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Access and Public Safety: Enduring Elements of the Public Interest.

by Tom Wheeler, Chairman
January 30, 2014

Technology and networks are rapidly changing. We support technological innovation, but our challenge is preserving the values that consumers and businesses have come to expect from their networks – universal access, public safety, competition, and consumer protection. That’s why earlier today, the Commission launched a broad set of voluntary experiments meant to ensure that the nation’s communications networks continue to provide the services consumers want and need as users and companies transition from plain old telephone service delivered over copper lines to wireless devices or other voice services using Internet Protocols, delivered over coaxial cable, fiber, or wireless networks.

The Commission also took a critical step to ensure wireless consumers will be able to reach 911 via text messaging – a capability that is critical and potentially life-saving for Americans who are hard-of-hearing.

Our mission is to ensure that as network providers and their customers upgrade to new technologies, there is no downgrade in reliability, availability, public safety, and competition.

The agenda for the Commission’s February meeting builds on this belief that there are values that define our networks that must be preserved, and it is united by a central theme: Access and Public Safety: Enduring Elements of the Public Interest.

There is no better example than the way that wireless phones have become one of, if not the, primary means by which many Americans communicate and what that means for ensuring public safety.

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Helping American Students Compete in a Digital World

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
January 24, 2014

Earlier this month I visited Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, one of the tens of thousands of schools across America connected to the Internet thanks largely to the E-Rate program.  E-Rate was established as a result of the bipartisan Telecommunications Act of 1996 to help schools and libraries obtain affordable Internet access. For schools like Edna Brewer, E-Rate has been a game-changer for students and the dedicated professionals who teach them. While at Edna Brewer, I had the pleasure of engaging in insightful conversations with students, teachers, administrators and the Information Technology (IT) officer for the school district.  Each offered important perspectives about the transformational educational benefits of IT for student learning where it’s available, and the challenges faced by students and teachers when that access is denied.    

My visit underscored the fact that the needs of our schools have dramatically changed since E-Rate began in 1996.  To be prepared for college and the 21st Century workforce, students today need to have access to state-of-the-art, interactive, educational content; and tools for student collaboration, student-teacher communication, and lesson planning.  None of this will be possible if our students aren’t connected to networks capable of delivering that content and offering those tools.  

On my first day on the job I made clear that a top priority of the Commission must be to make networks work for everyone.  It isn’t enough to simply emphasize the need for more broadband; the focus has to be on what high-speed Internet connections enable, whether in fully connected classrooms or after school in a library.  We must lead the world in this effort. I am firmly committed to meeting the goal of connecting 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband within five years.

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Retiring the transition.fcc.gov Front Page

by Howard Parnell, Chief, Web and Print Publishing Division
January 15, 2014

The old front page of the former FCC.gov will soon be retired in keeping with plans to gradually transition off of what has been known as the “transition” website for almost three years.  All content formerly on the old transition front page -- including links to our most popular tools and resources -- is available on the FCC.gov home page, and personal bookmarks to items once featured on the old page will continue to work.

The decision to phase out the transition front page is based on a steady decline in usage over the years since the initial FCC.gov redesign in the spring of 2011. During the past year, the page received less than 2 percent of overall traffic to the website, with 1 percent of site entrances occurring through the transition.fcc.gov front. Site analytics show that increasingly, users are entering the website through a variety of pages – largely via external search results and other direct referrals in addition to their own personal bookmarks.

Beginning Feb. 3, the transition front page will redirect automatically to the FCC.gov homepage. For those who continue to use transition.fcc.gov, please note that this action affects only one page of the transition site -- the front page.  You can continue to access any bookmarks or links you have to other transition.fcc.gov webpages after Feb. 3.  Also after Feb. 3, we’ll replace the transition link currently featured in the top right corner of our global navigation with a link to the FCC Phonebook (Find People at FCC), making that popular resource available on virtually every FCC.gov page. 

We welcome your feedback at webfeedback@fcc.gov as we continue to develop and improve FCC.gov's features and functions.

