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by David Fiske, Director, Office of Media Relations
January 28, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:235:height=100,width=71]]The vast majority of Commission staff serve the American public each day “behind the scenes.”  Sharon Hurd, a Media Relations Specialist in the Commission’s Office of Media Relations (OMR), is one such staffer.  If you subscribe to the FCC “Daily Digest”, or are interested in information about Commission actions, the chances are pretty good that Sharon may have been involved in helping to get this information to you on a timely basis. And last spring, you could even have met her personally when she traveled around the country as part of the FCC team meeting with consumers to help with the transition to digital television.

OMR is the arm of the agency responsible for overseeing the release of official FCC actions and decisions. Ask any agency staff member who they turn to in OMR when they need assistance in getting items released and you can be sure Sharon’s name will be high on that list. These items include a wide variety of documents from high profile policy decisions and Chairman and Commissioner speeches to routine license renewal notices. But Sharon – and the entire OMR team – know that there are a lot of consumers and interested parties who are waiting to learn about these decisions, and they work hard to help get this information out expeditiously.

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Former Commissioner James Quello, 1974-1997, Dies at 95

January 27, 2010

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Commission employees were greeted with somber news Monday morning. An old FCC friend, former Commissioner Jim Quello, died Sunday staff learned in an email from Chairman Genachowski. Appointed in 1974 by President Nixon, his tenure spanned twenty-four years and his influence was felt throughout the Commission. The agency spent yesterday celebrating the life of Commissioner Quello.

In addition to his agency-wide email, the Chairman released a statement. Portions of that statement and those of Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and Baker follow.

From Chairman Genachowski:

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Consumer Views: The 55-mph Screen

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
January 25, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=70]]This year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) looked a lot like an auto show. The show floor had a large area on in-vehicle technology with a lot of vehicles there to demonstrate it. Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, gave a keynote address describing the new Sync system that Ford is introducing, which you can view here, while Kia unveiled their competitive UVO system – covered by CNET here.

Both Sync and UVO are designed to provide all the different functions consumers might want in a car – not only GPS and sound, but also a number of Web-enabled applications – in an integrated unit. These companies, and others working on similar systems,  claim they can improve safety by making these units primarily voice-activated, and by eliminating the need to fiddle with a separate MP3 player, smart phone, and GPS. But at a time when distracted driving has become a major national issue, there are real safety concerns about having these screens in cars – summarized well in a recent New York Times article. While in-car Internet access can have safety benefits – for example, in reaching help in case of an accident – there’s clear cause for concern in having so many different options available on a dashboard screen.

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FOIA

January 22, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:39:height=90,width=70]]On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama declared his commitment to transparency and accountability in government with the issuance of two important memoranda regarding Transparency and Open Government and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The presumption of openness of government processes and records would be the hallmark of the new administration.  As legal counsel to the FOIA program at the FCC, I have seen firsthand how the Commission has embraced implementation of the President’s directives.

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Consumer View: The Year of Convergence

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
January 22, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=70]]My first visit to the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month was an eye-opening and eye-popping experience. You can read about the recent show at www.cesweb.org or in a multitude of news reports. The 2500 exhibits included 3D television, sophisticated voice-activated technology, clever handheld devices, “slate” laptops that function as ultra-portable computers and e-book readers, and a new gaming system that lets you move your whole body as the game controller. It’s clear that we’re not in the 20th century any more.

But the overwhelming theme, for me, was the actualization of a word I’ve heard for years: Convergence. Ever since I became involved in website development in the late 1990s, people have talked about the convergence of the internet, voice communications, television, and other forms of entertainment and applications in an integrated form. For years, this was going to happen any day now – but while progress has been made, many efforts at integration have been more kludgy than seamless. At CES, it looked like “any day” is now finally here. Exhibit after exhibit, and session after session, gave evidence that different communications services are now becoming integrated in truly seamless ways.

By the end of 2010, most HDTVs are expected to be Internet-ready, allowing you to connect them to the Web without having to go through a laptop to do it. This makes it possible to access all kinds of Web applications easily on a large-screen TV. One major application for TV may be Skype, which is partnering with several TV manufacturers to turn your television into a large-scale video conference unit with an add-on high-definition camera and microphone system.

