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Official FCC Blog

State SPANs

by Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to the Chairman
June 14, 2011 - 02:05 PM

From 2003 to 2008, the amount spent by state governments rose almost 20 percent. During the same time, the number of reporters covering state government declined by one third. Though it's no panacea, one thing that might help is if every state in the country had a state-level C-SPAN. 

Chapter 8 of the Information Needs of Communities report states:

“Currently, state public affairs networks (SPANs) air on cable TV systems in 23 states and the District of Columbia, delivering gavel-to-gavel coverage of state legislative, executive, judicial, and agency proceedings, as well as public policy events, supplemented with a wide variety of produced public affairs programming.7 Furthermore, the National Conference on State Legis­latures has found that live webcasts (audio, video, or both) of legislative proceedings are available from at least one chamber (House, Senate, or both) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.8 Al­though many of these webcasts are available to the public via broadcast or online links, in 29 states or territories they are not carried on cable.9 To date, satellite providers have not carried SPANs in any state except Alaska.10

In several states, SPANs have played a key role in providing statehouse and other political coverage. For example:

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Pushing Less Paper at the FCC

by Pamela Arluk, Assistant Division Chief, Pricing and Policy Division
June 10, 2011 - 12:03 PM

When I began to oversee our tariff functions several years ago, I was struck by the fact that although incumbent telephone companies filed tariffs over an electronic filing system, the nondominant companies still filed their tariffs by paper and on CD-Rom.  We had boxes and boxes of paper tariffs that needed to be processed.  Many times it was difficult to find a nondominant tariff when a customer or carrier requested one.

The paper filings also presented problems for our tariff logs, which is how the public  finds out when a new tariff is filed.   Most tariffs are filed on 15 days’ notice, which means that other carriers/customers have a limited time to challenge a tariff before it becomes effective.  Unfortunately, it took several days for a paper filing to appear on the tariff log, making carriers scramble if they wanted to challenge a nondominant tariff.  For these reasons, we decided in the Pricing Policy Division that it would be beneficial to add these tariffs to our Electronic Tariff Filing System or ETFS.

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First Nationwide Test of the EAS

by James A. Barnett, Jr., Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
June 9, 2011 - 12:45 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:height=106,width=70]]Early warnings save lives. This was demonstrated recently and dramatically during the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated Eastern Japan. Except for Japan’s early warning systems, loss of life would have been much higher. Here at the FCC, we have a series of initiatives to ensure that similarly effective alerting systems are available here in the U.S.

A new era in alerting will commence on November 9, at 2:00 p.m. EST, when the FCC and our federal partners, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Weather Service, will conduct the first ever top-to-bottom, nation-wide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). This test is vital to ensuring that the EAS, the primary alerting system available to the American public, works as designed.

In existence since 1994, the EAS is a media communications-based alerting system designed to transmit emergency alerts and warnings to the American public at the national, state and local levels. Broadcasters, satellite radio and television service providers, cable television and wireline video providers, are all required to participate. Each year, they transmit thousands of alerts and warnings to the American public regarding weather threats, child abductions, and many other types of emergencies. EAS participants provide a significant and largely unsung service to the nation by providing vital information in crises, and the system is designed to work when nothing else does.

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Reform of Procedures, Ex Parte Rules

by Austin Schlick, General Counsel
May 27, 2011 - 03:50 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:124:height=100,width=65]]A little more than a year ago, I blogged that the FCC had begun two formal proceedings on ways to reform its procedures.  I’m pleased to report now that the reforms are reality.  As a result, starting on Wednesday, June 1, the Commission and the public will benefit from greater openness and fairness in the Commission’s decision-making.

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Rural Broadband Access in Nebraska

by Michael Steffen, Special Counsel, Office of General Counsel
May 26, 2011 - 03:55 PM

Last week, Chairman Genachowski visited two small towns in Nebraska that illustrate the opportunities created by broadband for those who have it, and the opportunities denied to those left behind in the world of dial-up.
In Diller, the Chairman visited C&C Processing, where he met two entrepreneurs who have built a thriving meat business powered by a vibrant web presence, online sales, and digital technology throughout their growing operation. Since getting online, Chad and Courtney Lottman have more than doubled their sales and nearly tripled their payroll, creating jobs in their small town.
In Liberty, the Chairman met with area residents who have no broadband, and discussed the business and personal challenges they face as a result. We recorded a short video blog during his visit.

At the FCC, we’re hard at work trying to close the gap that exists between towns like Diller and Liberty by modernizing the Universal Service Fund – the primary government mechanism for funding rural communications networks – to focus on broadband.

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National Hurricane Preparedness Week

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau
May 25, 2011 - 01:17 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:height=100,width=66]]The Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau can trace it’s origin from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  So, for us in the Bureau, National Hurricane Preparedness Week marks an extremely significant time when our work and focus are clearly oriented to the potential damage these storms can have on our Nation’s communication infrastructure.
For those who live in areas that are susceptible to hurricanes, this week should also be a time of preparation.  And preparation means planning for yourself and the safety and security of your family.  Hurricanes that reach the shore in heavily populated areas are often extremely damaging to all forms of communications.  Television and radio stations, home “landline” phones, and cell phones can all be impacted.  And those that are impacted include our emergency responders; police, fire, medical, and our 911 answering centers.
So, what should you do?  Make a plan right now.  From the website you can find great planning advice.  Here’s one helpful excerpt:
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

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Broadband Availability: It’s So Much More Than Just Access to the Internet

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
May 24, 2011 - 06:30 AM

Last week I was in Omaha, Nebraska to engage in several discussions about the importance of ubiquitous and affordable, high-speed Internet. As you know, we are spending a lot of time at the Commission considering how to reform and modernize the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation regime (ICC) to ensure that broadband is available throughout the nation. And we continued a discussion with consumers, industry, and our colleagues at various state commissions about our pending proposals last Wednesday at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

For broadband to be truly available to consumers, we have to consider more than their physical access to it. We also must take into account their ability to adopt it. We know that of the 1/3 of Americans who haven’t adopted broadband, most haven’t done so because of the costs involved. For these consumers, they must rely on Internet access at their jobs, local libraries, schools, and family and friends’ homes. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Charles B. Washington Branch of the Omaha Public Library to see how this neighborhood anchor is meeting the high-speed Internet needs of the local community. There are terminals all throughout the library. The children’s section has computers. There are two computer areas for adults and another area just for teens. A recipient of BTOP funds, the library will be expanding its access to more computers for citizens, as the demand is very high. This isn’t surprising, of course, because we know that high-speed Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Without it, citizens are disadvantaged in finding a job and communicating. I saw first-hand the benefits of Internet access—the Internet research, commerce, and communicating that the citizens of North Omaha engage in at their local library.

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What is "place" and why does it matter?

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
May 20, 2011 - 04:37 PM


Today, I spoke at a forum on Place-Based Public Management sponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration. The purpose of the forum was to explore how place-based policies might improve public management.

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Managing Cybersecurity for Small Business

by Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
May 18, 2011 - 10:05 AM

In today’s connected economy, businesses must be certain that their operations are secure. The numbers from across the country show that, for too many small businesses, cybersecurity is overlooked. One in two don’t have security plans in place, while three of every four small and medium sized businesses report being affected by cyber attacks. We can never be too vigilant in preparing for cyber threats.

Yesterday, we took the first step in addressing the issue as Chairman Genachowski held the Cybersecurity Roundtable: Protecting Small Businesses. We hosted former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, panelists from top security companies such as Symantec, and even heard from a small business owner whose company fell victim to a cyber attack.

Maurice Jones, the Chief Operating Officer of Parkinson Construction, explained that not long ago his company became ensnared in a phishing attack. “We unknowingly clicked links in a valid-looking email,” he said. The thieves took hold of Parkinson’s bank account information and defrauded them of a huge sum of money before they could take hold of what had happened. Cyber risk is everywhere today. Understanding that risk and implementing a security plan for your employees is crucial.

There are a number of steps you can take immediately to protect your business. As Secretary Chertoff reminded the audience, “The focus is on managing cyber risk, not eliminating it.” Be proactive and adopt these ten tips to fit your business. They include training your employees in security practices, updating your antivirus software, backing up files, and requiring individual user accounts.

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The FCC as a Platform: New Tools for Developers to Get Involved

by Abhi Nemani, Director of Strategy and Communications, Code for America
May 16, 2011 - 01:15 PM

There’s a saying that technology makes easy problems easy, and hard problems possible.
Well the FCC is taking on some very hard and important challenges, and doing so smartly with the use of technology to not only increase transparency but also leverage public participation. In particular, by opening up access to its data, the commission is enabling developers across the country to create innovative and useful applications for anyone to use.
Today, Code for America is pleased to announce that we’re helping make it a little easier to get involved by building development tools to jumpstart civic coding with the FCC.
Code for America (CfA) is a new non-profit that recruits talented, passionate, and tech-savvy individuals into public service to use their skills to make a difference. We recently held a “hack-a-thon” with some computer science students at Stanford University, and over two dozens college students and CfA fellows spent the day building “wrappers” for the FCC’s new application protocol interfaces, APIs.

Wrappers are tools written by developers for developers to make it easier to quickly access data. These tools are standard for major consumer websites such as Facebook or Twitter have wrappers because they help developers spend more time on writing their own apps, and less on trying to integrate into the platform. 
With these developer libraries, a developer can go from an idea for an interesting civic app to execution rapidly and easily. Importantly, they bootstrap the creation of a developer ecosystem around an existing platform – unlocking the potential for a sustained and engaged community supporting the FCC’s work.
We’ve built wrappers for the FCC with the major web development languages, and we’re encouraging developers to build with and on them -- as well as copy them for any other languages you’d like to code on:

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