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Ensuring an Open Internet Now and for the Future

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
January 14, 2014

Now that the Court of Appeals has ruled on the Open Internet (Net Neutrality) Order upholding the Commission’s authority to act under Section 706, I want to provide a further insight into my oft-repeated statement that I am pro-open Internet.  This perspective will guide my actions and recommendations going forward.

The government, in the form of the FCC, is not going to take over the Internet. It is not going to dictate the architecture of the Internet. It is not going to do anything that gratuitously interferes with the organic evolution of the Internet in response to developments in technology, business models, and consumer behavior.

But the FCC also is not going to abandon its responsibility to oversee that broadband networks operate in the public interest. It is not going to ignore the historic reality that when a new network transitions to become an economic force that economic incentives begin to affect the public interest. This means that we will not disregard the possibility that exercises of economic power or of ideological preference by dominant network firms will diminish the value of the Internet to some or all segments of our society.

There is nothing about the foregoing that should cause serious anxiety, either to those watching out for the interests of internet users, or of those building and operating the facilities that make up the Internet. The key message is that the FCC has the authority – and has the responsibility – to regulate the activities of broadband networks. We will have ample opportunity to debate ways and means, to consider specifics in specific cases as they arise. But, there is no justification, and no serious basis, for doubt about the fundamentals.

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3.5 GHz Spectrum Access System Workshop and Online Discussion

by Roger C. Sherman, Acting Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
January 13, 2014

Part of our job at the FCC is to keep pace with new technologies and, indeed, to create an environment in which innovation can flourish. This is perhaps most true in the dynamic and ever-changing wireless sector. One focal point of our innovation strategy is the 3.5 GHz band, which presents novel opportunities to advance to the state of the art in spectrum management.  Ideally, we can do this in a way that unleashes creative forces in industry to provide more wireless bandwidth using new techniques like small cells and dynamic spectrum access.

The 3.5 GHz band is currently reserved for use by federal agencies – primarily the military, which uses the band for radar operations. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) proposed in 2010 that this band could be made available to commercial entities who would share the spectrum with incumbent federal users. In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) proposed that sharing of the band be dynamically coordinated through a Spectrum Access System (SAS). Later that year, the Commission issued a proposal to effectuate these recommendations and adopted a Public Notice on a revised licensing framework in November 2013.

Several of the central and most novel questions in this proceeding revolve around the SAS. What functions should it perform? How will it manage multiple tiers of spectrum access? Should there be multiple third-party SAS providers, and how would they interact with one another and the FCC? How can we ensure the integrity of the system to protect existing uses of the band?

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Adapting Regulatory Frameworks to 21st Century Networks and Markets

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
January 9, 2014

In my first remarks to FCC staff as Chairman, I said that the connective technology that defines the 21st century flows through the FCC, and our challenge is to be as nimble as the innovators and network builders who are changing the world and creating these great opportunities. Meeting that challenge will require changes in the way we conduct our business, as well as constant fine-tuning of our policies. Consistent with this message, the agenda for January’s open agenda will include four items tied together by one common theme: “Adapting Regulatory Frameworks to 21st Century Networks.” I’d like to take this opportunity to briefly discuss why each of these items is so important.

Among the biggest changes the FCC must confront are the IP transitions. Note the use of the plural “transitions.” Circuit switching is being replaced by more efficient networks – made of fiber or copper or wireless. Greater efficiency in networks can translate into greater innovation and greater benefits for network operators and users alike.

The best way to speed technology transitions is to incent network investment and innovation by preserving the enduring values that consumers and businesses have come to expect. Those values: public safety, interconnection, competition, consumer protection and, of course, universal access, are not only familiar, they are fundamental.

At the January 30 Commission meeting, we will propose a series of experiments utilizing all-IP networks. We hope and expect that many proposed experiments, wired and wireless, will be forthcoming. Those experiments will allow the networks, their users, the FCC and the public to assess the impact and potential of all-IP networks on consumers, customers and businesses in all parts of our country, including rural America, and all populations, including people with disabilities.

