Federal Communications Commission

Author Archive

SBA: National Broadband Plan is Key to Small Business Growth and Jobs

November 18th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

A report to Congress released by the Small Business Administration this week tells us something that makes sense: broadband makes small businesses more productive, which leads to more jobs and greater economic growth. One study cited by the report calculates growth in broadband penetration over a two-year period created about 300,000 jobs.

The report also raises some problems we are familiar with: broadband is less available to rural businesses, and when it is available, it can cost more.  Small businesses everywhere want lower prices and increased value.

Happily, the report proposes a solution that we are not only familiar with but that we wrote: the National Broadband Plan.  To quote, the report recommends that policymakers “Stay the course on national broadband planning and implementation of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.”

We’re not just staying the course. We’re moving full speed ahead. Here are a few examples of how we have advanced the small business broadband agenda detailed in our National Broadband Plan:

  • Launching with SBA a public-private partnership to help accelerate small business growth through the use of broadband technologies.
  • Examining the market for business broadband services to determine the status of competition and whether our policies in this area can be improved.
  • Beginning reform of the Universal Service Fund to help provide broadband in areas where it’s lacking.
  • Revising our rules governing access to infrastructure like utility poles to remove barriers to deploying broadband networks.
  • Clearing more spectrum to unleash wireless broadband.
  • Launching our data innovation initiative that will enable consumers and businesses alike to get more information about the broadband options available in their communities.

Broadband leads to small business growth and jobs, and as the SBA report notes, the National Broadband Plan is the roadmap for reaching our broadband goals.

Successfully Piloting Telehealth In California

August 20th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

Three years ago, the FCC launched its Rural Health Care Pilot Program to learn how best to fill an important need: providing broadband connections to isolated rural health clinics.   The need is very real. Broadband can provide rural health clinics with real-time consultation, diagnostics, training and other services from big-city teaching hospitals and specialists over high-capacity Internet lines.  That can save lives, time, & money while improving health care in remote areas.  But the robust networks needed to support these services are often lacking.  So the Pilot Program set out to learn how to make these networks available, using hands-on experience from 62 pilot projects.

This week, I had the pleasure of joining California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra at the launch of the second-largest of the 62 projects, the California Telehealth Network.  With funding from the FCC and a 15% match from the California Emerging Technology Fund, the project will initially build a network backbone and connect 50 health care facilities in the state. Ultimately, the project will around 800 facilities in remote and Tribal areas.

This project is a model of what the FCC is trying to foster across the country.  Comprised of a consortium led by the University of California Office of the President and the U.C. Davis Health System, the California Telehealth Network worked with small, regional telehealth operations around the state to forge a unified project.  In the end, organizers almost doubled the number of providers on the network, and effectively demonstrated how the FCC can play a positive role in advancing state health networks.  

We have learned a lot from this project and from leaders like Dr. Thomas Nesbitt from U.C. Davis,  and CTN Director Eric Brown.  We will be applying these lessons as we develop a new Rural Health Care Program to replace the Pilot, and hope to do an even better job of supporting this increasingly important component of health care at remote hospitals and clinics across the country. 

Keeping Tabs on Broadband Availability

August 6th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

Just over two weeks after the Commission released its report to Congress finding that broadband is not being deployed on a reasonable and timely manner to ALL Americans, we’re already starting work on the next report. The FCC is required to produce this broadband deployment report annually, and today is the statutory deadline for releasing a Notice of Inquiry seeking input for next year’s version. 

Commonly called the 706 Report after the section of the statute that mandated it, the Sixth Broadband Deployment Report reached its conclusions after taking a hard look at the wealth of new data available gathered during development of the National Broadband Plan and from ongoing FCC data collection, as improved by policies adopted in 2008.  The report also updated the FCC’s decade-old speed threshold for broadband, from 200 Kbps to 4 Mbps, and relied on a more realistic methodology for determining how many of the areas are unserved. 

But as you’ll see in the Notice of Inquiry for the Seventh Broadband Deployment Report, we’re committed to staying abreast of the fast pace of technological change by asking for public comment on whether our new speed standard continues to be reasonable or if  it should be adjusted. We also seek comment on how we can sharpen our analysis and make the best use possible of our data.

So while next year’s 706 Report may be different from this year's, one thing that is sure to stay the same: our commitment to assessing whether all Americans have access to the robust broadband service they need to find jobs, get educated, and stay connected to their communities.

Broadening Development of Universal Service Policy for Broadband

June 14th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

It’s an axiom that broadband breaks down barriers, an axiom that is true at the FCC as well.  Take Universal Service, the program meant to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable telecommunications services.  The program has long focused on telephone service, and its policies have been developed by the Wireline Competition Bureau.

