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FCC Driving Innovation in Health IT for all Americans at HIMSS

by Matthew Quinn, Director of Healthcare Initiatives
February 19, 2014

February 23-27 is the annual Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference & Exhibition, an event that brings together 37,000+ healthcare IT professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world.

To highlight its efforts in supporting health IT innovation, the FCC is participating in a variety of activities during HIMSS.

Join Commissioner Clyburn as she kicks off the first-ever HIMSS Pre-Conference Symposium on “Health IT and Rural Healthcare: Embracing Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges” (Sunday, Feb 23 from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM).

The Symposium will also feature a review of FCC healthcare programs led by Director of Healthcare Initiatives, Matt Quinn and presentations from the leadership of Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA), Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other public and private stakeholders working to bring health IT to rural America.

Connect with Commissioner Clyburn and HIMSS Federal Health Community Chair, Matt Quinn at the HIMSS Federal Health Community Networking Breakfast (Monday, Feb 24 from 6:45 – 7:30 AM).  Commissioner Clyburn and ONC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jacob Reider will highlight ways that federal employees can gain value from HIMSS and the Federal Health Community.

Learn from Matt Quinn about FCC’s collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ONC on in promoting safety and innovation in Healthcare IT through its participation in Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, otherwise known as FDASIA from Tuesday, Feb 25 from 10:00 – 11:00 AM 

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Commissioner O’Rielly’s Thoughts on Broadcast Television JSAs and SSAs

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
February 18, 2014

It used to be that Americans had few choices for watching television—options included a handful of broadcast networks and maybe a cable subscription with 30 channels, if consumers were lucky.  Today, the choices for entertainment and news are seemingly limitless and available on multiple platforms (i.e., free-over-the-air, cable, telco, satellite, wireless).  The Internet and advances in digital technologies have transformed the media marketplace so that Americans can watch whatever they want, whenever they want.  Local broadcasters—once the only content providers in town—must now compete fiercely for viewers.  They must also compete with online entities such as Groupon, Google and Amazon.com for local advertising revenues.  

Generally, other video platforms are free to enter into partnerships, legal agreements, or economic relationships that enable such entities to take advantage of economies of scale.  But, for numerous reasons, the FCC maintains rules that prevent broadcasters from doing the same. 

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Commissioner O'Rielly’s Blog Introduction and Views on E-Rate Reform

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
February 12, 2014

As the newest Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, it seems only appropriate that I take advantage of all modern communications tools, including the blogosphere.  For my inaugural FCC blog post, I wanted to share my thoughts on the timely and important issue of E-Rate reform.  Before I begin, let me be clear that my postings represent my views and only my views.  I do not speak for the Commission, the Chairman, or my fellow Commissioners.

E-Rate is the federal universal service program that helps schools and libraries obtain discounted access to telecommunications services and the Internet.  I support the program.  It is enshrined in the statute and I appreciate the vast opportunities that connectivity can offer students.  I remember writing book reports in high school based on the World Book encyclopedias my parents bought in 1972.  I also remember our local library and the limitations of the paper Dewey Decimal system files.  The Internet puts all of that to shame. 

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Channel Sharing: A New Opportunity for Broadcasters

by Tom Wheeler, Chairman
February 11, 2014

I’ve seen the future, and it’s using 50% less bandwidth to produce a picture with increased quality of up to 300%.

I just completed a tour of KLCS, a public broadcaster in Los Angeles. As Chairman of the FCC, visiting a television station isn’t necessarily that noteworthy. But today’s visit was different, because KLCS is about to make history.

KLCS has entered into an agreement with KJLA, a Spanish-language station in L.A., to become the first broadcasters in America to pilot the concept of sharing channels of spectrum, which are the airwaves that transmit mobile images and information to TVs, radios and other wireless devices.

Seeing is believing! On my visit I saw KLCS putting out 1 HD stream and 7 standard-definition streams of programming on its current allotted channel of spectrum, what they call multi-casting. What’s really exciting is that as part of the pilot program with KJLA, KLCS will test broadcasting two full HD streams of programming over the same channel. If the pilot works as engineers expect it will, this could be a game changer for the concept of channel sharing.

So why does this matter?

If you live in the United States and you are reading this, you realize that America has gone mobile. Most Americans would have a hard time imagining life without their smartphones, and tens of millions are similarly in love with their tablets.

The problem is that spectrum, the lifeblood of all wireless technologies, is finite. That wasn’t a problem before the mobile web, when most consumers were mostly watching videos or surfing the web at home. If we don’t free up more airwaves for mobile broadband, demand for spectrum will eventually exceed the supply. If you’ve ever been frustrated by websites that loaded slowly or videos that wouldn’t download to your phone, you have a sense what that world could look like.

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Envisioning the IT Future for FCC Enforcement Field Offices

by Dr. David A. Bray, Chief Information Officer
February 4, 2014

During my first 120 days at the FCC, I have enjoyed several opportunities to listen and learn from the different views and perspectives at the FCC. Each Bureau and Office has critical missions and IT needs, and I'd like to share some of what I've learned about the Enforcement Bureau's need for mobility.

Shortly after my arrival at the FCC, the Enforcement Bureau reached out to me with a broad vision for leveraging technology to future-proof the agency's on-scene, investigative capabilities. One of EB's key initiatives in this broad effort was a “mobility strategy” for its Field Offices. This included a discussion of what technologies could help personnel collaborate securely in any time, in any place. “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question” is a quote attributed to e.e. cummings, and our search for what technologies could assist FCC Enforcement Field Offices similarly presented a terrific opportunity to develop a high-level storyboard of the technology solutions for which we are searching.

At the end of this blog are three pictures – each with text captions – that show a brief story of what the FCC is interested in pursuing for the IT future of FCC field office mobility. We hope to use a similar process of storyboards for other FCC endeavors in the future. Developing storyboards helps programmatic and technical teams across FCC reach common understanding. This allows us to dive deeper into additional details on workflows intended for automation as well as identify potential modular, enterprise reuse opportunities across initiatives. We also can share the storyboards with industry consortia for thoughts on what new technologies might help us address our needs.

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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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