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Mapping Progress: Connect America Fund’s Broadband Expansion

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
December 18, 2013

Recently, the Wireline Competition Bureau authorized $255 million from the Connect America Fund to expand broadband in rural areas lacking service.  It’s great news for the over 400,000 rural homes and businesses in 41 states that will get access to wireline broadband for the first time.  And now, you can see more precisely where that expansion will occur on an updated interactive map.

The update of this map is especially useful because this round of Connect America funding includes a process to make sure that we are not subsidizing broadband where other providers are offering service without subsidies. The map shows where funds have been authorized because there was no challenge or challenges have resolved, and areas still subject to challenge. These decisions are based on very local information – down to the census block level – and the map provides a quick, easy, and clear way to identify those areas. Just zoom in! We’ll update the map as challenges are resolved.

The Connect America Fund is part of the FCC’s initiative to bring broadband access to rural communities in order to ensure that ALL Americans have access to today’s essential tools for communications.

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On Secure Mobile Health Devices and a Better Future for Us All

by Dr. David A. Bray, Chief Information Officer
December 13, 2013

Over the last week, we paused to remember and commemorate the leadership legacy of Nelson Mandela and his inspiring hope for both South Africa and our world. I personally found myself reflecting upon 1998, when I was in Cape Town, South Africa as a volunteer, visiting journalist with several others covering news stories post-apartheid. My focus was on efforts to educate and reduce the spread of HIV in the region.

Photos from Khayelitsha, South Africa in 1998
Photos from Khayelitsha, South Africa in 1998.

As the Truth and Reconciliation Committees started to heal a fragmented nation, South Africa also was facing an influx of HIV cases from sub-Saharan Africa, rising from an estimated 5000 cases in 1994 to over 2.4 million cases in 1998 within a country of roughly 40 million people. Having built a computer simulation of the historical and estimated exponential future spread of HIV, I became impassioned about spreading awareness of the threat  since, unless greater education of HIV occurred, the nation was facing a dire future.

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Public Input on Process Reform

by Diane Cornell, Special Counsel, Office of the Chairman
December 11, 2013

Thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to my blog post to provide input and ideas for reforming FCC processes.  We received numerous responses, all of which were very thoughtful and offered some great ideas for process reform.  The replies submitted through innovation@fcc.gov in response to the blog post are now publicly available. 

We are taking all of your comments into account, both those submitted by external parties and those received internally, for our report and recommendations to the Chairman in early January 2014.  Remember, we are only at the initial stages of this process.  We plan to remain engaged with the public on ways in which the FCC can be more efficient and effective, and we encourage you to continue to submit your ideas to innovation@fcc.gov.  We are always open to your thoughts and ideas.

Thank you for your efforts and your constructive commitment to helping us improve the workings of the FCC.

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FCC Continues Push on mHealth Innovation

by Matthew Quinn, Director of Healthcare Initiatives
December 10, 2013

At last week’s mHeath Innovation Expo, the FCC brought together a terrific mix of exhibitors from the government, telecommunications, healthcare and health IT communities who share a dedication to encouraging new and innovative mHealth products, and streamlining their introduction for use by consumers, including people with disabilities.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who opened the event, said innovation was key to the success of mHealth:

“I was particularly impressed by the high level of technological innovation and harmonization with existing wireless, online and wire line applications.  I am glad to see that many of these tech companies realize that mHealth solutions for seniors, those in underserved communities, and people with disabilities, must be launched from the very start, and should not be an afterthought.  Only by doing so can we ensure that all consumers seamlessly adopt these technologies to serve their critical day-to-day needs.”

We look forward to the keeping the discussion going and growing. On Dec. 11, Commissioner Clyburn and I will participate in an FCC Town Hall on mHealth and Healthcare Initiatives as part of the mHealth Summit at National Harbor (near Washington) from 12:30-2 p.m. There we’ll elaborate further about our collaboration with fellow Federal agencies to promote innovation, promote safety and avoid regulatory duplication.

Our goal is for the use of mHealth technology to become a routine medical best practice – sooner rather than later. We hope our work with the community – through events such as the FCC’s mHealth Innovation Expo – is a catalyst for more and better mHealth.

The FCC gives its sincere thanks to all those who participated in our Expo:

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