Federal Communications Commission

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Live Blogging the June Open Commission Meeting

June 17th, 2010 by George Krebs

10:30am ET
We've created a handy FAQ for questions about the broadband framework discussed today or for more background. In opening the meeting, Chairman Genachowski welcomes a delegation from Pakistan and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s mother, Emily Clyburn.

10:44am ET
There is but one item on today’s agenda. Today we will hear a presentation on the legal framework surrounding broadband. To start Deputy Counsel Julie Veach of the Office of the General Counsel gives the history of the steps the Commission has taken toward protecting the sanctity of the Internet and protecting consumers. This timeline is dotted with benchmark events; such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996, AT&T v. City of Portland (9th Circuit), and NCTA v. Brand X Internet Services (Supreme Court). An overview of Comcast v. FCC is given.

10:55am ET
The office then lays out the options between Title I and Title II. There are drawbacks to both that don’t fully cover the intricacy of the Internet. The panelists then introduce the third way. As the general counsel note, this route is “modeled on successful ‘Regulatory Treatment of Mobile Services.’” Internet would be classified as an information service but this option would forbear on a nationwide basis from all but a small number of core Title II provisions.

A number of questions will inevitably arise. One such question is, “How should the Commission treat wireless broadband Internet services?
11:14am ET

The Commission was on shaky ground prior to the Comcast decision, Commissioner Copps declares. “We need to reclaim our authority.” Commissioner Copps likens this path forward to protecting the Internet onramp. “We are not talking, even remotely, about regulating the Internet. It’s about making sure consumers have maxim control over the having access to the Internet.”

11:24am ET
Commissioner McDowell speaks next. He qualifies his comments by noting that ninety percent of the Commission’s work is bipartisan and unanimous. This proceeding, however, falls under the ten percent upon which there is disagreement. The Commission is seeking to apply19th century railroad regulation to a 21st century technology, he argues. His presentation features supporting statements and quotes from news publications and members of congress. While the proposal is well intentioned, “This may have the unintended consequence of stunting growth.”

11:35am ET
Commissioner Clyburn jumps right in and censures industry for overstating the dangers posed by the new framework. They view any government regulation as an imposition, she says. “If it were up to big business, the FCC would never get the opinion of consumers.” The Commissioner supports the proposal and advocates for regulation that keeps consumers as our most important constituency.
11:40am ET
In her remarks Commissioner Baker dissents. “We won't have clear legal jurisdiction on broadband unless Congress gives it to us,” she says. Little attention has been paid to the statistics. She points to ninety-one percent of Americans who are happy with their Broadband access. “Reclassifying an entire segment of the Internet is not necessary.”
11:53am ET
As the last speaker, Chairman Genachoswki addresses several angles and concerns that have arisen out of the question on the proper broadband framework. The FCC’s processes are complementary to the congressional effort to update the Communications Act, he says. We need to ensure the Commission stands on solid legal ground as we consider how to approach the broadband framework. “We do so today in an open and balanced way.” While industry would prefer being unchecked, “A system of checks and balances in the telecommunications sector has served our country well for decades and decades and has spurred trillions of dollars in investment.”
The Commission's work has determined that the third way approach is the best way forward. That said the Chairman emphasizes, “I remain open minded and welcome the process of new ideas.” Robust debate produces the best outcomes.
In conclusion, the Chairman takes a vote. He, Commissioner Copps, and Commissioner Clyburn vote in favor of the measure; Commissioner McDowell and Commission Baker dissent. The ayes have it.

