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America's 2020 Broadband Vision

February 17, 2010

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In a month, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver a National Broadband Plan, as it was asked to do by Congress and the President in the Recovery Act.

This will be a meaningful plan for U.S. global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy.

I believe this plan is vitally important to America's future.

Studies from the Brookings Institute, MIT, the World Bank, and others all tell us the same thing — that even modest increases in broadband adoption can yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Broadband empowers small businesses to compete and grow and will ensure that the jobs and industries of tomorrow are created in the United States.

The economic benefits of broadband go hand-in-hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life for all Americans.

The National Broadband Plan will describe concrete ways in which broadband can be a part of 21st century solutions to some of our nation's most pressing challenges, including:

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And Now Haiti, Part One

February 17, 2010

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Prior Postings:January 14, January 15, January 20, January 28, February 5

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Helping Haiti: Back from Port-au-Prince

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
February 5, 2010

FCC to Host Public Forum on Mobile Broadband for First Responders

February 5, 2010

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There's a lot of excitement around the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau this week about our upcoming public forum on mobile broadband for first responders. On Wednesday, February 10 at 2:00 p.m., we'll be hosting first responders, network operators, and policy makers for a two-hour discussion about how we can solve a problem that has plagued the public safety community for far too long.

Looking back over the past decade, there is one thing that every major disaster has in common: when police, fire, EMS, and other public safety organizations couldn't communicate – between agencies and disciplines and across jurisdictional lines – lives were lost, and property was damaged or destroyed. While sharing photos, videos, and mapping data is now a part of everyday life for most Americans, the public safety community has largely been left behind. Despite all of the advances in mobile communications, the new generation of first responders still needs to carry a device that resembles a two-pound brick that only handles voice calls. Soon, however, all that will change.

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The FCC and FOIA

February 3, 2010

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The FCC’s FOIA Annual Report for FY 2009 has just been posted as required by the FOIA.  This year our report shows improvement in many areas.  And new this year, in addition to a PDF of the report, all of the statistics are available in spreadsheets (CSV format) for the public to examine and use. 
One interesting point from the report – 94% of the FOIA requests where we had responsive records were granted in whole or in part; only 6% were denied in full pursuant to one or more of the FOIA exemptions. 
The FY 2009 report shows that we have dramatically reduced the backlog of FOIA appeals.  At the start of FY 2009 we had 30 pending appeals, and we received 14 new appeals during the fiscal year.  The Commission disposed of 37 appeals (either by decision or by informally resolving the appeal), leaving only 7 pending appeals at the start of FY 2010. 
As we move forward, we aim to do even better.  We are trying to process FOIA requests even faster.  We are working to process appeals as quickly as possible, either resolving them informally or submitting the appeal to the Commission for decision.  And under the President’s Open Government Directive, we are making more and more information available on the FCC’s website.
So, let me ask – what helpful information about the FOIA could we post that is is not on our website?  Our Chief FOIA Officer, General Counsel Austin Schlick, wants to know!

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Helping Haiti: Update from Port-au-Prince

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
January 29, 2010

(UPDATE: Photos from the FCC Team in Haiti below.)

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=71]]There is much to report on developments related to the US Government’s efforts on communications services in Haiti since my last posting.  I traveled with a U.S. team to Port-au-Prince, arriving before daybreak Monday, January 25.  We are on-the-ground now, assessing communications needs.  We joined an initial group of three FCC technical experts, who deployed to Haiti days after the earthquake to support a FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Team.  Our combined team includes two of us from the FCC International Bureau, three from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, one from the Enforcement Bureau, one from the Office of Engineering and Technology and two private sector experts on the team.  We are here in response to a request from Director General Montàigne Marcelin of Conseil National des Télécommunications (Conatel), the communications agency in Haiti, in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Highlighting the staff of the FCC...

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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