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Official FCC Blog

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?

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FCC and FEMA: How to Communicate Before, During and After a Major Disaster

September 21, 2011 - 11:46 AM

By Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Ask anyone who has lived through a significant disaster what that experience was like and – without a doubt – one of the things some people are likely to recall is how difficult it was to communicate from their mobile phones with friends, family and emergency services like 911 in the immediate aftermath.

Many of us were reminded of this last month, when both a 5.8 magnitude earthquake and Hurricane Irene struck parts of the East Coast. People immediately reached for their phones to call loved ones or 911.  Unfortunately, in some cases, loss of power made communication difficult.

The FCC and FEMA are doing everything we can to empower the public to be prepared for all emergencies (you can visit or to learn more).  But one of the lessons learned from that August earthquake was that we can do more to educate the public about the most effective ways to communicate before, during and after a disaster. 

Today, we are pleased to release a set of new, easy-to-follow tips to help all Americans prepare their homes and mobile phones for a disaster.  These tips are practical things everyone can do to better preserve the ability to communicate effectively during – and immediately after – a disaster. 

While we don’t have control over when or where the next disaster will strike, we do have control over what we do to prepare.  Check out these tips and please, take one more step and share it with your networks. Use Twitter, Facebook, email or a good old-fashioned phone call to help us spread the word – and help more Americans get ready before the next disaster strikes.

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FCC Announces Public Testing of First Television White Spaces Database

by Julie Knapp, Chief, FCC Office of Engineering and Technology
September 14, 2011 - 03:17 PM

Julius P. Knapp

White spaces are unused spectrum between TV stations and are considered prime real estate because signals in this band travel well, making the band ideally suited for mobile wireless devices. Unlocking this valuable spectrum will open the doors for new industries to arise, create American jobs, and spurr new investment and innovation. 

The availability of spectrum for unlicensed devices has fueled a wave of innovation and new businesses based on technologies such as as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DECT cordless phones, baby monitors, RF ID, smart utility meters, and many others.  This new unlicensed spectrum is powerful platform for innovation and in turn, experimental use, holding rich potential for further investment in the development of new technologies and services such as "Super Wi-Fi", wireless broadband networks, video devices, and machine to machine communications, among others.   

Today, the Commission is taking a critical step towards that goal by issuing a public notice announcing the start of the first trial of a TV white spaces database. The limited public testing of Spectrum Bridge’s database system is intended to allow the public to access and test the system to ensure that it correctly identifies channels that are available for unlicensed TV band devices, properly registers those facilities entitled to protection, and provides protection to authorized services and registered facilities as specified in the rules.

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Apps for Communities- Reminder to submit entries

by Tammy Sun, FCC Communications Director
September 8, 2011 - 01:39 PM

It’s the final days of summer and the Apps for Communities entry deadline’s been extended until October 3, 2011. Thanks for all those who’ve already submitted; our judges are looking forward to reviewing your apps. To enter, apply via the portal and add a link to your team’s fully functioning app or demonstration and the source code.  

The Apps for Communities Challenge is an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Federal Communications Commission. The Challenge will offer up to $100,000 in prizes to winning application developers and is intended to bring together providers of public data, developers and traditionally underserved populations through a national contest. The challenge is an effort to drive the great technical skills we have in our country out into our local communities. A particular goal is to build new applications to improve access for people who struggle with accessing information and services online: Seniors, non-English speakers, people who are uncomfortable with technology, and others. The results of this contest can have an enormously powerful impact on local communities across the country.

This year, we’re honored to have investors, technologist, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropist who have agreed to server as judges for the competition:  Marc Andreessen, Mayor Cory Booker, Charles Best, Brad Feld, Jen Pahlka and Tom Lee.   

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Back to School in a Digital World Forum – A call for your questions

by Tammy Sun, FCC Communications Director
September 7, 2011 - 03:35 PM

Like many parents around the country, the FCC’s getting ready for back-to-school season. Tomorrow, we’re hosting Back to School in a Digital World, a forum bringing together parents, educators and experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges around technology use by adolescents. Recent surveys show that nearly three quarters of online teens use social network sites and, on average, teenagers send one text message every ten minutes during waking hours. The event will highlight questions from parents, educators and others from across the country. 

We want to hear from you. As parents, tell us your burning questions – the ones you talk most about with your friends, family, teachers and others – surrounding issues related to your child’s online and digital experiences, at home, at school, on mobile phones, tablets and other devices. The FCC has set up a crowdsourcing site to help collect some of the most common questions from parents on this important topic. Submit your questions – or vote for topics you’d like to see discussed – here:  Anyone can participate by submitting a question or voting for questions.  The forum will be webcast live on  Parents will also be able to send in questions during the forum at or tweet their questions to #fcclive. So feel free to give us your questions now, and one way or another, we’ll respond!

Back to School in a Digital World is free and open to the public. If you live in the Washington-DC area and want to attend, here are the details.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

10:00AM – 11:15AM Eastern


Columbia HeightsEducational Campus

Main Auditorium

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Tips for Communicating in an Emergency

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
August 27, 2011 - 01:59 PM
James Arden Barnett, Jr.

I want to share some important emergency information to you for during the storm so that you and your family stay safe.

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Electronic Filing for Full-Sized Cellular Maps

by Chris Miller, Program Analyst, Mobility Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
August 26, 2011 - 11:53 AM

This week we made the announcement that starting on September 8, 2011, applicants can file full-sized (1:500,000 scale) cellular maps electronically using a standard GIS format.

These maps are filed when licensees of 800 MHz cellular service apply for authority to operate in an “unserved area” or notify the FCC of a reduction in their Cellular Geographic Service Area (CGSA).

With this exciting option, applicants will no longer need to file full-sized paper maps (although they can if they want to). By filing these maps electronically, we believe everyone involved benefits. First, the public will now gain instant access to these maps by using readily available GIS software. Applicants no longer need to print and mail these large maps to the FCC. And, we will now have another tool in our hands as we review these maps.

There are some specific steps that need to be followed when these maps are filed, so please take a look at the Public Notice we released for additional information.

We really are excited about this new option and look forward to having the first electronic maps filed next month.

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At the National Council of La Raza Conference

by Keyla Hernandez-Ulloa, Associate Chief, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division
August 23, 2011 - 11:50 AM

Embrace Now, this year’s National Council of La Raza (NCLR) conference, kicked off at the end of July. The Commission was well represented as we exhibited at the conference’s National Latino Family Expo. We provided information on a range of topics from the Do Not Call Registry to unwanted telephone marketing calls and information on finding local broadcast television stations. Of particular interest was Lifeline - which provides eligible consumers a basic monthly discount on one basic local service - and Link-Up - which pays for part of a connection or activation charge for new phone service. Consumers who were not aware of the eligibility requirements or restrictions were advised to contact their local service provider or public utilities commission. Most attendees who visited our booth wanted information on how to file an informal complaint or how to comment.National Council La Raza

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Announcing Apps for Communities Deadline Extended

by Clay Johnson, Partner, Big Window Labs
August 19, 2011 - 04:44 PM

We are thrilled to have already received over 35 entries to the Apps for Communities contest, but because we've just recently confirmed our impressive slate of judges, the Knight Foundation and the FCC wanted to give everyone a few extra weeks.  The results of this contest can have an enormously powerful impact on local communities across the country and we could not be happier that so many participants are interested in our contest.  As a result, we're extending our deadline until Monday, October 3rd.  

In addition, we are also honored to have the participation of so many distinguished judges:  Marc Andreessen, Mayor Cory Booker, Charles Best, Brad Feld, Jen Pahlka and Tom Lee.  They are looking forward to judging your entries.  This challenge is an effort to drive the great technical skills we have in our country out into our local communities. A particular goal is to build new applications to improve access for people who struggle with accessing information and services online: Seniors, non-English speakers, people who are uncomfortable with technology, and others. This contest seeks to bring the value of broadband to people who are, up until now, less likely to be online.

For those of you who've already submitted apps -- if you'd like to tweak and fine-tune your app and edit your submission, please feel free. Or if you'd like to double your chances of winning, you're welcome to use this extra time to create a second entry.

For those of you looking to enter our contest -- now's your chance to get started.  We've got an extra month on our deadline -- and if you'd like to get your work in front of these impressive judges, improve the way people use data in communities across America, and potentially win up to $60,000 -- now's your chance!

Good luck and thank you.


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Enhancements for Part 87 Aviation Radio Service Applications

by Scot Stone, Deputy Chief, Mobility Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
August 16, 2011 - 12:10 PM

Today, we announced enhancements for certain types of Part 87 Aviation Radio Service applications filed in the Universal Licensing System (ULS).

First, applications can be filed for new or modified aeronautical enroute and flight test stations for authorization to operate with 8.33 kilohertz (kHz) channel spacing.  This enhancement is based on an FCC decision that permits voluntary narrowbanding from 25 kHz channel spacing to 8.33 kHz channel spacing. Narrowbanding aeronautical enroute channels provides the aviation industry with the ability to greatly enhance spectrum efficiency and alleviate congestion. Likewise, narrowbanding benefits flight test stations, which also face increasing frequency congestion.

Also, licensees that hold aircraft station licenses can file transfer of control and assignment of authorizations applications in ULS. This enhancement is based on an FCC decision that removes the prohibition on the assignment or transfer of aircraft station licenses. This change reduces administrative burdens and transactional costs for licensees.

Additional information about both of these changes is located in a Public Notice released today by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

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