Live Blogging the April Open Commission Meeting

April 21st, 2010 by George Krebs

10:30am ET 

Today we put the plan into action. After months of envisioning an effective national broadband network, this is the exciting stuff we’ve been waiting for. Today we begin a long but fast-paced process to implement policy. The baton has been passed from the Broadband Team to the FCC’s Offices and Bureaus to put the plan to work. In presenting the final document, and in his last appearance before the commission, Broadband Team Executive Director Blair Levin told the commissioners, “The value of this plan should be judged by what comes of it. You have a Plan. Now is your time to act.”
Today we will present six items for the chairman and the commissioners to consider. These items range from planting the seeds for the Connect America Fund to efforts to bolster cyber security.
For background on today’s items visit our April Open Meetings page.
10:44am ET
“A full agenda,” Genachoswki says after Secretary Marlene Dortch announces the items to be considered. The chairman runs down a lengthy list of reforms the FCC has already put into place. Like the Broadband Plan that came before it, “the processes for implementing the plan will be characterized by transparency, inclusivity, and openness.”
11:04am ET
Item One - Connect America Fund: Tackling long awaited Universal Service reform
First up, Carol Mattey from the Wireline Competition Bureau introduces the Connect America Fund. She tells the story of a child she met who had trouble completing her homework without the Internet access available to other students. The Connect American Fund would directly support broadband without increasing the cost of the existing Universal Service Fund. The proposed Notice of Inquiry considers replacing the “legacy high cost program” with “efficient, targeted funding of networks that can provide data and voice service.”
Commissioners are overwhelmingly supportive. The item is voted for approval across the board. Reservations expressed arise from their recognition that this is a herculean undertaking. There’s a reason it has taken such a long time to enact reform. The Chairman sums up the sentiment of the bench saying, “[reforming Universal Service is a] multi-layered, complex, rubik’s cube of a project. It will not be easy. But it is also what we’re committed to do…There’s no dispute that we need to do this. It’s a big challenge.”
11:23am ET
Item Two – Roaming for mobile
Mobile data roaming is crucial these days. Consumers purchase phones for more than voice service. The Commission looks to adopt an automatic data roaming requirement. Again, the chairman and the commissioners come to a consensus and unanimously vote to adopt the item.
11:57am ET
Items three and four – Video devices
The Media Bureau’s Notice of Inquiry urges the Commission to develop an interface standard for all video services. This standard will encourage four goals:
  • Spur investment and innovation
  • Increase consumer choice
  • Allow unfettered innovation in multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) delivery platforms
  • Encourage wider broadband use and adoption (televisions are the most widely present screens in the home)
The second prong of the presentation seeks to fix the problems with the CableCARD regime in the interim before a successor takes it place. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would achieve this through ensuring that these devices have equal access to programming, transparency in billing, and other mechanisms.
Commissioners and Chairman are, again, in agreement of the pressing need in this arena. The results of video services and CableCARD have been, in Commissioner McDowell’s words, “disappointing.” Both segments are adopted unanimously in the vote.
12:12pm ET
Item five – Survivability features of broadband
Moving to the public safety realm, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau urges the Commission to consider “A Notice of Inquiry that examines the survivability of broadband infrastructure and seeks comment on the ability of existing broadband networks to withstand significant damage or severe overloads as a result of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics or other major public emergencies.” More broadly the bureau asks what the FCC can do to improve the resiliency of broadband networks during times of crises.
The importance of this examination cannot be overstated. Not surprisingly, the chairman and the commissioners lavish wide spread praise for the proposal. “This item and the next item are last today,” the chairman says, “but they’re certainly not least…This is very important work that you are engaged in, that our commission is engaged in.”
12:30pm ET
Item six – Cyber Security Certification Program
Remaining at the table, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett begins, “At the same time that we’re seeing increasing dependence on these networks, communications providers are seeing increasing threats.” The Broadband Plan recommended the commission create a voluntary cyber security certification program. This Notice of Inquiry will look into establishing such a program. The proposed program will provide consumers more complete information about their providers’ cyber security apparatus. The presenters note that 87% of cyber security breaches could have been avoided if necessary cyber security measures were in place.
Commissioner Copps initiates comment from the bench. He, along with the others, sides with brevity. “The importance of these two items speaks for itself.” Chairman Genachowski summarizes, “Our broadband communications networks are becoming more essential in the lives of every American.” At the same time, the vulnerabilities are more alarming than ever before. These are items we need to move on forcefully. All those on the bench vote in favor of the Notice (constituting a trend on the day).
The meeting is adjourned.

