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Official FCC Blog

Super Wi-Fi is Super for Energy Too

September 24, 2010 - 04:46 PM

By Nick Sinai and Tom Brown


We at the FCC are very excited about yesterday’s order to free up the unused "white spaces" spectrum between television channels, intended to spur a wave of innovation in new devices and applications. Most commenters have focused on the possible use of this spectrum in "Super Wi-Fi" networks with wider range and better structural penetration than is available today.

But Super Wi-Fi isn’t just for consumers; it’s super for improving how we transmit and distribute energy in America too. The National Broadband Plan made several recommendations designed to integrate broadband into the emerging Smart Grid and enable improved Smart Grid communications; white spaces spectrum is yet another option for utilities to use for their communications networks. As we have seen in a recent trial in Plumas-Sierra County, California, white spaces spectrum can be used effectively and securely for grid automation applications, as well as retail broadband services. Opening white spaces spectrum is also likely to have a particular impact on utility operations in rural areas, which often have challenging terrain and fewer options for broadband service than urban areas.

The FCC remains committed to doing its part to usher in a new era of utility communications, and we look forward to seeing the innovations in all sorts of "national purpose" areas – health care, education, and yes, energy – that will result from yesterday’s action.

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Enforcement Bureau Settles Case That Restores Nearly $22 Million to TRS Fund

September 22, 2010 - 04:15 PM

As the result of a settlement negotiated by the Enforcement Bureau and released yesterday, Purple Communications, Inc., will pay around $22 million to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund.  TRS is a vital service that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone – through an interpreter – with hearing people.  The settlement follows the FCC’s demand earlier this year that Purple restore millions of dollars to the fund for overbilling it in violation of FCC rules.  The issues under investigation included whether the company unlawfully offered financial incentives to inflate TRS usage and billables, and whether the company recovered not once but twice from the fund for business-related calls to or from Purple employees.  In addition to the payment to the TRS Fund, the settlement also requires Purple to adopt a detailed compliance plan to prevent future misconduct, and to pay $550,000 to the U.S. Treasury.

The action is a victory for consumers all the way around.  The settlement protects carriers and the general public from overpaying into the TRS Fund.  The $22 million paid back will directly offset what the fund will need in the future to pay for TRS service, and therefore what the public will need to pay to support it.  And, most important, the settlement ensures that the fund will be used for its intended purpose – providing affordable relay services for consumers with disabilities who need and want to communicate with hearing people.

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Modernizing from the Ground Up

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
September 22, 2010 - 01:52 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:92:height=106,width=70]]As IT tides shift in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission has a special opportunity to become an expert technology agency in the federal government.
We have been hard at work in redesigning defining personas of citizens and business both current and potential, building our data infrastructure (as I mentioned in my O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 Summit talk), combing through first-ever site analytics and user surveys, and talking to people both online and off about how they would reimagine
Today, I'm happy to announce that this agency will be rebuilding using Drupal. This decision is a significant step towards modernizing our own underlying online infrastructure -- a key stage in redesigning and rebuilding
We're excited to join a group of pioneering agencies and offices -- like,, and -- that have helped activate a movement that embraces and promotes inter-agency website efforts, while helping to usher in systemic change. As an open source content management system, Drupal also enjoys a robust and active community of users, code contributors, and evangelists. We look forward to engaging with this community to help us innovate and learn, as we build out our own budding community of citizen developers.
We understand that citizen shareholders deserve a government that moves quickly to deliver information, facilitate transactions, and inform and engage Americans. As we continue to reimagine what can -- and will -- be, we're excited to do so alongside the Drupal community.

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A Case for Next Generation 9-1-1

September 22, 2010 - 11:31 AM

Like highways, communications networks can get snarled up when they have too much traffic.  Most people have experienced this in the form of the "Mother's Day effect."  A more serious form of this limitation occurs when an emergency results in a sudden surge of calls to a local 9-1-1 call center, resulting in congestion and call blocking.  Next generation 9-1-1 (NG911) uses IP-based technology to manage 9-1-1 call surges dynamically, minimizing blockage.

For more on NG 911 watch the video below:

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The New Parents' Place

September 21, 2010 - 03:27 PM


Today we launched our new Parents' Place webpage filled with resources and information about television, electronic media and online safety. We also link to other sites with great information for parents. For just one example, click on the link to Net Cetera for practical tips for talking to your children about being online.

We have three categories of online resources:

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WISENET coming soon! Participate in the Women in ICT's Shared Experience Network

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
September 21, 2010 - 02:58 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=71]]Very soon, the FCC’s International Bureau will launch a new section of called “Women in ICT’s Shared Excellence Network” (WISENET).  The site is an international online community of women in information, communications, and technology.  Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Baker will kick off the discussions.

WISENET will be a space for women in ICT from around the world to share views and professional information, and keep in touch with each others’ work and accomplishments. Through WISENET, not only will we be able to stay informed about each other’s professional lives, but we also will have access to resources and referrals we can all use as we face common challenges.  To encourage sharing, we envision a website which will host information that participants contribute.  This will include professional biographical information, as well as other ICT-related input. 

If you are interested in participating, please send to

  1. Your photo, name, professional title, organization, city, and country, as you wish it to appear on the website.
  2. A short professional bio of less than 100 words.
  3. Links to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social networking sites.

