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Blog Posts by Ruth Milkman

A Band Plan that Serves the Public Interest

by Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
June 21, 2013 - 11:19 AM

The FCC’s incentive auction task force is making progress towards holding the world’s first incentive auction in 2014 which will free up valuable spectrum for mobile broadband use across the country.

Over the past few weeks, the Commission has received significant input from parties representing a range of viewpoints on the type of band plan we should adopt when we re-pack the 600MHz spectrum as part of the auction.  

Each addition to the record increases our knowledge and understanding of the complexities of this ground-breaking process and helps to ensure we act in the public interest.  We are grateful for the input. 

At last count, there were over a dozen proposed band plans in our record.  While some differ substantially, many seem at a high level to be quite similar - and without close review may even give the misleading impression that a “consensus” has in fact been reached.  But we all know that the devil is in the details, and in reality the proposed plans are dissimilar in notable respects.

A number of commenters support band plans that are in the “Down from 51” family.  But some plans would limit paired licensed spectrum to 50 MHz, while others call for a larger number of paired bands,  Some plans accommodate market variation by including television stations in the duplex gap in limited areas,, while others say there should be no market variation at all 

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Commission Hosts 600 MHz Band Plan Workshop

by Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
May 7, 2013 - 08:35 AM

The FCC hosted a public workshop Friday as part of its LEARN program.  The workshop focused on how best to structure the 600 MHz wireless band plan in the upcoming incentive auction.  In proposing a band plan, the Commission focused on five key policy goals: utility, certainty, interchangeability, quantity, and interoperability.  The workshop focused on tradeoffs of elements within these goals to achieve balance.

At the workshop, FCC staff moderated a highly informative discussion among stakeholders representing a wide range of interests, including television broadcasters, licensed mobile broadband providers, device and component manufacturers, and other interested parties. 

Friday’s discussion indicated support for many of the band plan elements proposed in our Incentive Auction NPRM.  We also received valuable input regarding some of the more challenging issues associated with developing the 600 MHz band plan.  In particular, we had very productive technical discussions on intermodulation and harmonics interference, mobile antenna issues, filter pass band issues, and how to accommodate technical flexibility in the band.  

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Spectrum Available for Mobile Broadband How the U.S. Stacks Up and Challenges Ahead

February 26, 2013 - 05:32 PM

Today the United States is recognized as a leader in mobile technology, including commercial deployments of LTE and development of mobile operating systems.  This leadership depends on our continuing to make additional spectrum available for licensed mobile broadband and unlicensed uses, particularly as other countries are also focused on making additional broadband spectrum available.

Today we are releasing a white paper that compiles information on the status of licensed and unlicensed spectrum resources in the United States and selected countries around the globe, which also realize the importance of additional mobile broadband spectrum, and are taking steps to make more available.   The countries selected for this analysis were based in part on data availability.  Future updates of the paper may include additional countries.  Fueled by the skyrocketing demand for mobile data services, there has been a lot of interest in understanding what spectrum is available for mobile broadband networks around the world, and how the situation in the United States compares to other countries.  While much information about global spectrum resources is publicly available, getting a complete grasp of the spectrum availability picture around the globe can be daunting.  Various conditions and unique issues often arise regarding different frequency bands in individual countries:  for example, frequencies may be available, but only for use in certain geographic areas; or there may be restrictions on spectrum use.  In addition, different sources may use different definitions, so a frequency band might be considered “currently available” according to one source but not another, resulting in different bottom lines. 

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Broadband Breakfast Club: FCC’s Mobile Broadband Agenda

by Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
February 22, 2013 - 03:40 PM


I took the opportunity in a recent speech to discuss the concept of “more” within the context of the FCC’s mobile broadband agenda – our focus on getting more broadband to more people in more places – while continuing to foster a robust, competitive marketplace.  Recent data suggests that wireless data consumption will grow 9-fold over the next four years.  We are working hard to meet the spectrum challenges this growth presents.  The full text of my speech and slides (which include some compelling data), as presented at a Broadband Breakfast Club event hosted by on Tuesday February 19, 2013, are below:

Good morning, everyone.  Thank you to the organizer of this event, Sylvia Syracuse, for inviting me to speak, and to all of you for coming out to discuss such an interesting set of topics. 

I hope people enjoyed the three-day weekend.  After the Downton Abbey finale, I know many of us needed that recovery day. 

I appreciate the opportunity to share what the FCC has been and will be doing to make mobile broadband available to all Americans and to facilitate a robust mobile wireless marketplace.

Mobileis an enormous driver of innovation and economic growth – it comes as no surprise to anyone here that our use of, and the need for, mobile data is growing by leaps and bounds.  The National Broadband Plan in 2010 identified the spectrum gap driven by rapid growth of mobile broadband use, and that growth has only continued.  Cisco’s recently updated Visual Networking Index Mobile Data Traffic Forecast – a very rich and interesting report – predicts that U.S. mobile data traffic will increase nine-fold within the next four years.

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Retrospective Analysis at the FCC

by Ruth Milkman, Special Counsel for Innovation in Government, FCC
August 9, 2011 - 09:06 AM

On July 11, 2011, the President issued an executive order to the heads of all independent agencies, including the FCC. The new executive order builds on the President's January 2011 Executive Order on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, and asks independent agencies to conduct both retrospective and prospective regulatory analyses, consistent with law.

