July 26th marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In two decades our nation has come a long way in appreciating the contributions and needs of those people who, in the past, were all too often left behind.
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In order to provide our country with the broadband access it demands we need to build our infrastructure. The National Broadband Plan looked at ways that local, state and federal governments could make changes that would fundamentally change how our nation’s infrastructure is built.
Of all of the stories we got from you, the most common complaint was that broadband lines just weren’t reaching your homes and businesses. By engaging communities, governments and citizens in the effort, we can change that.
This video discusses the possibilities that smart infrastructure planning can have for communities today and in the future.
Thomas Koutsky, Senior Advisor for the Network Deployment Team on the National Broadband Task Force
You wouldn’t build a road in a city today without thinking about storm water drainage and sewers. The same thing should be true for broadband. We need to get to the place in this country when somebody’s building a road they are thinking about the broadband needs and demands of today and the future, for the community that that road serves.
Vic in Rogersville, Alabama
I live in a semi-rural area of northwest Alabama. DSL via a telephone line is the only broadband Internet that I have access to. I am at the end of the DSL service area and those beyond me, which is most of the people in our area, only have dial-up. Indeed, getting a clear dial-tone is considered a minor miracle around here. We have no other option for broadband. There is no cable company, or any other company, that serves our rural area.
The plan talks about the very practical possibility that schools and community centers can serve as anchor institutions, helping surrounding customers by enabling broadband access. Tom Kousky explains:
It’s very easy to get in back of the principle of ‘let’s connect a school to the internet.’ But to recognize that in the process of doing that, you could really drive down the cost of connecting the neighboring business… Getting communities to think about the shared broadband destiny that they have: To utilize institutions such as community colleges, libraries, community centers, really as launching off points for bringing fiber optic connectivity deeper into communities and then leveraging that so that surrounding businesses and consumers can actually use them and experience higher broadband availability as a result.
Penny in Cambria, California
I live in a semi rural area but luckily live fairly close to a large university which enables to me to have fast internet - my job demands that I pay a premium of $80.00 a month to have 25mbs download and 3mbs upload. I am the exception in my area. Once you go inland 2-3 miles from where I live no internet access is available except through a telephone line.
I have seen first-hand how this has effected our town and our children. Most of the children are semi-computer illiterate. The children have seen one at school but have not had the opportunity to really grasp the technology. These kids are at a huge disadvantage compared to other industrialized nations that not only have broadband for all but have super fast connections.
Businesses without connections feel the pain deeply too.
Catherine in North Sutton, New Hampshire
I run a small hospitality business (we own a bed & breakfast) and it is absolutely essential that I have internet accessibility. People prefer to book "online" or ask questions through email. My concern is that rural areas such as ours are overlooked. Our ISP is terrible--sometimes we are without connection for days. There is no one else to go to. I have been told it is a "capacity" issue in our area. My concern is that because of the cost of infrastructure changes and the fact that we are a small community, they are just not doing anything about it. I know I am losing business when I can't respond to a client inquiry. I know I am losing business when a guest at our establishment can't access the internet. I know I am losing business when I am unable to make a reservation because I can't "connect" to the internet.
A task force of local, state, federal and tribal governments to address how to make changes in the way infrastructure is approached across the nation is a part of the plan’s recommendations. Check out the Broadband Action Agenda for next steps that are being taken and other recommendations for building broadband infrastructure.
High-speed broadband can help doctors and hospitals deliver state-of-the-art care, particularly to the underserved communities most in need.
Last week, the FCC announced a joint meeting with the FDA to discuss how to implement the Broadband Plan’s recommendation to get innovative wireless medical devices to consumers as quickly and safely as possible.
As exciting as this is, it is just a hint at the possibilities that broadband innovation holds for health care in America. For example, telemedicine is a promising field that can help rural communities stay safe and healthy.
Neil in Abilene, Texas
Citizens of rural Texas communities have very little, if any, access to professional medical care. Telemedicine brings critically needed medical care to rural communities; however, without broadband services Telemedicine is physically impossible.
