Federal Communications Commission

Author Archive

Broadban, Education, and The Learning Registry

February 4th, 2011 by Ellen Satterwhite

This week, a report on teachers’ media usage, sponsored in part by PBS, offers new evidence to support the National Broadband Plan's finding that broadband has greater potential to transform education than any other technological innovation in our lifetime. The report talks about the incredible increases in teachers' use of digital content in their teaching—not just layering technology on top of lessons, but digitally transforming their classrooms. The survey found, for example:

  • Three in four teachers (76%) stream or download TV and video content, up from 55% in 2007. These teachers are also accessing content in completely new ways, with 24% reporting that they access content stored on a local server, up from 11% in 2007. 
  • Teachers view TV and video content as more effective for student learning when integrated with other instructional resources or content. More than two-thirds (67%) believe that digital resources help them differentiate learning for individual students, and a similar number (68%) believe TV and video content stimulates discussion.
In the same survey, however, is some sobering news: Teachers spend 60 percent of their time in the classroom using educational resources that are either free or paid for by teachers themselves. And most teachers cite cost as the number one barrier to using digital resources in the classroom. 
I thought this might be a good time to draw attention to a bright spot on the horizon. The National Broadband Plan proposed that the Department of Education take the lead in setting standards to make the federal government’s extensive cultural and educational resources easily available in one place, in an interoperable format. In response to this recommendation, last summer, Secretary of Education Duncan, the head of the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough, and Chairman Genachowski announced an initiative called the Learning Registry. The goal of the Learning Registry is to put a library of free, world-class educational content at the fingertips of every American student and teacher. 
We hope to see more innovation like, a free and open, conversation-based multimedia art history web-book. aggregates our cultural treasures—digitally—but also encourages the learner to engage and analyze in real time, engaging students in a whole new way.
I’m happy to report that the Learning Registry’s project website is now live so that more Americans can get involved with making this vision a reality. The Learning Registry is not just a content portal or a search engine – the project envisions a new way of exchanging and describing learning content.  It's an initiative designed to build a community to benefit learning AND learners. The process is open and transparent – I encourage you to check out what the team is doing, share the news about the Learning Registry, and to get involved with this important initiative.

What kind of user are you? Or: things my mom taught me about broadband.

August 11th, 2010 by Ellen Satterwhite

My mom is a former librarian who taught me (what little I know) about html. She is online constantly for work and leisure—she shops, does research, checks her email, and streams PBS Frontline documentaries from her computer to her TV. She is technology savvy (and money-conscious) and when I told her that 80% of broadband users in the United States do not know the speed of their connection, she only paused a moment before telling me: “Oh, I have no idea what we get.” After recovering from my shame, I asked her to guess what she thinks she needs, at which point she hung up. So I did a little background for her:

Like most broadband consumers, my mom spends more time online and conducts a lot more of the business of her day-to-day life online than she did in 2002, when she first got broadband. While developing the National Broadband Plan, and in crafting policies for the future, the Commission is interested in projecting how consumer preferences and use of broadband Internet connections will change over time.  Before we figure out what our networks should be able to do in the future, however, we need to have some idea of what we as consumers already use and expect from our connections.

The chart below shows the bandwidth requirements for the range of applications consumers and businesses use today. From basic email to enhanced video teleconferencing.

Actual download speed (Mbps)
Actual download speed demands (Mbps) Example of applications/content providers
(Speed impacts down/up time and render)

- Basic download (or upload) usage - Basic email, E-book download
- Web-browsing, job search, government website access
- Streamed audio - PBS, Rhapsody, NPR, Pandora

- Voice over the Internet (VOIP) - Vonage, Skype, Net2Phone
- Basic interaction - Aleks (Online interactive education)
- Pogo online games
- Instant Messaging
0.3-0.5 - Basic streamed video - Consumer generated education videos
(Speed impacts down/up time and render)
- Large download (or upload) usage - Advanced web browsing
- Social Networking, P2P, etc
- Medical Records download/sharing

- Video-conference + VOIP - Lower definition telemedicine
1-5 - SD-quality streamed video - Streamed classroom lectures
-, Vimeo, NetFlix

- 2-way advanced video interaction - Real-time interactive experiences & gaming
5-10+ - HP-quality streamed video - Broadcast quality HDTV
- HD streamed University lecture
- Enhanced video teleconferencing (HD quality or similar) - Video teleconference and TeleLearning
- HD Telemedicine (diagnostic imaging)


So a user like my mom—who wants to have several browser tabs open, along with her email while watching a streamed TV show—probably requires download speeds between 1 and 4 Mbps. For her, video requires faster speeds than she needed for simple web browsing and e-mail, but most of the common video sites require relatively limited bandwidth;, for example, recommends a downstream bandwidth of 1,000 Kbps for smoothest playback while CNET TV recommends 2.5 Mbps minimum downstream speed for 720p HD videos and PBS offers both 800 Kbps and 300 Kbps streams.

My mom is probably slightly above average (she’ll love me for saying this) in her bandwidth requirements—according to comScore, in 2009, e-mail and web browsing accounted for almost 80% of the median consumer’s data usage.

Armed with this information, and in an attempt to get a ballpark figure for her subscribed speed, I sent my mom a link to to test her actual download and upload speeds. Based on data collected by the FCC and others, we know that in 2009, the mean and median advertised download speeds consumers purchased were between 7 and 8 Mbps. Yet, the Commission also learned, from Akamai and comScore, that U.S. consumers experienced an average of 4 Mbps and a median speed of 3 Mbps—about 50% of the advertised speed. Now I can tell her she should probably subscribe to an advertised service between 2 and 8 Mbps—if she ever calls me back.

Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones