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Getting the Incentive Auction Right

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
April 18, 2014 - 12:32 PM

Few FCC policies have generated more attention than the Incentive Auction. “Groundbreaking,” “revolutionary,” and “first-in-the-world” are just a few common descriptions of this innovative approach to making efficient, market-driven use of our spectrum resources.

Such attention is warranted. The Incentive Auction is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the benefits of mobile wireless coverage and competition to consumers across the Nation – particularly consumers in rural areas – offering more choices of wireless providers, lower prices, and higher quality mobile services.

Spectrum is a finite public resource, and refers to the public airwaves that carry all forms of wireless communication Americans use every day. Twenty-first century consumers in both rural and urban areas of our country have a seemingly insatiable appetite for wireless services, and thus, for spectrum.

Getting the Incentive Auction right will revolutionize how spectrum is allocated. By marrying the economics of demand (think wireless providers) with the economics of current spectrum holders (think television broadcasters), the Incentive Auction will allow market forces to determine the highest and best use of spectrum.

More immediately, the Incentive Auction will deliver tremendous benefits for U.S. consumers across the country.

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Technology Transitions and Public Safety Workshop and Online Forum

by Rear Admiral (Ret.) David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 16, 2014 - 06:12 PM

Technology transitions, in the telecommunications sector, are already happening, and they will continue to have a profound impact on public safety communications.  As networks transform, the capability for public safety officials to reliably communicate among themselves and with the public must be preserved.  Similarly, the ability for individuals to reach help in an emergency is fundamental and must be maintained.  We are committed to ensuring that the critical functionalities served by the legacy infrastructure are supported after transition to IP-based infrastructure and, where possible, improved.  Public safety, disaster response and homeland security communities must remain reliable and secure under a wide range of stressful conditions – they must be available when we need them.

To that end, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is hosting a workshop on Thursday, April 17, 2014, on the impact of technology transition on public safety.

Representatives from public safety agencies, service providers, technology vendors, and other stakeholders will participate in roundtable discussions to explore the impact of the retirement of switched telecommunications service (PSTN, TDM), the anticipated interdependencies and new failure modalities for IP transport, copper to fiber transition and copper to wireless transition.

The workshop will identify areas of risk associated with the planned IP Transition and determine risk factors for key public safety, emergency response, and national security functions. 

The workshop will be streamed live online for those who cannot attend in-person.  We will also be accepting questions during the workshop via email at livequestions@fcc.gov or by Twitter using the #TechTransitions hashtag.

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Broadcasting Anew

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
April 15, 2014 - 02:51 PM

It is always special to be in attendance at the annual National Association of Broadcasters Show, and this year was no exception.

The NAB does a good job of matching its members with FCC Commissioners and staff for informative, engaging and often spirited discussions. This was the case for me when I informally met with a group of network affiliates from around the country. They persistently—though politely—pressed me on some recent FCC decisions which affected their business interests, and in the absence of a final rule on at least one key issue—media ownership and attribution rules-the broadcasters were left to question our words and our wisdom pretty much unanswered. But what I took away from our discussion was the realization that today's media universe can no longer be viewed through myopic lenses and historic silos, and that the demarcation between over-the-air, cable, internet and satellite broadcasting makes erstwhile legacy distinctions much harder to maintain.

Secondly, I always appreciate the chance to walk the show floor to see, firsthand, the innovative developments in broadcast technology. This time around, I was impressed by Next Radio and 8K technology, both of which are fascinating, consumer friendly and, I suspect, soon-to-be financially successful.

Finally, the NAB provides a unique opportunity for regulators to talk to the industry professionals and operators who do not typically make it to Washington to lobby on policy issues. These real-world workers provide us with a perspective that is both realistic and refreshing, and I always learn more than I leave behind.

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Modernizing E-Rate for Indian Country

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
April 10, 2014 - 12:35 PM

Last month, I was honored to meet with Tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians’ annual conference to discuss the FCC’s commitment to a reinvigorated Tribal consultation process focused on improving access to modern communications in Indian Country.