Medical providers are willing to see patients over a Telemedicine system, the technology exists to make Telemedicine a reality, and patients are willing to see providers via Telemedicine. Until a broadband system is in place to provide the needed bandwidth Telemedicine will never reach the citizens that truly need the services. Rural Texas needs the bandwidth to make Telemedicine a reality for these small communities that otherwise may not have a hospital, doctor, clinic, or other healthcare provider.
Access to health care and information is an issue for many providers as well. Without broadband, health care professionals can be stifled in their work and professional development.
Betsy in Morgantown, West Virginia
As a faculty member in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and also as President, West Virginia Pharmacists Association, I applaud the government for recognizing the vital role that establishing targeted nationwide, Broadband access has in health care.
Studies have shown consistently that pharmacists are the most accessible health care provider and that patients access their pharmacist many more times per week than other health care providers. However, limited access to Internet (many times due to geographic difficulties) in West Virginia makes timely use of important Internet based drug and medical information resources difficult.
As all pharmacists in WV, I am required by newly passed 2010 state law to have access to our state's online Controlled Substances Monitoring Program. This program serves to provide a database of patient prescription information, as it relates to "filled prescriptions" for controlled substances, to decrease patient misuse and divergence of controlled substances. However, I can not access the Internet site on a consistent basis to effectively utilize the resource. In addition, I am required to document my patient care responsibilities for patients I see through our state insurance program's (PEIA) Diabetes Face-to-Face Program. Again, my access is so slow that I can not provide timely documentation of the patient care services that I provide.
The National Broadband Plan is exciting to me because it may offer an avenue for fellow pharmacists in WV to have better access to the Internet. This access could improve the safety, welfare, and overall quality of life for the patients that I serve. With improved access, I will be able to better serve my patients with timely, accurate responses to their medication and health related questions and ensure a safer medication use system in my area.
The National Broadband Plan can help drive real health care reform, but we must continue making strides towards greater accessibility and affordability of both health care and broadband services. Please continue to share your stories with us and check out the broadband plan to learn about the recommendations for health care.
This is the third in a series of three posts on spectrum and the National Broadband Plan, and your stories.
Innovation requires investment, and plenty of space to grow. Right now in America, we have the opportunity to secure that space – namely, spectrum – for generations to come. But given the rate of technological change, we need more than a plan for today, we need a plan for the future.
That plan must be built on a solid foundation of data, so the FCC has released a tool for consumers to measure their actual broadband speeds – and compile data speeds in the FCC’s national dataset.
Jordan Usdan, Program Manager and Attorney Advisor, National Broadband Task Force
We’ve rolled out our initial two tools on Broadband.gov, which allow you to measure your upload and download speed, your latency, which is the delay between your computer and the testing server, and also the jitter, which is the difference in the delay.
And we’ve also released a mobile tool, so on iPhone and Android you can download the FCC app from their stores and you can get your download and upload speed and your latency on that as well, and test in different locations.
The actual performance of broadband has very real consequences for Americans.
Cherish in Mapleton, Minnesota
I currently have 'broadband'. My test results were 116k and I pay nearly $80 a month - I would call that neither broadband, nor affordable. There have been literally no advances in my area in the past ten years and I often feel like I'm getting left behind culturally, socially and economically.
When I lived where I had high speed access I used to have a small online business. I had to give that up when I moved because I just don't have the extra time/patience it takes to upload photos or answer customer questions. I've come to dread Mondays 'around the water cooler' chats when everyone is discussing the latest viral video that I couldn't watch because my internet is too slow for it to load. I'm tired of living in one of the broadbandless ghettos of this great nation and any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
The National Broadband Plan’s spectrum team took a hard look at the future of broadband – especially mobile broadband. There are some exciting things happening that will shape the future of communications in our country.
This video discusses the past and future of some cutting edge broadcast technologies.
One that is going on right now is the roll out of 4G – 4th Generation – mobile technology.
Tom Peters, Chief Engineer, FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau explains the migration from 1G to 4G.
We start with 1G and that was analog voice, a technology called amps. It was very basic, beginning cellular telephone technology.
Then went to 2G and 2G really represented digitization of the cellular cycle. It was still primarily voice, and it was still primarily what we call “circuit-switched,” meaning whenever you have a connection from your phone to the base station, you have a specific circuit and you have that circuit whether you are using that bandwidth or not.
