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Apps for Communities Announcement Thursday

by Brittany L. Stevenson, New Media Associate
December 13, 2011 - 05:56 PM

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation challenged American citizens to develop software applications (apps) that deliver personalized, actionable information to people that are least likely to be online. Using hyper-local government and other public data, people developed apps that will enable Americans to benefit from broadband communications -- regardless of geography, race, economic status, disability, residence on Tribal land, or degree of digital or English literacy -- by providing easy access to relevant content.

This week, we’re excited to unveil the winners at a ceremony at 10 AM PST Thursday Dec. 15 in Silicon Valley and online on the Apps for Communities site.

The Apps for Communities winner celebration details are: 

Date: December 15, 2011 from 10 am to 11 am
Location: Andreessen Horowitz Offices in Silicon Valley

At the celebration, you’ll find out our Grand Prize winner ($30,000), Second and Third Prize winners ($20k and $10k respectively), the five Runners Up prizes ($1k each), and the bonus prize winners!

Checkout all the eligible apps:

Remember to follow @communityapps, or the Apps for Communities Facebook page for updates and news.  Hope to see you there!

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Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) Filing Window Opens

by Jeffrey Steinberg, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
December 9, 2011 - 02:17 PM

On December 15, 2011, the filing window for service providers to file annual hearing aid compatibility (HAC) reports opens. The reports can be filed between December 15, 2011 and January 17, 2012.  This current filing window is only for service providers. The filing window for device manufacturers opens on June 15th of each year.

Under the FCC's rules, providers of digital mobile wireless services and manufacturers of wireless handsets must file annual reports on their offering of handsets that are compatible with hearing aids. These reports contain information about the hearing aid compatibility status of each handset offered, functionalities of hearing aid-compatible handsets, labeling of hearing aid-compatible handsets, and the filing company's consumer outreach efforts. 

Current reports as well as prior reports can be viewed at the hearing aid compatibility page.

Additional information about hearing aid compatibility is available in a fact sheet and an encyclopedia article.

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Broadband Speed: FCC Data Is Improving the Market

by Joel Gurin, Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
December 5, 2011 - 11:40 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:78:height=98,width=70]]As part of our Consumer Empowerment Agenda, the FCC has been taking action to ensure that consumers are getting the information they need to make informed decisions.  Our efforts to combat bill shock are one recent example, where we worked out a landmark agreement with the wireless industry to alert consumers before they are charged overage fees.  The residential broadband market is another area where consumers may be faced with decisions they don’t have adequate information to make.  Signing up for broadband—high-speed Internet—service can been a real challenge for consumers.  To be an informed shopper for any service, you have to know what will best meet your needs, and you have to know that service providers will deliver what they advertise.

When it comes to broadband, consumers are often in the dark on both counts. Many people are still puzzling out exactly how many megabits per second (Mbps) they need for web surfing, gaming, or streaming video. And, until recently, there was little information available about whether broadband providers actually delivered the speeds they promised.

The FCC has taken on this issue, beginning with the basic question: Are broadband providers delivering the speeds they promise to consumers?  For a year, we worked with an expert technical consulting group, advisers from academia and consumer organizations, and a collaborative of representatives from industry to conduct the first nationwide scientific study of home broadband service.  Almost 7,000 consumer volunteers across the country used hardware to monitor their broadband performance continuously for several months, providing close to 160 million points of data used for analysis.  This study measured the performance of 13 major broadband providers, covering 86 percent of wireline residential broadband consumers.

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EEO Best Practices Summit

by Daniel Margolis, OCBO Attorney Advisor
December 5, 2011 - 11:26 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:345:]]Are you an FCC broadcast licensee or MVPD operator concerned about your EEO responsibilities?  Each year approximately five percent of all licensees in the television and radio services will be randomly selected for an EEO audit.  On January 4, 2012, the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO) along with the Policy Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau, will host a summit discussing best practices and compliance issues with the FCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity rules.  The summit will provide impacted regulatees, broadcasters and MVPDs, with insight from Commission staff as well as representatives from other regulated entities. 

As part of its efforts to assist small, women- and minority-owned communications businesses, OCBO will be hosting a series of panels with representatives from a wide cross section of regulated entities.  Panelists will give interested parties a summary of the relevant regulations and will discuss various industry best-practices for achieving viewpoint diversity through broad outreach and recruitment. 

The morning event will consist of two separate panels.  The first panel will feature FCC officials who are responsible for oversight of the Commission’s EEO program and practitioners who have counseled broadcasters and MVPDs on creating and maintaining FCC compliant EEO programs.  The second panel, will feature representatives from regulated entities who will present their perspectives on daily compliance issues that they face on an ongoing basis. 

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FCC Launches the Small Biz Cyber Planner

by Jordan Usdan and Josh Gottheimer, Chairman's Office
November 17, 2011 - 09:53 AM

The FCC is launching the Small Biz Cyber Planner, an online resource to help small businesses create customized cybersecurity plans. This is the result of an unprecedented public-private partnership between government experts and private IT and security companies, including DHS, NCSA, NIST, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Chertoff Group, Symantec, Sophos, Visa, Microsoft, HP, McAfee, The Identity Theft Council, ADP and others. The online tool is available at

By almost any measure small businesses have an outsized impact on our economy and it is critically important that small businesses, a vibrant engine for job and idea creation, are secure using the many broadband enabled tools they need to efficiently run their businesses. According to a survey released in October, 2011 by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), two-thirds of U.S. small businesses rely on broadband Internet for their day-to-day operations.  