In a recent communication to staff, Chairman Genachowski said the agency would act in accordance with the new executive order, and that he expects all FCC Bureaus and Offices will perform their responsibilities consistent with the order. The Chairman asked me to oversee development of a plan to follow up on this directive.

The President's directives are consistent with the values and philosophy we apply here at the FCC. In a press conference following the release of the July 11 Executive Order, Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in OMB, noted that the FCC has a robust regulatory review process in place. Under Chairman Genachowski's leadership, we are proud of the progress we have made so far.

We've eliminated more than 50 unneeded regulations and we're working toward eliminating 25 unnecessary data collections.

We're focusing on developing innovative market-based policies that help advance important policy goals, such as Incentive Auctions for repurposing spectrum; increasing the flexible use of spectrum; and market-based mechanisms to more efficiently and effectively distribute Universal Service Fund support.

We've responded to calls from industry to review our rules and initiated proceedings on Retransmission Consent, and on Out-of-Band Emissions in the Broadband Radio Service (BRS) and Educational Broadband Service (EBS) bands to permit operators to use licensed spectrum more efficiently.

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Spectrum: Supply and Demand

by Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
January 1, 2011 - 12:17 PM

Mobile Wireless Competition Report

by Ruth Milkman, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
June 10, 2010 - 02:13 PM


On May 20th, the Commission released its Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the 14th in a series of annual reports to Congress, which reviews the state of competition in the wireless industry.

This year's report expands our analysis of what is traditionally called "Commercial Mobile Radio Service" into a larger understanding of competition across the full mobile wireless "ecosystem", including voice, messaging, and broadband services, as well as "upstream" segments (e.g., towers, spectrum, backhaul) and "downstream" segments (e.g., devices and applications). The broad perspective of the report reflects the increasing importance of mobile wireless broadband, as mobile devices that can access the Internet – such as smartphones – are gaining enormous popularity.

One of the main goals of the FCC staff in preparing this year's report was to bring as many relevant facts to the table as possible. In many cases, we've looked at trends from two or three different angles to reveal a fuller picture of how wireless marketplace is evolving. And, for the first time, we are making much of the data in the report available in machine-readable format for researchers and data practitioners. (Some data used in the report is from proprietary sources such as financial analysts which the Commission does not have the permission to re-distribute in machine-readable form.)

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Workshop on Expanding Disability Access with Wireless Technologies

by Ruth Milkman, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
May 12, 2010 - 10:07 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:186:height=100,width=70]]Wireless technologies present tremendous opportunities to benefit all Americans, including those with disabilities. At the FCC, we are excited about these possibilities for innovative communications services, applications and devices. We want to better understand how such technologies can bring more access to more people, and how the FCC can help ensure new technologies as inclusive as possible.

On Thursday, May 13th, the Commission will be exploring these issues during a workshop called "Expanding Disability Access with Wireless Technologies." I hope that everyone who is interested will join us in the Commission Meeting Room or via the web from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If that time doesn't work for you, the workshop will also be available online afterwards.

The first panel will focus on current access challenges. We will be discussing mobile communications access issues facing people with disabilities and disparities in technology access. During that session, we will be asking our panelists to give us their thoughts on questions such as:

  • What are the key disabilities access challenges that need addressing?
  • How is current technology trying to meet these challenges?
  • What emerging technologies will better meet these challenges?
  • Are there current regulatory barriers that deter technological innovation or negatively affect emerging technologies?

Our second panel will explore technology trends. During this session we will discuss ways in which new technologies can offer opportunities to overcome challenges in access to mobile communications. We will be looking at issues such as:

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Highlighting the staff of the FCC...

by Ruth Milkman, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
January 18, 2010 - 03:50 PM


There are any number of talented, dedicated staff at the FCC and Mae is one of them. Mae Hall is a member of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) and has been at the Commission since June 21, 1971. She started working at the Commission the Monday after she graduated high school and has loved every minute of it. She spent her first 25 years in the Media Bureau. She started as a secretary in the Hearing Division, then moved on to become a Communications Analyst in the Television Branch, and later worked as a Telecommunication Analyst in the Low Power Television Branch. In 1996, she became a part of WTB as a paralegal in the Auctions and Industry Analysis Division; currently she is a Management / Program Analyst in what is now the Auctions and Spectrum Access Division, working primarily with default payment issues and performing paralegal duties for the Auctions Legal and Policy team.

Over the years, Mae has volunteered for many activities. She has consistently worked with the Combined Federal Campaign and was one of many who volunteered for the DTV Transition outreach effort. For DTV she worked primarily in the Southwest Region conducting outreach activities for consumers and assisting local broadcasters with outreach efforts to ensure all were DTV ready. She worked in both urban as well as rural areas of Texas. Her most memorable day was the day she spent at a Senior Citizens Center in Amarillo, TX. She initially showed up to drop off coupon applications but instead stayed the entire day assisting seniors with converter box hookups and demonstrations and spending time with them. Mae left only after every question had been answered and she'd heard every "life story." She found it very rewarding and fulfilling.

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