But the National Broadband Plan recognized that Universal Service needs to be updated to provide all Americans with access to the communications technology of the 21st Century: broadband. The Plan also recognized that broadband may be delivered by a variety of technologies, including wireline, cable, wireless and satellite.  So it only makes sense to involve multiple bureaus – not just the Wireline Bureau – in the process of overhauling the program. 

That’s why Chairman Genachowski has launched the Universal Service Working Group, which will facilitate collaboration between the bureaus on the FCC’s broadband universal service agenda.  I will lead the group, which will include representatives from the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Managing Director, the Office of Strategic Planning, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the International Bureau (satellite) and my bureau, the Wireline Competition Bureau. 

I look forward to collaborating with this group to develop a truly comprehensive approach to Universal Service reform for the broadband age.  You can  a meeting with Universal Service Working Group staff regarding Universal Service issues related to the broadband action agenda using this online form.

Our Middle Name Should Come First

March 15th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

The Wireline Competition Bureau has had a key role in crafting the National Broadband Plan – and we will be even busier after the Plan comes out tomorrow. In fact, the middle name of our bureau – Competition – will be one of the important issues the plan addresses.  The Plan recognizes that our broadband competition rules should be comprehensively reviewed to develop a sound framework to ensure effective competition and consumer choice in broadband services provided to both small and large businesses, rural ISPs, and to mobile providers.  What the Plan also recognizes is that the timeline for completing this review of our competition framework is critical to the full development of broadband deployment and competition.

The Wireline Competition Bureau has already started some of this work.  In particular, last November, the Bureau issued a Public Notice seeking concrete suggestions on the appropriate analytic framework for determining whether our current rules are working for Special Access connections – the dedicated circuits used to connect businesses to their broadband providers, and broadband providers to the Internet. Comments and reply comments have now come in, and we’re in the process of analyzing the various economic frameworks that have been submitted.  With more competition policy recommendations on the way in the Plan, I’m glad we got a head start

Tracking broadband data…

February 15th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

By Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau and Paul de Sa, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis

Something that's become increasingly clear as we've been drafting the National Broadband Plan is the need for good data on broadband:  Where is it available? From how many providers? At what speeds?  How many people subscribe?  How robust is the competition? 

We've tried to gather and analyze all the data we can get our hands on, which has made us increasingly aware of the shortcomings of the data historically collected by the Commission. As a result, the Plan will include recommendations on improving FCC data collection, analysis, and reporting going forward. Good data practices will help policymakers meet the Plan's goal of robust broadband access for everyone, as well as giving researchers and consumers more of the information they want.

This brings us to the FCC’s latest report on broadband service, known as the High-Speed Report.  The FCC has published this report twice annually for the past decade, based on data that carriers must submit using Form 477. Released on Friday, the report uses much better data now than in the past, reflecting improvements made by the Commission in 2008.  For example, the Commission now has data on the number of broadband subscribers at a census-tract level (in the past, we only collected state and national numbers). The data also includes a total of 72 different upload and download speed categories, as well as improved information about mobile and residential connections.  

However we recognize that the Form 477 data could still be improved.  To take one example, the current report does not provide sufficient information to assess competition.  The FCC collects its data with a promise of confidentiality for provider-specific data, which requires that the data be aggregated for reporting purposes.  Therefore today, in some of the maps in the Report, a provider is depicted as serving a census tract even if it has only a single customer there or serves only a small portion of a geographically large census tract.  Because of this aggregation, the reported counts of "number of providers" cannot be interpreted as the number of competitors among which consumers can choose their broadband service.  And even if they are available to the same customers, some of the offerings may not effectively compete – consumers may not view 768kbps DSL service as a close substitute for 6 Mbps cable modem service.

Furthermore, in some places in the report, high-speed connections are defined for historical reasons as 200 kbps - not really broadband by any current standard.  Although this threshold has been chosen to be consistent with past reporting practices, it makes some of the report's maps showing ubiquitous coverage overly optimistic.  

Finally, although we will be sharing as much data as we can with state regulators and mapping entities, as well as posting information online for researchers and the public, we recognize that the confidentiality requirements necessary for comprehensive data collection to some extent limit the analyses that third parties may be able to conduct. 

In short, last week’s improved report is a good start, but we look forward to helping the Commission implement the Plan’s recommendations regarding steps the FCC should take to collect, analyze, and disseminate the information necessary to ensure the nation is making progress toward our broadband goals.

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