However, the Symantec survey also found that 85 percent of small businesses think their companies are cyber-secure, but barely half of these businesses actually have a cybersecurity strategy or plan in place and nearly 80 percent say they lack a written Internet security policy. With larger companies increasing their online defenses, small businesses are now the low hanging fruit for cyber criminals and many may have a false sense of security.

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Low-Cost Broadband and Computers for Students and Families

by Josh Gottheimer and Jordan Usdan, Chairman's Office
November 10, 2011 - 05:10 PM

Yesterday, at a public school in Washington, DC, joined by cable and technology executives and nonprofit leaders, FCC Chairman Genachowski announced an unprecedented effort to help close the digital divide, bringing low-cost broadband and computers to millions of low-income Americans.

Right now nearly one-third of the country – 100 million Americans – doesn’t have high-speed Internet at home.  Compare that to Singapore and Korea, where broadband adoption rates top 90 percent.  Minorities and low-income Americans are the hardest hit by this divide.  Research shows that cost, relevance, and digital literacy are the primary reasons many people aren’t connecting. Whether we're talking about jobs, education, or health care, in this day and age, getting online is a necessity, not a convenience.

The “Connect to Compete” effort will offer millions of families eligible for the National School Lunch Program discounted $9.95/ month broadband Internet, $150 laptop or desktop refurbished computers, and free digital literacy training.  This represents a $4 billion in-kind offering for tens of millions of Americans. And it won’t spend any taxpayer dollars.

Yesterday, President Obama said: “This important partnership between my Administration and American businesses represents a major step towards closing the digital divide -- connecting more families to the 21st century economy, creating new jobs and unleashing new opportunities, and helping America win the future.”

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The 2011 OCBO Capitalization Strategies Workshop

by Thomas Reed , OCBO Director
October 24, 2011 - 04:40 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:344:]]On December 8, 2011, the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities hosted its third annual Capitalization Strategies Workshop for small businesses involved in the media and telecommunications industries.  Through seminars like this one, which also feature a financial mentorship program, OCBO is connecting entrepreneurs with financial experts who make daily decisions about capital infusion.  The focus this year was banking institutions and SBA products.

As part of its capitalization strategies program, OCBO focuses on small and diverse businesses looking to launch new enterprises or simply to expand their existing businesses.  Our workshops offer entrepreneurs a nuts-and-bolts approach to obtaining public or private sector financing and the many ways new businesses can tailor their marketing strategies to prospective lenders and investors.   

This year’s workshop showcased experts from private equity, banking, and government lending institutions.  They addressed capital formation strategies applicable to a variety of business sectors including broadband, cable, broadcast TV, radio, wireless services, common carrier facilities and content programming products. 

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FCC and Connect To Compete Tackle Broadband Adoption Challenge

by Josh Gottheimer and Jordan Usdan, Chairman's Office
October 13, 2011 - 12:14 PM

Connect to Compete

Yesterday, joined by executives and nonprofit leaders, Chairman Genachowski announced a first-of-its kind national effort to address broadband adoption, digital literacy, and the employment skills gap.  If you have a moment, there are two articles worth reading from USA Today and the New York Times.

Right now, nearly one-third of the country – 100 million Americans – don’t have high-speed Internet at home. That’s compared to Singapore and Korea where the adoption rates top 90 percent. 

Some facts:

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Connect America Fund: Putting Consumers on the Map

by Sharon Gillett and Michael Byrne, Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau and Geographic Information Officer
October 12, 2011 - 12:09 PM

Last week, Chairman Genachowski unveiled his proposal to accelerate broadband build-out – wired and wireless – to unserved homes, businesses and anchor institutions across the country through the Connect America Fund. If adopted, this proposal would connect millions more Americans to high-speed Internet and bring enormous benefits to individual consumers, our nation’s economic recovery and our global competitiveness. 

View the full map

For example, consumers who make long-distance calls – including nearly all landline and mobile phone subscribers – will benefit from reduced prices or greater value for the money – or both, with an FCC-estimated $1 billion or more per year in benefits for wireless consumers alone.

Reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the Intercarrier Compensation  (ICC) system can’t come soon enough. There are currently 18 million Americans who lack access to broadband. The harms from not having broadband are rising every day for consumers, and for our country.

To help illustrate the size and scope of the challenge – and the urgent need for reform – we have developed this interactive map, which shows with striking clarity that large swaths of our nation are being bypassed by the broadband revolution.

On this map, you’ll see a mix of served, partially served, and unserved areas, often right next to each other. 

Without USF and ICC reform, the map is unlikely to change much.

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Behind the Scenes with Apps for Communities

by Brittany L. Stevenson, New Media Associate
September 30, 2011 - 07:04 PM

So, who's behind the 50+ apps that we've received so far? Curious to know some details?

Read more »

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