3G offered some packetization of the resources [allowing information to be sent in “packets” and more people to use the same connection] – speeds got faster.
When you go to 4G, what you’re getting to is the internet model, where everything is IP based, everything is packet based, even voice. It’s a very simple architecture… compatible with the internet… without the need for intermediate steps. With newer technologies they are able to use the network resources more efficiently, and give more people more bandwidth, more speed, more of the time.
While the efficiency of 4G will be a boon to mobile communications, it isn’t enough. So engineers are working on ideas to use our spectrum in a more efficient way than ever before – by utilizing what they call “white space.” Tom explains:
Several companies see a lot of unused spectrum and they see that they might be able to build a business around it. The trick is not interfering with the broadcast television… There are a couple of ways that could be done. It’s really by putting intelligence in the radio.
One way to do it is this thing called “cognitive radio” – where the radio is smart enough to say, “Hey, I can hear channel 23 and I hear it at a signal level that is above a certain threshold – I’m smart enough to know that I can’t transmit on channel 23 because of that. I’ll find another frequency that is below this threshold and I’ll transmit on that one instead.”
Another way to do it is by using GPS and a database of locations. In that scenario the device will say, “Okay, I’ve got my coordinates from the GPS, I know where I am. Here’s my database of frequencies that I’m allowed to transmit on from this location.” As you can imagine it’s a very, very large database, and it’s dynamic, it can be changing a lot of the time.
Spectrum is an invaluable resource of the American people. You can count on very careful consideration and cooperation by the government, industry and the public to ensure that America’s spectrum policy provides the best opportunities for innovation and prosperity for decades to come.
This is the second in a series of three blogs about spectrum and the National Broadband Plan.
It may not be immediately obvious, but the explosion of mobile devices into the marketplace is making spectrum the lifeblood of mobile innovation and investment.
The National Broadband Plan points out that
The contribution of wireless services to overall gross domestic product grew over 16% annually from 1992 to 2007 compared with less than 3% annual growth for the remainder of the economy. (Ch. 5, p. 75)
Getting spectrum right is an integral part of our economic recovery efforts. If American businesses are going to grow over the coming decades, industry and public groups must work together to allocate the limited spectrum that we have.
Check out this video where members of the team talk about the changing needs and ideas for allocating spectrum for the benefit of American businesses and consumers.
John Leibovitz, Deputy Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Co-lead of Spectrum team on the National Broadband Task Force
Looking forward, we see mobile broadband just being this huge innovation driver of the American economy. It combines the two big trends of the last 20 years in telecommunications: One of which was broadband, and the other is mobility. And it puts them together into one service, and you start to see now, with, the iPhone and the Android phones and the iPad, these new devices that bring a computing experience into your pocket.
Only certain bands on the spectrum have the properties that make them useful for mobile broadband. And the more people who get and use mobile devices, and the more apps that are created for them, the more congested the airwaves will get. In order to accommodate increased traffic, the FCC plans to partner with businesses and communities in order to secure the needed spectrum for mobile broadband.
The Broadband Plan calls for 500 megahertz of spectrum to be made available for broadband use over the next 10 years, and 300 megahertz over the next 5 years. It recommends that this happen in a number of ways. John Leibovitz explains one:
The idea is to have win-win scenarios – the idea is that rather than having combative proceedings where one person is having their spectrum taken away or being asked to move, instead we create a mechanism that gives them an economic incentive to voluntarily offer up their spectrum, so that they can move somewhere else to provide their service in a different band, so that someone else who may value the spectrum more highly than the current user can move in and nobody does it against their will.
Everybody gets part of the economic benefit – especially the American people get the economic benefit of making sure the spectrum is used for whatever purpose is the most appropriate given where technology is and what types of services people are using.
When we asked you for your stories about broadband and how it affects your lives every day, we heard from across the nation how much you depend on mobile devices to live your lives, and how much limited bandwidth and high cost affects you. Dan is just one example.
