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Bike to Work Day

by David Robbins, Managing Director
May 17, 2012 - 05:47 PM

The FCC’s growing community of cyclists has much to celebrate and be congratulated for as bicycling enthusiasts across the country mark National Bike Month.

Community events around the country have so far included Bike to School Day and Bike to Work Week, culminating today in Bike to Work Day. Here at the Commission, they have also included two distinct honors.

On Wednesday, the Interagency Task Force for Bicycles and Active Transportation, created to implement President Obama’s executive order to promote a clean energy economy, named the FCC as the recipient of its first-ever Fedbikes Award. The award recognizes excellence in support for federal agency bicycle commuting.

And in April, the national League of American Bicyclists named the FCC as one of 67 new Bicycle Friendly Businesses. With its bronze-level certification, the Commission joins more than 400 local businesses, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies nationwide that are “transforming the American workplace” by supporting bicycle commuting, the League said.

The recognition is a credit to an FCC cyclist community that works passionately, and with strong support from Chairman Genachowski and Commission leadership, to promote and support bicycle commuting throughout the agency. Among the many accomplishments to date:

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Countdown to IPv6

by Henning Schulzrinne, Chief Technology Officer
May 16, 2012 - 04:48 PM

What if I told you that the world was running out of postal addresses or phone numbers, and that, in less than two months, many companies you regularly do business with will have a new system of contact information?  You’d want to learn more about this system and perhaps make a few preparations, right?  Such a big transition is not happening for postal addresses or phone numbers, but something close to that is happening for Internet addresses.

World IPv6 Launch Day is on June 6, 2012.  On that day, many Internet service providers (ISPs), manufacturers of networking equipment (such as routers) and web-based companies will permanently enable Internet Protocol version Six (IPv6) for their products and services.  As part of this event, consumers, businesses, governments, charities and anyone else that relies on the Internet are encouraged to check their computers and network equipment for IPv6 readiness.

A little background: In order for devices to find each other and connect over the Internet, each device must have an Internet protocol (IP) address.  The current IP system is Version 4 (IPv4), which makes available over four billion IP addresses.  However, the huge increase in Internet users and devices worldwide means that IPv4 addresses are running out.  IPv6, the next-generation protocol, provides approximately 340 undecillion IP addresses (that’s 340 with 36 digits after it), ensuring availability of new IP addresses far into the future, as well as promoting the continued expansion and innovation of the Internet.

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Chairman Genachowski Visits Consumers Union’s Testing Lab, Discusses FCC Consumer Empowerment Agenda

by William D. Freedman, Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
May 11, 2012 - 12:08 PM


Chairman Genachowski at Consumers Union national headquarters in Yonkers, New York.
Chairman Genachowski at Consumers Union national headquarters in Yonkers, New York.


Last week, Chairman Julius Genachowski visited the Consumers Union (CU) national headquarters in Yonkers, New York. The headquarters is home to CU’s National Testing and Research Center, which includes extensive in-house laboratories where consumer products are tested.  The organization also famously publishes Consumer Reports.

On the laboratory tour, Chairman Genachowski joined Jim Guest, CU CEO and Consumer Reports President, to watch CU’s expert testing team evaluate smartphones and 3D televisions, discuss acoustics in a sound testing lab, and tour a situational “living room,” in which trained consumers rate products in a true-to-life environment. 

In addition to witnessing first-hand the testing labs at CU, Chairman Genachowski also discussed a number of consumer issues with the organization’s leadership, including, FCC initiatives to combat cell phone theft, prevent “bill shock”, and phone cramming and hidden fees on prepaid calling cards.

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Girls in Information and Communication Technology Day

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 8, 2012 - 05:45 PM

On Thursday, April 26, I had the honor of speaking at the International Telecommunication Union's event marking Girls in ICT Day in New York. I joined successful, thoughtful and dynamic women to figure out how we can help get more girls and women into ICTs (information and communication technologies). You can watch the event, read about it, see the agenda, and view pictures too.

