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Official FCC Blog

May, 2011

Roundtable to Tackle Cybersecurity for Small Businesses

by Thomas Reed, Director, Office of Communications Business Opportunities
May 10, 2011 - 03:26 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:306:height=100,width=67]]In a rapidly evolving virtual marketplace, businesses know that they have to protect against information security risks, but many are still struggling to understand the types of dangers that pose the biggest threat to their information assets. 

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Where Innovation Happens

by Clay Johnson, Partner, Big Window Labs
May 10, 2011 - 11:38 AM

In 1932, Justice Louis Brandeis famously quipped that state governments are the "laboratories of democracies." As our population has grown since then our state governments have grown larger, making cities a new and interesting place for governmental innovation innovation. In many cases, the smaller the population, the more open to risk and innovation a government is. That's why Apps for Communities' target is cities, towns, rural and underserved communities.

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Announcing: Emergency Mobile Alerts

by Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
May 10, 2011 - 11:04 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:88:height=93,width=70]]Today, I am honored to be at the World Trade Center site with New York City Mayor Bloomberg, FEMA Administrator Fugate, and the heads of the nation’s largest wireless carriers to announce an important initiative to harness the power of communications technology to enhance public safety and save lives.

The Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN)is a new technology and service that will turn your mobile device into an emergency alert device with potentially life-saving messages when public safety is threatened.

How will it do this? PLAN will allow government officials to send text-like alerts to everyone in a targeted geographic area with an enabled mobile device. Since the alerts are geographically targeted, they will reach the right people, at the right time, with the right messages.

PLAN creates a fast lane for emergency alerts, so this vital information is guaranteed to get through even if there’s congestion in the network.

This new technology could make a tremendous difference during disasters like the recent tornadoes in Alabama where minutes – or even seconds – of extra warning could make the difference between life and death. And we saw the difference alerting systems can make in Japan, where they have an earthquake early warning system that issued alerts that saved lives.

Today, we are announcing that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have put PLAN on the fast track.

Thanks to a public-private collaboration with the FCC, FEMA, wireless carriers and the city of New York, PLAN will be up and running in New York City by the end of the year – at least two quarters ahead of schedule.

By next April, it will be deployed in cities across the country by not only the carriers represented here today, but also by many others, including Leap, MetroPCS, and USCellular.

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Expanding secure HTTPS browsing on

by Benjamin Balter, New Media Fellow
May 9, 2011 - 01:04 PM

We know that protecting personal information online is important for all web users. We’re keeping up with best practices across the web and offering visitors the option to browse the site entirely using the more secure HTTPS protocol.

Browsing with HTTPS is particularly valuable when you access over an unsecured WiFi connection, such as the one often found in a coffee shop or airport. This expands our previously-offered HTTPS default on pages where business and industry practitioners submit online transactions with the FCC.

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Video Relay Service Reform

May 5, 2011 - 03:11 PM

For a decade, thousands of people with hearing and speech disabilities, and their hearing friends, colleagues and families, have come to rely on video relay service to communicate with each other.

VRS enables individuals who use American Sign Language to make and receive “telephone” calls through a sign language interpreter using a broadband connection that enables both video and voice communications. The interpreter voices what the ASL user signs and interprets into sign language what the hearing person responds in voice. VRS providers receive compensation from a fund set up by the FCC called the Interstate TRS Fund into which all common carriers and interconnected VoIP providers contribute via fees they collect from their users.

Although the VRS program has proven widely popular and has been a great success in improving the ability of individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate, it has also been subject to costly, and often illegal, problems of fraud and abuse that have threatened its long-term viability. Over the past year, the Federal Communications Commission has undertaken extensive efforts to reform the VRS program to ensure that it is efficiently managed, that providers comply with the law, and that as a result it remains a fully viable service for its users. For example, the FCC released an order on April 6 (PDF) putting into place a number of rules to eliminate VRS fraud. In the coming months, the Commission also plans to propose other necessary rule changes – including the ways in which VRS providers are compensated – based on a fresh look at the fundamental structure of the VRS program that started with a Notice of Inquiry issued in June 2010.

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The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake Disaster of 2011

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau
May 4, 2011 - 10:02 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:]]The earthquake came first, but it was not like all of the other earthquakes they had known. The ground shook so violently, for so long that afternoon on March 11, 2011, the earth liquefying in many places. The destruction of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake was unimaginable, but the wall of water was next. The tidal surge of the tsunami was as high as a two or three story building, smashing buildings and structures like tinker toys. In addition to dealing a near crippling blow to Japan's communications system, and destroying homes in its path, the catastrophe left more than 11,000 dead or missing. The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake disaster reminds us of what America faced during and following Hurricane Katrina that struck the Gulf coast in 2005. That disaster is still with us, even after the rescue of many victims and the restoration of some of the buildings and infrastructure. Even so, it is difficult for us to imagine the enormity of the sense of loss, fear and desperation our neighbors in Japan must be facing during this difficult time.

The disaster in Japan is a reminder: we can never be too vigilant in preparing for the next catastrophic event. Yesterday’s Forum on Earthquake Communications Preparedness is part of the FCC’s vigilance.   Panel participants highlighted several ways to improve communications during disasters:

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Legal and Telecom Practitioners' Voices in the new

by Colin Sandy, FCBA Access to Government Committee Co-Chair
May 3, 2011 - 10:58 AM

Federal Communications Bar Association members and other interested individuals took a deep dive into the new website during a half-day session at the commission on April 25. The seminar featured lots of great interaction with the new site and provided the commission’s New Media team with valuable feedback for  future industry-focused iterations of, which will begin rolling out later this year.

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