Dan in Taneytown, Maryland
With more and more of my college classes requiring access to online material and videos, it's getting tougher to complete work and research in a relative time period. While many other Americans enjoy DSL or Cable, I'm stuck with the options of dial-up or overly expensive mobile broadband with a pathetic five gigabyte cap. My community and many other rural communities in the US are being left in the dust to wither while the rest of the country blossoms.
It will not be simple to reallocate spectrum so that it is most beneficial for our economy and our people, but it is essential.
No one owns the spectrum except for the American people. Spectrum is licensed by the FCC, but the rights to the spectrum belong to the American people. So it’s important that people are able to understand, what are the important decisions that are being made with this resource, which in some situations can be valued at tens of billions of dollars. It’s a very valuable resource and our job is to make sure that it’s being used in a way that respects the value to the American public and tried to promote economic growth and innovation going forward.
With the launch of the National Broadband Plan, a website called Spectrum Dashboard was launched to finally make all of the information about who has what spectrum where easy to browse and available to anyone who wants to see it. Check out the interactive map feature and learn more about who has the spectrum in your area.
This is the first in a series of three posts discussing spectrum, the National Broadband Plan and your stories.
Spectrum. It’s an issue that is getting lots of attention from consumers and conglomerates alike. It affects our phone data plans, TV broadcasting and wireless connection speeds.
This is important stuff, this spectrum. So what the heck is it?
Check out this video for an introduction to spectrum.
Tom Peters, Chief Engineer, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the FCC, explains:
Spectrum is the collection of radio waves, up to visible light. In between very low frequency spectrum and light there is a whole range of spectrum that is available for transmitting information over.
That spectrum is broken up into what we call “bands.” One you might be familiar with is the FM radio tuner in your car. That band, as the numbers on the dial will indicate, goes from 88 megahertz to 108 megahertz – and that is a slice of this large range of spectrum that’s available for transmitting information.
You might be wondering, what is a megahertz? What do we mean by that? Radio waves all travel at the speed of light, so they’re all going the same speed.
The time it takes for the crest of each wave to pass by, that’s the frequency.
A hertz is one over seconds (1/seconds). When you are listening to a station at 88 megahertz – mega means million – you’re getting 88 million crests of these waves coming at you every second. Just like light, radio waves exist at all frequencies.
So when you tune your radio, make a cell phone call, or use wireless internet, you are tapping into a particular wavelength of the spectrum. In the Information Age, these waves are becoming increasingly important.
Tom talks about the many different ways Americans use our spectrum:
FM radio is one use…AM radio is another use, and your cell phone is another use, the federal government has lots of uses: the Department of Defense, weather balloons transmit information, there’s satellite communications that need to be enabled... what the FCC does is manage all the commercial uses of spectrum. And what NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Agency) does is manage all the federal uses of spectrum.
Right now, the spectrum is all chopped up and allocated for many different uses, the product of an entire century of changing technologies and market needs. A major issue now is that there isn’t enough left for the new technology that is rapidly growing and changing almost every facet of American life: Mobile Broadband.
A particular spectrum – UHF – the Ultra High Frequency band, is commonly referred to in the press as “Beachfront” spectrum … It just turns out that the UHF spectrum is right in that sweet spot [for mobile phones], where you can build a device of a reasonable size and have reasonable power and have reasonable battery life and you get the benefit of having great propagation characteristics – meaning it travels far and it travels in buildings, through walls very well, so you get very good coverage.
Just yesterday the FCC released a paper called Spectrum Analysis: Options for Broadcast Spectrum that details ideas for repurposing spectrum.
The stories you have shared with are the most eloquent argument for making sure spectrum is allocated as efficiently as possible.
Richard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
As a first responder, having reliable wireless data communications is necessary when responding to an event and a large amount of data has to be moved or information garnered about the area and what is being dealt with. This could also involve sending pictures, text, information files, etc., by wireless.
Victor in Pahrump, Nevada
I am the WiFi chairman for the "Pair-A-Dice" RV Park. We are among the millions of RVers who depend upon internet access for managing our financial, business, and personal affairs. We have 48 WiFi users on our little in-park Lucky85 WiFi system.