Girls In Tech Day - Commissioner ClyburnThe statistics reveal how real this digital gender divide is in the United States. The ICT industry accounts for one-sixth of the United States’ gross domestic product, but between 1990 and 2005, only one in four communications jobs created were filled by women. Of all Fortune 500 communications companies, women comprise a mere 15% of top executives. Why should women be left out of a field with such opportunity?

During my panel, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, said that ICTs could be the key to solving unemployment in Europe. She also spoke passionately about the urgent need to get girls into tech today so that they become tomorrow’s ICT leaders. I agree with her. As I told the conference participants, Dr. King had it right when he wrote from the Birmingham jail: "More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will."

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FCC Launches Connect America Fund

by Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
April 25, 2012 - 04:51 PM

The principle of universal service is that all Americans need access to affordable communications.  In the last century, universal service programs connected virtually the entire nation to telephone service.  Now, in the 21st century, when high-speed Internet has become the essential communications tool for jobs, innovation, economic growth, education, healthcare, public safety and building communities, our goal must be to connect every American, regardless of where they live.  To do this without imposing new funding burdens on consumers means eliminating inefficient rules and bad incentives that have plagued the Universal Service Fund for years. 

That’s exactly what the Commission did last year when it voted unanimously to reform and modernize the Universal Service Fund, it set the express goal of bringing broadband access to the more than 18 million Americans, mostly rural, who lack it.  The centerpiece of this modernization is the Connect America Fund, or CAF, which transforms the old voice-centric universal service fund for rural areas into an engine for rural broadband deployment.  To meet these goals without growing the fund beyond its current size, the FCC also imposed long-overdue fiscal responsibility and accountability measures, limiting the universal service fees paid by consumers and business across the country.

Today, we take two important steps toward reaching these goals.

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Wrap Up: FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Antoine Green, Information Systems Support Specialist
April 20, 2012 - 01:40 PM

The goal of our first developer day (perhaps even the first of its kind in government) was to further innovation in accessible technologies and foster citizen participation in open government. That event was well received by the developer community and many were eager for the next.

Naturally when we announced our next developer event, it was met with great excitement from the developer community and other federal agencies. The goal of the .Gov Developer Meet-Up was to expose the developer community to most of the .gov developer resources currently in production or launching in the next couple of months. “The approach today is much more of an organic nature. We really wanted to hit the meet-up style,” said Michael Byrne. We decided to go with a simple “meet-up” style event rather than a traditional code sprint because there was an expressed need for this kind of forum.

Although the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski was unable to attend in person, he recorded video remarks which played during the first moments of the event. During his remarks he stated, “ represent the right trend and in many ways the cutting edge in government data, finding new and novel ways to deliver transparency and greater openness.”

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New FCC Website to Help Consumers Beat ‘Bill Shock’

by William D. Freedman, Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 19, 2012 - 01:24 PM

The arrival of spring brings with it good news for consumers suffering from that malady known as bill shock: the appearance, like April dandelions, of sudden and unexpected overage charges on their wireless bills.  Bill shock can happen when a subscriber is charged for unknowingly exceeding plan limits for data, voice, or text, or is traveling abroad and gets hit with unexpected international roaming charges.  Thanks to the recent agreement by a group of carriers that account for service to 97 percent of U.S. wireless customers, important information is on its way that will allow consumers to save money on their monthly bills. 

And now, the FCC has added a portal to its website that will let wireless customers know which carriers are providing this information.

In 2010, the Commission identified the growing problem of bill shock and proposed rules that would require carriers to send usage alerts to consumers when they approach and reach monthly plan limits, and also send alerts when they were about to incur international roaming charges.  Last year, while the Commission’s staff was reviewing the comments that had been filed about these proposed rules, CTIA- the Wireless Association approached the FCC and proposed that, instead of the rules, its member carriers would agree toprovide the types of alerts that the Commission had called for.  Last October, CTIA revised its Consumer Code for Wireless Service to require that its participating carriers provide these alerts. 