Chairman Genachowski Sits Down for an Interview with CNET

March 24th, 2010 by George Krebs

“We need to focus on multiple strategies,” Chairman Genachowski told CNET’s Molly Wood, explaining the approach of the National Broadband Plan in an interview this week. The chairman expounded on the various routes the plan recommends to achieve greater affordability, higher speed broadband service, and to keep pace with other advanced nations. (Click on the image below to watch the video)

Both the chairman and Ms. Wood agreed that competition crucial. One of the ways we can foster competition is through greater consumer knowledge, Chairman Genachowski noted:
We can make sure consumers have the information they need to make the market work. And so an important initiative of the plan is a consumer transparency initiative where consumers will have access to much better information about the speeds that they’re getting, the nature of the services that they’re getting. Right now we hear endless reports about consumer confusion over broadband.
The interview also touched upon the foresight of The Plan in freeing mobile spectrum that will be in great demand a few short years from now. “Mobile broadband has extraordinary opportunity for our country. A smart phone uses almost thirty times the capacity of an old phone,” the chairman said. Our projections show that our mobile spectrum needs will grow thirty fold in a few short years. We need to release spectrum and “we have to tackle it now.”
Ultimately Chairman Genachowski strongly asserted that much of our society now relies on the Internet as its foundation. We need to regain our footing as the global pace setter. “We need to be the world’s leader in innovation in the twenty-first century,” he said. “We’re not going to be that if we stand still…We’re going to be at risk with our global leadership if our broadband infrastructure isn’t first class.”
What will The Broadband Plan mean for you? In the end Ms. Wood asks, What can the FCC, the White House and Congress do? Participate in the discussion either in her post or in our comments below.

Live Blogging The National Broadband Plan Presentation

March 16th, 2010 by George Krebs

Read Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. Today’s meeting is being live streamed. We’ll be live blogging the meeting below. During the meeting we will be releasing a distilled version of the plan on Twitter. Join the conversation about The Plan, and all the activity accompanying today’s release, by including #BBplan.