Acting on this commitment, yesterday, I took my first trip to Indian Country as FCC Chairman, visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

I had several meetings with Oglala Lakota leaders to discuss topics ranging from economic development to healthcare, but the greatest emphasis of my visit was education, specifically how the FCC’s E-Rate program can help expand digital learning opportunities, including for our nation’s rural and Tribal populations.

I heard from teachers, students, and administrators at Loneman School and Little Wound School about how E-Rate has helped provide basic Internet access to their school, but also how E-Rate can, and needs to do even more.

In particular, these schools need more bandwidth to enable opportunities like remote tutoring and taking advanced math and science courses online, and they need Wi-Fi connectivity that can support mobile devices like tablets and digital textbooks. They also need an E-Rate program that’s more user-friendly. In the past, Loneman, like too many schools, missed out on E-Rate support because of confusion with the program’s rules.

All of our students, whether they are attending a Tribal school in South Dakota or a public school in South Carolina deserve to have full access to modern digital learning tools. That’s why modernizing E-Rate to simplify the program, improve its efficiency, and deliver faster, Wi-Fi connectivity to schools and libraries is one of the Commission’s highest priorities.

Digital learning can be a great equalizer for places like Pine Ridge, helping to overcome the history of isolation that has limited opportunity in Tribal communities.

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On the Rise: Regulating Through Pilot Programs

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
April 10, 2014 - 12:16 PM

From the good work of my staff, take a look below at the recent trend to fund pilot projects at the Commission.  This upsurge makes it essential that any pilot project have an established and confirmed end date.  I don’t doubt that an occasional pilot project may be of assistance, but I worry they can divert time and effort away from fixing or improving existing programs.  More importantly, we must keep in mind that these projects all come from scarce consumer-provided dollars.

 

 Regulating through Pilot Programs"

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Leveraging the Power of Broadband to Facilitate Advanced Health Care Solutions- An occasional series from CONNECT2HEALTHFCC

April 10, 2014 - 11:32 AM

Recently, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the formation of a new task force – CONNECT2HEALTHFCC – that will focus on the critical intersection of broadband, advanced technology, and health with the singular goal of ensuring that advanced health care solutions are readily accessible to all Americans, from rural and remote areas to underserved inner cities.

We are excited about this new phase in the Commission’s efforts to promote and showcase broadband-enabled health solutions.  And, judging by the outpouring of interest we’ve received thus far from industry, academia, sister agencies, health professionals, and other stakeholders, you are too.

Michele has been on the job for just a few weeks and is knee-deep in setting up the Task Force.  Starting next week, we will begin meeting with stakeholders and giving the task force more form.  Suffice it to say the process will provide opportunities for broad and meaningful input.  Please stay tuned. 

In the meantime, please share your thoughts and ideas about structure, scope etc. here: connect2health@fcc.gov.  New meeting requests can be sent to engageC2H@fcc.gov.

*   *   *

In this post, we want to focus briefly on one interesting facet of this puzzle – the potential of mobile health tools.    

One of the biggest game changers out there with the promise to dramatically improve patient outcomes, reduce health disparities, and lower costs is mobile health technology. 

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New Approaches to Broadband – Wireline, Licensed, and Unlicensed

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
April 2, 2014 - 08:18 PM

Earlier this week, the Commission approved two items that use innovative approaches to free up spectrum for broadband. One order utilizes spectrum sharing in the AWS-3 band to make airwaves currently used by government available for flexible, commercial use. Another order is taking 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band that was barely usable – and not usable at all outdoors – and transforming it into space that is fully usable for Wi-Fi.

Building on this work, the theme of the Commission’s April 23rd open meeting agenda will be “New Approaches to Broadband – Wireline, Licensed, and Unlicensed.”

As evidenced by this week’s AWS-3 order, spectrum sharing is a potentially revolutionary new approach that will allow us to derive greater value from the finite spectrum resource. For consideration at our April open meeting, I am circulating proposed rules today that are designed to make the 3.5 GHz band a test-bed for spectrum-sharing innovation.

The proposal includes three tiers of prioritization: federal and non-federal incumbents, priority access licensees, and general authorized access users.