Although these carriers are not required by the Code to start offering these alerts until October 17, 2012, according to CTIA, some are already providing their customers with some of this critical information.  

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Launching the Broadband Partnership of the Americas

by Mindel De La Torre, Chief, International Bureau
April 17, 2012 - 04:52 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]President Obama’s visit to Colombia last weekend for the Summit of the Americas included an exciting new broadband announcement: the Broadband Partnership of the Americas (BPA), a vital new collaboration to expand broadband access in the Americas.  The Summit of the Americas is convened every three or four years to bring together heads of state in the Americas to discuss issues critical to the region.  This year’s Summit theme -- Connecting the Americas:  Partnership for Prosperity -- focused on the role of physical integration and regional cooperation in fostering economic growth and development across the Hemisphere.  Not surprisingly, access to broadband played a lead role.

Studies show that broadband networks and broadband connectivity drive economic growth and development, and provide an important platform to address social issues including poverty, health care and education.  A study by the World Bank found that in less developed economies, every 10% increase in broadband penetration accelerates economic growth by approximately 1.38 percentage points, even grater than the 1.21 percentage points increase found in developed economies. Over the past 15 years, the Internet has enabled as much economic growth per capita as the Industrial Revolution generated in its first 50 years.

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Roll Call: FCC .Gov Developer Meet-Up

by Brittany L. Stevenson, New Media Associate
April 11, 2012 - 07:05 PM

We are just five days away from the second FCC .Gov  /Developer Meet-Up being held in the FCC Commission meeting room April 16 from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM EDT. The .Gov /Developer Meet-up will introduce federal agencies with /developer resources on their own hosted websites to the /developer community. This event fosters the community of government transparency through sharing of open data.

The .Gov /Developer Meet-Up is designed to expose the /developer community to majority of the .Gov and developer resources currently in production and projects that agencies plan to release in upcoming months.  We have classified this event as ‘meet-up’ instead of traditional code sprint to harbor a more informal atmosphere for the developer community to share ideas.

We have an outstanding line-up, including video remarks from FCC Chairman Genachowski and an introduction and event welcome by US Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, and other notable presenters and attendees. So far, we have confirmed over 60 attendees, and 13 government agencies will give short ignite style presentations on their published application programming interfaces (APIs) and developer resources.

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Cutting-edge Health IT in the District at Children’s National Medical Center

by Jordan Usdan, Deputy Director, Public-Private Initiatives
March 30, 2012 - 03:11 PM

Last week I accompanied the Chairman for a tour, technology demonstration, and dialog on health IT and telemedicine at Children’s National Medical Center here in Washington, DC. 

We at the FCC, through the National Broadband Plan, Rural Health Care Pilots, and other telemedicine initiatives, are engaged in policymaking to improve the quality, efficiency, and availability of health care through communication technology.

I’ve read the news articles, policy briefs and heard from health IT professionals here at the FCC. But, nothing rivals witnessing firsthand how health IT is revolutionizing hospitals and doctors’ offices.

The first stop on the tour was the nurses’ station in the emergency department.  A half dozen LCD panels each listed the name, condition, wait time, heart rate, and status (pending laboratory and radiology studies) of the admitted patients.  This was previously tracked on a whiteboard in a static fashion. Moreover, all of this data is stored for quality analysis in patient records.

Next, we visited the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit where each room had a touchscreen with secure access to the patient’s essential aggregated health information.  We also learned that doctors can remotely monitor the live data feed from medical equipment from their home office or on their smartphone.

We then received a demonstration at Children’s National’s telemedicine center. Children’s National has affiliate offices regionally, nationally, and internationally that allow for telemedicine consultations with Children’s National’s expert doctors. This enables doctors to see more patients and saves travel time for both the patients and doctors.

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