10:36am ET
It is a proud day in America. Today we lay out our vision for a connected future. Today we announce that America has a National Broadband Plan. Technological achievement and national progress go hand in hand. President Lincoln’s vision for a transcontinental railroad united a vast nation. Edison’s ability to harness electricity transformed innovation. President Eisenhower’s National Highway System unlocked America to all those who inhabit it. With this report the Broadband Team has set in motion the next great engine of America’s global leadership. This is a day where, with high speed Internet as our guide, we mark our way forward into the twenty-first century.
From spectrum to public safety, goals to implementation, these recommendations contain a common thread. Each proposal will lead to instrumental change in the public landscape, connecting America.
This morning’s meeting will not go through the document cover to cover. We will not recite all the recommendations in exhaustive detail. There’s no need. It’s all there in The Plan. We encourage you to read the plan itself. If there is a particular area that interests you – such as availability or health care – read that chapter. If you’re up for it, peruse the whole thing. There are engaging anecdotes and informative diagrams along the way.
We will discuss, broadly, what we have done and how we will pursue implementation. Of all the recommendations we can provide, action is the most important.
10:42am ET
Chairman Genachowski opens. “Good morning on this big day… Our own version of March Madness. Everyone is eager to get to the plan. So let’s do it.”
There is only one item on the agenda, “A presentation of a national broadband plan for our future.”
As a preface the chairman cites many of the transparency and openness measures taken by The Team and how these have affected the process of the plan.
10:48am ET
Broadband Plan Executive Director Blair Levin begins. “In every era, America connects itself anew… If successful we will transform our country, and as America does when it transforms itself, transform the world.”
Mr. Levin puts the plan in historical perspective. “This document, in many ways, speaks for itself,” he says, and notes that it can be found online.
10:51am ET
Carlos Krijner discusses the levers of government that will be used to foster the broadband ecosystem. “A real broadband plan has to consider networks, devices and applications,” he says. The government is an important player for this ecosystem.
“Now the hard work starts. The work of implementing the recommendations. To create jobs, drive productivity and increase the standard of living."
10:55am ET
Erik Garr says about broadband, “Much of the value comes down to how we use this technology.” His primary interest is in the National Purposes portion. Healthcare, using broadband in clinics; education, using online content in the classroom; “public safety may benefit the most,” with recommendations for a long overdue, much needed public safety interoperable wireless broadband network to facilitate communication.
He notes that it is being tweeted in real time so you can gather the essence of the plan.
“In closing, we should all recognize that this plan is America’s plan. We should consider where we are and move forward.”
11:00am ET
Phoebe Yang talks about “how we get there.” More than half of The Plan’s recommendations are aimed at the FCC. Though we’ve taken steps to implement many of these (expanding school and library E-rate, wireless tower-citing regulations), there is still much more to be done.
Consumer tools were launched last week to allow a gathering of data. In first five days the public has run almost 300,000 tests. This enables the Commission to use new data to embed in the National Broadband Map, due out next year.
Tomorrow we will launch a “beta release” of the Spectrum Dashboard. The  public can use the dashboard to browse spectrum bands, search licenses and export data.
The other half is aimed at the Executive Branch and their agencies. There is a host of work to be done throughout government to put The Plan in motion. The FCC should serve as a resource to these agencies as we integrate the recommendations into their work. “Finally, we have kept our requests to congress limited,” she says. “The Plan should be revenue neutral. Spectrum auctions are expected to generate billions.”
11:03 am ET
Almost as soon is it began, Blair closes the presentation. “This band of brothers took on a plan with extraordinary challenges. They have exceeded expectations.” He commends each of The Team leaders at the table.
“This is my eighth and last appearance at this table… My final thoughts are not to suggest that you adopt them all without change. Precisely the opposite. This plan is in beta and always will be. Like the Internet itself, this plan should change.
“The value of this plan should be judged by what comes of it. You have a Plan. Now is your time to act.”
11:08am ET
Each of the Commissioners will now give a statement, speaking to their thoughts on the plan.
11:09am ET
Commissioner Copps begins. It is a great time for the Commission he says. After many years of a government that “looked the other way,” this plan is a bold step forward. Digital inclusion is of great import to the commissioner. The levels of non-adoption among the low-income community, minorities, those with disabilities, and others, is unacceptable. “We’ve made some progress. There is so much still to do.”
“America’s future town square will be paved with broadband bricks. It must be accessible to all.” He bemoans the decline of the journalism industry. We’re on “a starvation diet when it comes to nourishing our democratic dialogue.” If we don’t tread carefully we will have fat filled chatter but not as much of the protein of fact. “I’m pleased The National Broadband Plan has chosen to address [these issues]. It is an area where public policy needs to be proactive.”
The commissioner is enthusiastic about The Plan, ticking off his praise of the many areas it addresses.
11:40am ET
Commissioner McDowell is next. “If you hear nothing else I say this morning,” he says, “hear this: ‘Thank you all.’” He uses a March Madness allegory to convey his opinion about The Plan. “Today marks the beginning of a long process.” Taking a different tact than Commissioner Copps, Commissioner McDowell cites the progress America has made in getting the country connected. In many ways we’re leading the way, he says. “Today the Net operates in a marketplace where innovation and investment is thriving…As the Commission and Congress consider the recommendations offered up we should first ‘do no harm.’” In addition to our attempt to release more spectrum, we should try to use more efficiently the spectrum already available.