If we don’t find enough spectrum to support all of the information we want to send and receive over mobile phones and wireless internet, we will stagnate. Prices will rise even higher. Connections will get slower. Calls will be dropped. Innovation will decline.
Stay tuned for our next post, where we discuss The National Broadband Plan’s recommendations on how to handle spectrum for a future of current and yet unimagined technological advances. And please keep sharing your stories with us.
President Obama has set clear goals that federal agencies must strive to meet -- changes that will result in greater government efficiency, transparency, and responsiveness.
The National Broadband Plan team heeded that call -- highlighting successful initiatives and identifying areas for improvement -- and their recommendations show how broadband innovation can help drive government accountability. Across the nation people shared their stories and ideas about Broadband, helping to shape the future of government accountability and civic engagement in our country.
Alberta in Little River, California
Why is Broadband important? Try to access a US Government website and wait 5 minutes for it to load. Try to download a tax form. An email with a file attached may take an hour or more. Try to run a business.
Expanding access to broadband is an important step, but getting government agencies online and working together with citizens is the next frontier in our society.
In this video, members of the Government Performance and Civic Engagement team talk about the plan and exciting innovations that are already happening.
Eugene Huang led the Government Performance and Civic Engagement team on the National Broadband Task Force.
One of the things that we found was that there were pockets of government inefficiency, certainly. But there were pockets of excellence in government that we found throughout the country, and using the Broadband Plan to highlight those best practice examples… was a historic opportunity, in my estimation, to chart a new course for the country, not just in the coming year, but in the next decade and years to come.
By opening up government, not only does government become more accountable and accessible to people, but innovations can happen in the public and private spheres.
Kevin Bennett worked with Eugene on the plan.
We’re also seeing agencies develop Open Government plans, so that each agency becomes more open to citizen engagement, more approachable. There’s more information provided online to citizens. So instead of government maintaining its often stereotype of being a Black Box – a place that’s difficult to navigate, hard to understand - it becomes more open and engaging for citizens and there becomes a more two-way dialogue developed.
Rob in El Centro, California
I love that it is possible to bring public meetings to the masses through broadband. You can access a meeting "on-demand" 24/7 and be apart of the decision making process.
One of the most exciting aspects of the plan is that the team reached out to Americans in the development of the plan itself. A national survey, live workshops around the country, the Broadband blog, crowdsourcing from ideascale.com, Facebook and Twitter all played a role in creating the recommendations in the plan.
We really attempted to practice what we preached in the Broadband Plan in terms of engaging citizens, seeking input, using new forms of new media.
As an example, if you took a look at how Broadband.gov developed over the course of the Broadband Plan. We reached out to the public at large to solicit their ideas for what went into the Broadband Plan. We broadcast over the web all of our public hearings. We did so in a very open and transparent process.
One of the things that we are very fond of it the number of Twitter followers we had: Third highest number of Twitter followers in the federal government behind the White House and the Centers for Disease Control.
David in Peyton, Colorado found a way to demonstrate to us exactly why we need to make broadband AND the government more accessible.
As a test of my dial-up speed, I downloaded the 'National Broadband Plan' PDF file (11.77MB) in a total of 72 minutes. I hope the FCC broadband plan is successful.
Check out these links to learn more about improving government performance and increasing civic engagement through broadband technology, and please continue to share your stories about broadband with us. Follow us on Twitter @FCC and stay tuned into #bbplan for more on the future of broadband.
Our country is buzzing about energy. Americans are taking a hard look at how we collect and use oil. Hybrid technology is changing the auto industry. Debates about foreign oil, nuclear power and wind farms are happening on local and national levels. We know we need to reduce our energy consumption. The big question is how.
When we asked you about broadband in your lives, energy was on your minds too. And one simple, yet powerful answer to the big “how” question you shared is to have reliable, affordable broadband.
Adam in Newberry, South Carolina
As a microeconomic example of how broadband is 'green'--my wife would be able to work from home several days a week if higher-end access were available to us, thereby reducing the need for her 60 mile roundtrip commute every working day. While I agree that we must also diversify our energy sources and systems, what purpose will green energy systems serve if many of our citizens are forced to relocate to remain gainfully employed?
