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Update on FCC's IT Upgrades

by Dr. David A. Bray, FCC CIO
September 8, 2015 - 06:05 AM

Over Labor Day weekend, a dedicated FCC team worked day and night to complete major IT upgrades. This work included physically moving more than 200 different legacy servers out of FCC's headquarters to a commercial service provider.

Why the move? Over the last several years, the FCC has faced ever-increasing costs to maintain its legacy IT systems. This move to a commercial service provider will help reduce the costs to maintain the systems, improve their resiliency, and allow us to shift many of our legacy applications to the cloud – as we did with our Consumer Help Desk.

With a massive server move of this scale – even with detailed planning, independent verification, and backup plans – the opportunity always exists for surprises, especially with legacy IT systems, nearly 400 program applications, and hundreds of servers.

Our servers left FCC headquarters in seven moving vans after midnight and arrived safely at the new commercial data center facility early Friday morning.

While all the data and infrastructure arrived intact, upon arrival we discovered the need for some additional cabling to be done by our commercial partners that took longer than expected. Unfortunately, this delayed completion of all of the system upgrades – even with the FCC team working around the clock throughout the holiday weekend.

The good news is ECFS is available to the public and EDOCS should be available later today. More detail on the systems we are working to make available by Thursday morning can be found here.

We will continue to work diligently and provide updates on these IT upgrades. The entire FCC team and I truly appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to complete all of the upgrades.

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A Milestone in Expanding Broadband to Rural America

by Carol Mattey, Deputy Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
August 28, 2015 - 12:47 PM

Yesterday, the FCC reached a major milestone in its mission to connect rural America to robust broadband. Thursday was the deadline for some of the nation's largest phone companies to decide whether to accept "Phase II" funds from the FCC's Connect America Fund to expand broadband to their rural customers. All told, ten carriers accepted over $1.5 billion in annual support to provide broadband to nearly 7.3 million consumers in 45 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In exchange for receiving funding for all eligible areas that they serve in a given state, these providers have committed to expanding and maintaining broadband service with defined milestones and obligations over a six-year period.

This is great news for these rural communities, where broadband can spark economic development, support education, and provide residents with access to the news, information and cutting-edge Internet applications that are a fact of life in most other parts of the country. The funding that will flow to these areas will go a long way toward closing the digital divide isolating rural America. And it builds on past Commission decisions that used "Phase I" Connect America funding to expand broadband to over 637,000 homes and businesses.

The companies didn't accept the entire offer, although most accepted most, if not all, of theirs. Like other investments, this was a business decision each company had to make – and as we expected, some of the companies declined the offer of support in certain states. But that doesn't mean the residents in these communities will be left behind. Instead, we're getting ready to unleash the power of market competition to provide broadband in these communities.

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Ensuring the Resiliency of Our Communications Infrastructure

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
August 27, 2015 - 12:57 PM

Imagine a community with tens of thousands of residents suffering a communications blackout for more than 48 hours. Not only were residents unable to send emails or make phone calls, their banking system shut down, leaving people unable to make credit card transactions or withdraw money from an ATM. This is not a hypothetical. It happened last month in the Northern Marinas Islands, a U.S. territory in the Western Pacific Ocean. The cause: a break in an undersea cable. While this happened on the other side of the world, it's a cause for concern for all of us. Undersea cables carry more than 95 percent of all U.S. international voice, data, and Internet traffic. Today, I'm circulating a proposal to my colleagues that would enhance the security and reliability of this key piece of the Internet's physical infrastructure.

There are approximately 60 submarine (or "undersea") cables that provide connectivity between the mainland U.S. and consumers in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as virtually all connectivity between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Many submarine cables are jointly owned and operated by multiple companies.

While submarine cables are vital to America's economic and national security, licensees currently only report outages on an ad hoc basis, and the information that we receive is too limited to be of use. In contrast, other communications providers — including wireline, wireless, and satellite —are required to report outages to the FCC's Network Outage Reporting System (NORS).

Why are outage reports important? Think of the old saw about how "you can't manage what you don't measure." The data we collect from NORS has allowed us to analyze outage trends and recommend solutions to make these networks more resilient and reliable. We should do the same for these undersea cables.