Ideas that give him some concern: The Plan portrays the current Internet as being outmoded when it's not. The focus should be on assisting the private sector and preventing scaring away private investment. Ending on an upbeat note he says, “Now it is time to get to work on this important endeavor.”
11:52am ET
Commissioner Clyburn, keynote speaker at last week’s Digital Inclusion Summit and constant champion of the initiative since the beginning, says “now is the time to be bold and seize the moment before us. It is impressive work and is the impressive result of unprecedented openness and transparency.”
Initiatives that require immediate attention: we need to focus on non-adoptors; "change the Universal Service Fund, where we can bring broadband to people no matter where they live, how much money they make, and no matter what language they speak.” We need to expand the base of contribution, to acquire fees from broadband services.
The Plan provides “concrete steps,” she says. The Public Safety recommendations in particular are crucial. “We can no longer delay and risk the lives of our public safety first responders.” As for spectrum: “The demands for spectrum are, and will continue to be, great.” We should facilitate uses of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. She wants to develop a “long term solution” for media.
Clyburn emphasizes competition as the ultimate driver for innovation. We should be very concerned about the competitive aspect of broadband providers. With rigorous competition we will have lower prices, expanded application uses, and empowered consumers.
12:06pm ET
Commissioner Baker begins with a “heartfelt thanks” for “inspiring public service.” We should continue a “light touch regulatory regime” begun during the Clinton and Bush administrations, she argues. We have worked in a bipartisan fashion, going from dial-up to high speed broadband.
Like the other commissioners, she is an active proponent of increased spectrum for mobile use. She cites Europe and Asia’s initiatives to provide expanded spectrum. The U.S. “must act similarly to lay the foundation for the next generation of mobile.” The U.S. should remain a global leader in mobile and broadband.
While funding to subsidize broadband service for communities that lack connectivity is important, “Our efforts to modernize the Universal Service Fund should not overgrow the size of this fund, should not overburden the market, or break the bank.” On regulation, Baker clarifies, “Government should not be in the business of predicting technologies or mandating how consumers use those technologies."
12:22pm ET
Chairman Genachowski rounds out the group. Beginning boldly he says, “Today we deliver on one of the most important directives congress and the president has ever given the FCC. This is important for three reasons: because “broadband is essential to our global competitiveness”; it is essential for our communities; and “essential for solving so many of the challenges facing our nation.”
“Congress was right, we need a national broadband plan,” he says. “If we don’t act” we put many national interests at risk. “The stakes are high. We must act, and we will act, with an urgency that meets the moment.” This is our moon-shot. The goals: “increasing speed to 100 mbps, adoption from 65% to 90% on our way to 100% in a third of the time it took telephone,” among others.
“The Plan is idealistic but not ideological. I appreciate it for the tough decisions The Team made for what to put in The Plan and not.” He lauds the process of The Plan, the collective staff across the agency that have contributed and notes the widespread praise The Plan has received. “The group has been an all-star team,” he says, while expressing his admiration for each set of staff members, especially its leader, Blair Levin. He asks each team member to stand while all applause.
12:27pm ET
Sharon Gillett, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief, reads the “Joint Statement on Broadband” to be adopted by the Commission. Excerpted below, read it in full here:
Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan is delivered in response to this statutory requirement. The Plan provides recommendations on a variety of issues, which the Commission will actively consider through proceedings that provide notice and ample opportunity for comment, allowing the agency to generate robust records. Although each of us may have differing opinions on some of the specific recommendations set forth in the Plan, we all share the following common beliefs:
· Every American should have a meaningful opportunity to benefit from the broadband communications era—regardless of geography, race, economic status, disability, residence on tribal land, or degree of digital literacy.
· Continuous private sector investment in wired and wireless networks and technologies, and competition among providers, are critical to ensure vitality and innovation in the broadband ecosystem and to encourage new products and services that benefit American consumers and businesses of every size.
· Strategic and prudent policies toward public resources like spectrum will benefit all Americans, by meeting current and future needs and by promoting continued innovation, investment, and competition.
· The nearly $9 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) and the intercarrier compensation (ICC) system should be comprehensively reformed to increase accountability and efficiency, encourage targeted investment in broadband infrastructure, and emphasize the importance of broadband to the future of these programs.
· Our Nation should harness the tools of modern communications technology to protect all Americans, including by enabling the development of a nation-wide, wireless, interoperable broadband network for the Nation’s first responders.
· Ubiquitous and affordable broadband can unlock vast new opportunities for Americans, in communities large and small, with respect to consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purpose
The Chairman takes a vote and with all commissioners saying “aye” the mission statement is adopted. The meeting is adjourned. This portion of America’s Broadband Plan is in the books. The work of seeing the recommendations through begins.