Also, we encourage you to send in:

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Cable Diversity Week highlight of Big Apple Tour

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
September 16, 2010 - 06:30 AM

I just spent 2.5 days in New York City focusing on cable TV as the industry celebrated Diversity Week. I had the pleasure of meeting with the Board of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Cable - NAMIC, a 30-year old organization that promotes diversity in the cable industry by emphasizing diversity as a business strategy with their focus on programming, marketing, operations, technology, and leadership. They also provide training, awards, grants, mentoring, and guidance and networking opportunities.

Early Tuesday morning, I attended NAMIC's breakfast meeting where this year's Most Influential Minorities in Cable were recognized. I also learned about NAMIC's Executive Leadership Development Program from a most successful panel of graduates, and heard from several second generation NAMIC Board members who are carrying on their parents' tradition in the cable industry by working to increase opportunities for minorities and women in the creation, distribution, and marketing of cable programming. I was honored to present the keynote address at the morning session during the 24th Annual Conference entitled 3D: Diversity, Digital, Demographics.

An hour later, I had the opportunity to join an impressive group of women on a panel at the Women in Cable Telecommunications' Conference. Luckily, it was right down the hall from NAMIC. Each of these women is a remarkable leader in her field, and they were all willing to share their personal experiences and tips for success. We shared a wide range of stories from the most heart-breaking to the side-splitting. I think we all learned something about the challenges and rewards of being a woman in industries that had not initially welcomed us as participants, but where we have managed to make inroads to become leaders in our respective fields.

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FCC License View

by Steven VanRoekel, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission
September 14, 2010 - 01:16 PM


The FCC is proud to announce this Tuesday's Developer Release: FCC License View.

FCC License View is a tool designed to make FCC license management information more transparent and accessible to a broad range of users.

This release follows last Tuesday's launch of a suite of developer tools and APIs, including the FCC License View API.

FCC License View is an initial release of functionality from the FCC's ongoing Consolidated Licensing System (CLS) project. Thanks to efforts stemming from our the new Data Innovation Initiative, our team was able to expedite the release of FCC License View for speedy release to the public.

FCC License View is available now at

Last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit here in Washington, D.C., FCC leadership reaffirmed our commitment to providing powerful, innovative tools into our robust community of developers. Today's release marks our ongoing progress towards those goals -- and the first in a regular release schedule of tools and tweaks.

With this new tool, users from across private and public sectors can digest complex licensing info through a simple and easy-to-use dashboard. FCC License View lets users digest snapshots of FCC license management data that are at the core of the agency's mission. At launch, FCC License View lets users explore over 3 million total licenses, 2 million of which are active.

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Update for /Developer

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
September 14, 2010 - 12:44 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:]]Last week we announced the release of four API's and the site at the Gov 2.0 conference. We heard great feedback via twitter, direct email and blog comments. We have taken some of these ideas and implemented the changes right away. We want to make sure that these services are useful to the developer community and that you know we are listening to your concerns here. The changes we have made are listed below, but please keep the comments coming. Your help is required to make these services better.

1. Bug fixes

  • We heard about a bug in the FRN API that would cause a timeout when querying certain FRNs. Sorry about that, it should be fixed now.
  • We head about a bug in the Speed Test API that would cause wrong Wireline Maximum Download and Maximum Upload values in some cases. Again, sorry about that, it should be fixed now.

2. API changes (Block Search)

You gave us a suggestion that would make the return more compact and usable as we grow the service, so we decided to change the xml and JSON returns. Now the Block Search API returns data in the following structure to facilitate parsing and future expansion. This
will break client applications of this method call if you implemented calls already to this API.

New Structure:


<Response executionTime="0.047" status="OK">
<Block FIPS="560239782002133"/>
<County name="Lincoln" FIPS="56023"/>
<State name="Wyoming" code="WY" FIPS="56"/>

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A Discussion with WTOP on Consumer Telephone Issues

September 13, 2010 - 04:17 PM

On September 9, 2010, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Shirley Rooker, Director and Consumer Reporter for the 'Call For Action' program, at the WTOP studios. The segment aired on WFED (1500 AM) on Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 10:30pm but if you missed it you can listen to the segment on the left side of their website under Of Consuming Interest. The interview was a great forum to provide an overview of and consumer tips on Lifeline Link-Up, bill shock and early termination fees.

The first topic discussed was Lifeline Link-Up. For eligible consumers, Lifeline provides a monthly discount on basic local telephone service. Some consumers may also be eligible for Link-up - a one-time assistance that pays for part of the consumer's connection or activation charge for new phone service. Consumers might not be aware that they qualify for this assistance. Since eligibility requirements for these programs vary by state, consumers should contact their local telephone service provider or public utilities company for more information on these requirements. A consumer can always visit or call 1-888-CALL FCC for assistance.

Next, we discussed bill shock – the result of a sudden, unexpected increase in monthly mobile service bills. Bill shock can occur because of misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming, or data charges. Among the tips I provided are:

  • Understand your calling pattern. By discussing your pattern with your service provider, the carrier may be able to provide a plan that meets your needs.
  • Consider a prepaid phone if you have a low usage pattern of calls.
  • Understand your roaming charges and confirm that your phone's screen indicates when you are roaming.

The last topic covered was early termination fees (ETF). We discussed ways to avoid ETF:

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