It includes a single, highly flexible band plan, avoiding the analog trap of Balkanizing spectrum into sub-bands, each with its own sets of rules.

The proposal also anticipates a wide range of flexible uses. Small cells will undoubtedly be a core use case, but we would not limit the band to such use.

Finally, the proposal reflects economic incentives. Even with the most efficient technology, there will always be places and times where there is rivalry for spectrum access. To that end, the proposal would set up a flexible auction and licensing scheme that leverages the technical capabilities of a Spectrum Access System (SAS) database. The SAS is like a traffic cop for spectrum in that it can assess what spectrum is available so that it can be accessed by prioritized users.

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TCPA: It is Time to Provide Clarity

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
March 25, 2014 - 02:10 PM

For those that might not be familiar, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) (47 U.S.C. § 227) was enacted in 1991 to address the issue of unwanted telephone marketing calls and faxes.  It restricts making telemarketing calls, using automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages (often referred to as robocalls), and sending unsolicited faxes.  From most accounts, it appears to have been a general success.   

In enacting the TCPA, the Congress aimed to strike a balance between protecting consumers from unwanted communications and enabling legitimate businesses to reach out to consumers that wish to be contacted.  Over time, as the FCC and the courts have interpreted the TCPA, business models and ways of communicating with consumers have also changed.  As a result, the rules have become complex and unclear.  In addition to prohibiting abusive robocalls and junk faxes, which was the original intent, the rules are creating situations where consumers might not receive notifications and offers that they want and expect, and where new and innovative services and applications that help friends and family members communicate with each other could be restricted.  Clear rules of the road would benefit everyone.    

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FCC Accepting Nominations for Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility; Deadline Is April 15

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
March 21, 2014 - 03:11 PM

*The deadline for nominations for Chairman’s AAA has been extended from March 31 to April 15. This blog post has been edited to reflect the deadline change.

One of the most cherished missions of the FCC is helping to bridge the accessibility gap in communications technologies. Entrusted by Congress with various regulatory responsibilities intended to raise the baseline level of accessibility found in communication technologies and advanced services enabled by the
Internet, the FCC in recent years has developed additional non-regulatory approaches to buoy its efforts to achieve these goals. To that end, the Accessibility and Innovation (A&I) Initiative was created to promote collaborative problem-solving on
accessibility among academic, industry, consumer and government
sectors.  A signature project of the A&I Initiative is the Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (Chairman's AAA) to recognize innovators for contributions to accessible technology.

The FCC is now accepting nominations for the third Chairman's AAA. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, April 15.

AAA nominations may be for mainstream or assistive technology, a developed standard or best practice, a free offering or commercial product produced by an individual or organization, whether nonprofit, business or government, anywhere in the world.  It must have been introduced, or substantially upgraded, in the market between August 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013.  Self-nominations and nominations by others are welcome

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Working Together on the Post-Incentive-Auction Broadcaster Transition

by Bill Lake, Chief, Media Bureau
March 20, 2014 - 02:30 PM

Making history is exciting, but it’s not easy.  In next year’s first-ever incentive auction, participating broadcasters will voluntarily relinquish spectrum rights in exchange for a share of the proceeds, and the recovered spectrum will be sold for wireless broadband use.  The remaining broadcast spectrum will be “repacked,” which means that some broadcasters who remain on the air will be given new channel assignments. That last step may sound anticlimactic, but getting it right will take the concerted efforts of everyone involved.  Together we’ll need to craft policies and procedures to transition the broadcasters with as little disruption to the industry and consumers as possible.

Today we released for public comment a report that the FCC commissioned from a spectrum consulting firm, Widelity, to help us understand the process and costs associated with the post-auction transition.  In producing the report, Widelity interviewed a broad range of broadcast industry experts, including TV broadcast group engineers, radio frequency and structural engineers, network engineers, suppliers, support companies, equipment manufacturers, and attorneys.  Importantly, Widelity’s report concludes, “With cooperation as well as patience, creative problem solving and guidance from the FCC and industry groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters, Association of Public Television Stations, and state broadcast associations, the transition can be achieved with the desired outcomes.”

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