In the News

March 15th, 2010 by George Krebs

A steady stream of media coverage has foreshadowed Tuesday’s release of The National Broadband Plan. We’ve compiled some of that coverage, including an op-ed penned by Chairman Genachowski, below:

From Chairman Genachowski’s Op-Ed in the Washington Post:
The Internet has transformed America with its power to generate innovation and opportunity and by its ability to connect, inform and entertain us like no technology in history.
…Our nation is at a high-tech crossroads: Either we commit to creating world-leading broadband networks to make sure that the next waves of innovation and business growth occur here, or we stand pat and watch inventions and jobs migrate to those parts of the world with better, faster and cheaper communications infrastructures.
This, of course, is not a choice -- which is why, this week, at the behest of Congress and the president, the Federal Communications Commission is delivering the first National Broadband Plan: a comprehensive strategy for dramatically improving our broadband networks and extending their benefits to all Americans.
If we adopt these and other good ideas, we can harness the power of a technology with the greatest potential to advance our economic and social welfare since the advent of electricity.
….History teaches us that nations that lead technological revolutions reap enormous rewards. We can lead the revolution in wired and wireless broadband. But the moment to act is now.
From the New York Times:
The Federal Communications Commission is proposing an ambitious 10-year plan that will reimagine the nation’s media and technology priorities by establishing high-speed Internet as the country’s dominant communication network.
…The blueprint reflects the government’s view that broadband Internet is becoming the common medium of the United States, gradually displacing the telephone and broadcast television industries.
…For much of the last year, Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman and the plan’s chief salesman, has laid the groundwork for the Congressionally mandated plan by asserting that the United States is lagging far behind other countries in broadband adoption and speed. About a third of Americans have no access to high-speed Internet service, cannot afford it or choose not to have it.
In a speech last month, Mr. Genachowski observed that the country could build state-of-the-art computers and applications, but without equivalent broadband wiring, “it would be like having the technology for great electric cars, but terrible roads.”
The plan envisions a fully Web-connected world with split-second access to health care information and online classrooms, delivered through wireless devices yet to be dreamed up in Silicon Valley.
…In a move that could affect policy decisions years from now, the F.C.C. will begin assessing the speeds and costs of consumer broadband service. Until then, consumers can take matters into their own hands with a new suite of online and mobile phone applications released by the F.C.C. that will allow them to test the speed of their home Internet and see if they’re paying for data speeds as advertised.
From News Hour’s the.News
From Reuters:
U.S. regulators will announce a major Internet policy this week to revolutionize how Americans communicate and play, proposing a dramatic increase in broadband speeds that could let people download a high-definition film in minutes instead of hours.
Dramatically increasing Internet speeds to 25 times the current average is one of the myriad goals to be unveiled in the National Broadband Plan by the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday.
The highly anticipated plan will make a series of recommendations to Congress and is aimed at spurring the ever-changing communications industry to bring more and faster online services to Americans as they increasingly turn to the Internet to communicate, pay monthly bills, make travel plans and be entertained by movies and music.
…“We've developed a plan that is a real win-win for everyone involved and we have every expectation that it will work,” Genachowski said in an interview with Reuters. …“It is both aspiration and achievable.”
From the Boston Globe:
Fourteen years after the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission will release a National Broadband Plan next week that seeks to foster the power of so-called broadband networks. This goal is admirable, because broadband is widely viewed as the economic lifeline of tomorrow, with the power to improve an array of financial and employment activity in health care, education, homeland security, job training, even energy independence.
… When it comes to the National Broadband Plan, the FCC has it right in one important regard. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first reform of the communications policy in over 60 years. Today, technology evolves at a much faster rate than policy. A new national agenda is needed to provide direction for Congress to enact laws that reflect today’s technology landscape. This necessary foundation for our economic future requires broadband access for all Americans.