Americans live outside of urban areas for many reasons – family, economics, health, environment, community and just personal preference. Yet many face a double edged sword for living off the beaten path: a long commute and lack of access to broadband internet.
Sherilyn in Gregory, Michigan
I live in southeast Michigan in an area where I cannot receive cable, DSL or broadband services. My current commute is 103 miles round trip daily to my job. I have the opportunity to work from home if I am able to obtain high speed internet service in my home. Having expanded service in my rural area would provide an opportunity for me to save energy by eliminating over 500 miles a week that I am commuting to my place of employment in addition to positive environmental impacts with less emissions. I work with others in the same situation and feel that the provision of high speed internet is a step in the right direction to lower our dependence on oil while technologically advancing our communities.
The National Broadband Plan makes several recommendations to expand access to rural America and promote telework. The plan notes:
The average American spends more than 100 hours per year commuting; 3.5 million people spend more than 90 minutes commuting to work each way every workday. …
Every additional teleworker reduces annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 2.6-3.6 metric tons per year.67 Replacing 10% of business air travel with videoconferencing would reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 36.3 million tons annually.
The plan calls on Congress to eliminate tax barriers to telework (working across state lines can sometimes result in being taxed twice!), and encourages the federal government to make telework easier for its employees.
Just as importantly, its recommendations aim to make broadband available to every American who wants it. The reasons people lack access are complicated, having to do with cost, business models, infrastructure and the patchwork of regulations and laws across counties and states. It won’t be simple or easy, but the FCC is already taking steps to expand access to rural Americans.
John in Lincolnton, North Carolina
I live in a bedroom community of Charlotte and work for a major bank. I'm allowed to work from home, but because I have only access to wireless networks (and that only recently), I have to drive 40 miles one way frequently just to work. Think of the oil I could save and the contribution to clean air I could make if I only had options.
Like Adam, Sherilyn and John, many of you have shared your frustrations and hopes for your rural communities and the environment. We know that conserving energy and preserving the environment are just two of many factors that make broadband an important element in your lives. Please continue to share your stories, and stay tuned to this blog for more information on how the plan addresses issues affecting Americans.
A lot of analogies have been made between electricity and broadband as resources that should be accessible by all Americans. But one of the things that is so exciting about the National Broadband Plan, is that it shows how we can use broadband to modernize that very electrical network – creating a Smart Grid. Add to that clean energy technology innovations – all connected by broadband and other advanced communications – and the plan will help Americans live greener, cheaper and more efficiently.
The Department of Energy released a very interesting study showing just how important the Smart Grid is. In fact, it showed that we could reduce the carbon emissions from the electricity sector by up to 12 percent directly, and 17 percent indirectly, with greater use of Smart Grid communications technologies.
That would be like taking 65 million cars off the road.
Right now, due to a lack of communications technology, energy providers often don’t know a neighborhood has lost power until their customers call them. Smart Grid technology would add greater intelligence to the infrastructure that is already in place to make our system more reliable, responsive and efficient.
In this video, Nick talks about the potential that broadband communications technology holds for America’s energy future.
If we automate the grid better, we can deliver energy more efficiently and reduce the amount of coal and natural gas that we have to burn that create carbon emissions.
And then the more that we get consumers involved in understanding their energy use, and seeing prices that reflect the cost of providing that power, the more they will shift their usage, or make smarter energy decisions.
Knowledge can truly mean more power. Giving consumers information about how they are using energy is one of the most exciting innovations in the proposal. Nick talks about how simple changes could change the way we look at our electric bill.
It’s pretty opaque to the customer. They don’t know what’s the most efficient, and how much energy they’re really using for an appliance or a flat screen TV. They just get a bill at the end of the month and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to them.
New technologies, like thermostats that you can adjust from your smart phone, or refrigerators that only make ice at night, will take energy efficiency to another level. A future powered by smarter grids, homes, and vehicles could change much of the way we live our lives, and could potentially help Americans save on their utility bills.
Please share your stories of how broadband communications are helping your family conserve energy and save money. Stay tuned for more in the Connecting America’s Stories blog series, where we will continue connect you with the people who wrote the National Broadband Plan and discuss how it will affect your life.