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OCBO Promotes Greater Supplier Diversity

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
August 21, 2015 - 11:51 AM

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the morning sessions of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fourth Supplier Diversity Conference, which highlighted the importance of these efforts in the communications industry.  The FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO) organized the event and during my welcoming remarks, I gave a special “shout out” to Director Thomas Reed because, prior to his tenure, the agency had never held supplier diversity workshops.

It is not often mentioned, but diversity is woven into the very fabric of our national communications policy.  Section 257 of the Communications Act directs the FCC to lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses, in the provision of parts and services, to communications companies. 

Even if this directive were not in our federal statute, supplier diversity is important because it yields tremendous benefits to all stakeholders, not just the companies awarded the bid.  Supplier diversity adds great economic value to our nation because it enables these diverse businesses to grow, which in turn, produces incredible multiplier effects. 

Our nation’s economic recovery and sustainability are improved because these enterprises are more likely to hire from and invest in their own communities, which often are underserved and lacking in adequate investment.  Because many of these businesses are small and forced by lack of scale to be resourceful, they are more likely to be energized, nimble and creative.  They bring unique talents and perspectives to market and are more likely to provide cutting edge products and services to existing and emerging consumer markets.  Given the dramatic shifts in our demographic landscape here and across the globe, these elements are proving to be keys to success.

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Next Steps on the Road to the Incentive Auction

August 20, 2015 - 01:56 PM

Earlier this month, the Commission adopted the Incentive Auction Bidding Procedures Public Notice, which sets March 29, 2016 as the start date of the first-ever incentive auction.  This fall, staff will release detailed information on the application process and announce the reverse auction opening bid prices.  We will then start taking applications.  Today we lay out the roadmap for these critical next steps and outline the actions that will occur after the applications are submitted.

Application Procedures Public Notice.  In early fall, we plan to release the Application Procedures Public Notice.  It will describe the nuts and bolts of the auction application process and post-auction procedures, including the opening dates for the application filing windows, the filing deadline, the schedule for mock auctions, and the information required on the auction application forms.

Opening Bid Prices – Reverse AuctionWe will publicly announce the reverse auction opening bid prices for all broadcasters no later than 60 days before the deadline for reverse auction applications established in the Application Procedures Public Notice.  The opening bid prices will be calculated using the formula already adopted by the Commission in the Bidding Procedures Public Notice, applying the final TV-to-TV constraints and interference-free population data for each station that we will also publicly release.

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Modernizing the FCC’s IT

by Dr. David A. Bray, FCC CIO
August 20, 2015 - 11:59 AM

Our world and the technologies we use are changing rapidly. As such, the information technology used by the Federal Communications Commission must change as well. Over the past year, we have made significant progress to upgrade and modernize our infrastructure, and we continue to work on modernizing the FCC’s legacy IT systems with the resources we have available.

Over the Labor Day Weekend, the FCC IT Team will be working to upgrade and modernize the FCC’s legacy infrastructure. Starting Wednesday, September 2nd at 6pm EDT, interactive public-facing web applications hosted at the FCC will not be available. We will work to have these web applications upgraded and available again by the morning of 8am EDT on Tuesday, September 8th.

These web applications will include our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS), Universal Licensing System (ULS), National Broadband Map, and other public-facing applications. Static content web pages under the domain, like the FCC’s consumer guides, should remain available during this period.

Of note, our cloud-based FCC Consumer Help Desk, recently modernized to a Software as a Service (SaaS) option, will continue to operate uninterrupted. It is our goal to modernize more of the FCC’s legacy IT to SaaS and other cloud-based platform options going forward. This modernization is more flexible, secure and resilient, as well as more cost effective compared to the costs of maintaining on-premise IT solutions. 

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International Coordination with Canada for a Successful Incentive Auction

August 14, 2015 - 12:42 PM

Today we are pleased to announce that we concluded another critical step in our efforts to harmonize our TV and wireless spectrum bands with Canada in preparation for the 2016 Incentive Auction.  This follows the similar results we reached with Mexico last month.  

FCC and Industry Canada staff have finalized a Statement of Intent (SOI) setting forth a framework and timeline for repurposing TV spectrum for mobile broadband on both sides of the border.  This came about in conjunction with Industry Canada issuing its Decision on repurposing the 600 MHz Band.