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Wireless Mics

January 21, 2010

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As the last step in the digital television (DTV) transition, the FCC is embarking on an aggressive outreach campaign to ensure that users of wireless microphones are aware of the Commission's rules to cease operations in the 700 MHz Band no later than June 12, 2010. This outreach is necessary because using a 700 MHz wireless microphone can cause harmful (and potentially life threatening) interference to public safety communications, and impede the successful roll out of important new commercial services. It also is important for the public to understand that these rules do not affect all wireless microphones – only those that operate in the 700 MHz Band.

The FCC has three simple goals in this outreach campaign. First, we want to make people aware that they cannot use a 700 MHz Band wireless microphone after June 12, 2010. Second, we want to help people determine if their wireless microphone is a 700 MHz Band wireless microphone. Third, we want to help consumers determine whether or not they can retune their wireless microphone or if they will have to replace it.

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Emergency Alert System and Alaska

January 21, 2010

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Mark Twain once said, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."  Well, for me, the coldest winter week I ever saw in DC was the one I spent in Juneau, Alaska, as I am recently back from representing the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) in the first-ever "live" Presidential test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the nation's public warning system.  Don't get me wrong, it was frigid in Juneau - with its steady cold wind sweeping through the mountains surrounding the small town and state capitol.  Sunrise at 8:30 a.m. and sunset at 3:30 p.m. made it difficult to adjust, but the friendly residents were quick to notice newcomers and helped make my stay enjoyable.

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Helping Haiti: Second Update

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
January 20, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=70]]The conditions in Haiti remain urgent.  USAID – the lead agency for U.S. relief efforts in Haiti – gives a daily update of developments in Haiti on its website, including the difficulty in meeting the critical needs of the people devastated by the earthquake.

While life-saving needs such as water, food, and medical attention are the highest priorities, getting those supplies and services to the Haitians in need is made much more difficult without a working communications infrastructure.  Communications is the invisible enabler of these services, and of course, it is essential for connecting people in Haiti and outside to know how their loved ones are doing.

I’m happy to report that there’s been a lot of progress in the U.S. Government’s efforts regarding communications issues in Haiti since my blogpost on Friday, January 15.  We at the FCC continue to share our expertise in domestic and international communications and disaster recovery with USAID and our other federal partners, including the National Communications System.  We are also working closely with the communications industry.

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Today's Open Meeting

by Gray Brooks, New Media
January 20, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:185:height=80,width=70]]At 10:30 AM EST, tune in to watch today's Open Commission Meeting at FCC.gov/live.  You can find background documents from the meeting at FCC.gov/OpenMeetings and it will be live-blogged at Blogband

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Consumer View: Coming to the FCC

by Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
January 18, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=100,width=70]]I’m writing this post at the end of my first month at the FCC, and a week after coming back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – one of the largest annual conventions in the country, and a benchmark event for all of us who care about consumer technology and communications. Before I share some insights from CES, I’d like to let you know a few things about my background and how I’ve come to be at the FCC.

I’ve been involved in consumer issues throughout my career – as a journalist, book author, magazine editor, Web strategist, and advocate.  What brought me to the FCC, as head of our Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, was my 15 years at Consumer Reports. I began there as Science Editor, was Editorial Director and Editor of Consumer Reports magazine for three years, and then served as Executive Vice President of the parent organization, Consumers Union, for almost a decade. During my time as Executive VP, I oversaw editorial, publishing, product testing, and other areas, and directed the launch and expansion of our website at www.ConsumerReports.org. That website is believed to be the largest paid-content information-based site in the world, with more than three million subscribers.

My years at Consumer Reports taught me that consumers have a more personal relationship with communications products and services than they do with almost anything else they buy. At Consumer Reports, our readers couldn’t get enough information about smartphones, internet service providers, online services, digital TV, and the rest of the communications ecosystem. It’s not surprising. Communications technology is central to everyone’s life. We use it every day to connect with our families, shop, find entertainment, do business, and learn about social issues that are central to our democracy.

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