—both wired and wireless—lies at the very core of the FCC’s mission in the 21st Century.”

Many have asked about the future of Internet policy and the FCC’s role in that future in light of the recent decision in the Comcast case.  Today I have issued a statement that describes a path forward, which will begin with seeking public comment on a narrow and tailored legal foundation for the FCC’s approach to broadband communications services.  Our goal is to restore the broadly supported status quo consensus that existed prior to the Comcast decision regarding the FCC’s role with respect to broadband Internet service.

This statement describes a framework to support policies that advance our global competitiveness and preserve the Internet as a powerful platform for innovation, free speech, and job creation.  I remain open to all ideas on the best approach to achieve our country’s vital goals with respect to high-speed broadband for all Americans, and the Commission proceeding to follow will seek comment on multiple legal theories and invite new ideas.
 
[This is cross-posted from Blogband]
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Hitting the Road, Reaching Out, and Listening

May 3, 2010

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Welcome to the new FCC, where our face, and the faces of our staff, are showing up not only in DC but around the nation.

The FCC has been hitting the road - going beyond the DC Beltway - busily setting up events and meeting with consumers and community groups from Charlotte to Seattle. And the nation is taking notice. What surprises and pleases me is that every time we do an event outside of the DC area, the local public seems not just excited – but thankful. We've heard comments from folks like: "I can't believe you came all the way from Washington, DC to listen to us." "Whether we agree with your actions or not, we really appreciate the fact that you're hearing us and giving us the opportunity to comment in person and to answer our questions."

On April 27th and 28th, the FCC took its show on the road to Seattle. The issue at hand was the "open Internet." Zac Katz, Deputy Director of the Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis, opened the community forum on April 27th, explaining in laymen's terms just what "open Internet" is and what relevant issues are currently facing the FCC. The audience was diverse, reflecting the broad spectrum of Seattle's constituency.

The next morning the FCC hosted a workshop, "Approaches to Preserving the Open Internet," moderated by Paul de Sa, Chief of the FCC's Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski welcomed the audience by video, as did Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Jay Inslee. Using new media tools, the FCC was able to field live questions via the Web and Twitter.

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