As part of the Decision, Industry Canadawill adopt the same 600 MHz Band Plan that the FCC adopted last year.  Industry Canada and the FCC will jointly repack TV stations on the same timetable.  Joint repacking will produce significantly increased benefits and a better result for both countries, making more broadband spectrum available than if each country proceeded independently.        

The SOI significantly reduces potential interference to future wireless operations in the border region. That means more “clean” spectrum to meet the growing consumer demand for mobile broadband in both countries.  By giving incentive auction participants the confidence that border markets will face less potential interference from Canadian broadcast stations, the SOI will promote more competitive bidding for licenses along the border and in turn encourage more U.S. broadcasters to participate in the auction.

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Upgrading Media Rules to Better Serve Consumers in Today’s Video Marketplace

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
August 12, 2015 - 11:54 AM

While summer may be hiatus for some television programs, here at the Commission we’ve been hard at work to ensure a more competitive video marketplace for American consumers.

In December of last year, Congress passed bipartisan legislation known as the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014, which instructs and permits the Commission to modernize rules regarding the satellite, cable, and broadcast television markets. Today, I am circulating a bundle of orders and proposals that fulfill this mandate to better reflect today’s media marketplace and further protect the public interest.

Our work under the STELAR legislation will accomplish two primary pro-consumer ends.  First, pursuant to STELAR requirements, we adopt a process by which parties may seek modification of a TV station’s local television market to add or delete communities in order to better reflect market realities.  This process has been in place for cable since 1992, and this order will extend that process to the satellite market, but will now also allow local governments, as well as broadcasters and satellite providers, to seek changes to markets for purposes of satellite carriage.  Where satellite providers have the technical ability to carry a station, and where broadcasters are willing to be carried, the market modification process may, in some instances, address the problem of “orphan counties” and allow consumers to receive previously unavailable in-state broadcast programming, including news, public affairs, and sports.  

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Achieving Next Generation 911 Goals

by Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson, Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
August 7, 2015 - 11:54 AM

America's 911 operations centers are on the front lines in times of crisis, fielding emergency calls and dispatching assistance to those in need. It is critical that 911 call centers - which are busy saving lives each day - have the support needed to effectively and efficiently navigate the technology transitions underway, particularly the move to IP networks and Next Generation 911. Done right, this should vastly improve emergency response. The Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point Architecture (TFOPA), an expert advisory panel to the FCC, is central to this effort.

Since its inaugural meeting in January, the TFOPA - comprised of state and local public safety leaders, directors of public safety answering points (PSAPs), emergency operations managers, operating service providers, and technology innovators - has set its sights on addressing how PSAPs can best integrate NG911 functionality into their operations. At a meeting last week, the TFOPA provided interim reports indicating good progress made by its working groups, focusing on cybersecurity, NG911 architectures, and allocation of resources. We are looking forward to the final reports and a unified set of recommendations from the TFOPA later this year.

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In the First Person: A Broadband Journey with Diabetes

by Tesch West, Connect2HealthFCC Task Force
August 4, 2015 - 03:38 PM

During the last year, the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force has had the privilege of meeting and learning from some remarkable people who are overcoming incredible health odds and embracing broadband health solutions along the way. We share one such experience from a young diabetes advocate below - in her own words. This account again demonstrates the transformative power of broadband in health and in meeting the needs of consumers with health challenges. P. Michele Ellison, Chair

* * *

My name is Tesch West and I have diabetes. I am also a legal intern on the FCC's Connect2Health Task Force, where we are charting the broadband future of health and care and working to ensure that the FCC stays ahead of the health technology curve. I was inspired to work on this Task Force because of the impact these issues have on my life. I hope that by sharing my personal story, it might inspire others with diabetes and other chronic diseases to learn more about the positive impacts broadband-based health technologies can have on their health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, just over 29 million Americans have diabetes, and only 5% are living with type 1 diabetes. While 5% may seem insignificant in comparison to the other 95% living with type 2 diabetes, I can assure you that the 1.25 million Americans with type 1 would disagree. I should know - I'm one of them. I was diagnosed when I was 10 years old. I haven’t let an autoimmune disorder hold me back from achieving my dreams, such as going to law school.

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