Support for Broadband Plan Adoption Recommendations

March 10th, 2010 by George Krebs

Over 30 organizations, ranging from the Benton Foundation to the National Urban League, signed on to support our broadband adoption recommendations in a letter sent to Chairman Genachowski yesterday:
We are pleased to express our support for the working recommendations for broadband adoption and utilization announced today by the FCC as it prepares to deliver its National Broadband Plan to Congress next week.
We appreciate the intensive fact gathering and numerous public workshops conducted by the Commission as it sought to better understand the issues facing non-adopters of broadband. The Commission's field hearings and the extensive opportunity for comment through public notices and blogs have provided the American people with many opportunities to contribute to the Plan.
You have said that while broadband alone is not the solution to any of the major challenges facing our country, it is part of the solution to almost all of them. We agree. We also agree that in order to maximize the country's benefit from broadband, we must work to increase the level of broadband adoption, particularly among low-income populations, minority communities, older Americans, people with disabilities and other groups which have low rates of broadband adoption. The Commission's research, which helped frame the Plan's recommendations, has proven invaluable as it identified critical barriers to adoption that must be addressed: cost, digital literacy, and lack of awareness of relevant content.
The plan's adoption and utilization recommendations are targeted, collaborative, and local: a focus that is required to produce meaningful results. We are heartened that the FCC clearly understands that government alone cannot solve the nation's adoption gaps. The non-profit and foundation communities, state and local governments, and the private sector all have an interest in increased adoption, and all must play a constructive role.
Leaving one-third of America without broadband at home is not acceptable in an era when high-speed access is a pathway to education, self-improvement, civic participation, and economic growth. We look forward to working with the FCC and other stakeholders in bringing life to these recommendations.

Digital Inclusion Summit Tomorrow

March 8th, 2010 by George Krebs

With just over a week to go before the National Broadband Plan is released, excitement is quickly building. The Broadband Team, FCC & Administration officials, members of congress, and citizens from across the country will come together at the Newseum tomorrow to unveil an overview of The Plan’s recommendations. With broadband in only 65% of American homes these recommendations must bridge an ambitious gap. We will also host a “voices of inclusion” portion in the program where people will discuss how broadband, or the lack of it, has impacted them.

The summit will take place at the Newseum in Washington DC from 9am to 12:15pm ET. No matter where you’re located, you can take part in the event. We’ll be streaming the summit at Satellite locations have been set up in Akron, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Philadelphia for people to watch the webcast and discuss broadband in their own communities. You can ask questions during the event by emailing or if you’re on Twitter by tweeting your questions using #BBplan. See you there.

Wireless Broadband Network Takes Form for Public Safety Community

March 4th, 2010 by George Krebs

Soon the FCC will roll out the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). A first-of-its-kind center located within the Commission, ERIC will coordinate communication among the public safety community. As Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett wrote ERIC will be based on a wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. This will include technical requirements for common standards across the field, priority access for public safety users, and choices for how they operate their broadband network. Panelists from the FCC, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Institute of Science and Technology spoke Tuesday about what form this should center should take.

The need for an interoperability network is clear, they noted. Today first responders and public safety personnel are using a wide variety of devices in the course of their time sensitive work. This hodgepodge of systems contains a host of issues that complicates the vital work being performed. Critical communication coordination failures on September 11th and during Hurricane Katrina made the necessity of such interoperability painfully evident.

Jeff Goldthorp, Chief of the Communications Systems Analysis Division at the FCC, spoke to the possibility of interoperability and the urgency of roaming:
Rich benefits come with deployment of new commercial wireless technology. Is it possible to create a network of networks? Absolutely. We need to harmonize the actions of public safety entities…
We need for first responders to be able to move between jurisdictions [roaming] in a way they’re not able to today.
Mr. Barnett said ERIC must be launched to coincide with the National Broadband Plan. When the Broadband Plan is rolled out, industry will be jumping on board.
These networks are taking off. These people are ready to build. We need to get public safety right up there with the industry. When the truck rolls out to put up a tower, it should also be putting up a tower for public safety. If we fall behind and the truck has to roll out a second time, it will be much more expensive.
The public safety and homeland security recommendations in the Broadband Plan are already getting an outpouring of support. As we move quickly toward implementing these recommendations we must get it right, Mr. Barnett urged. “We’ve got to get going. We get one at bat. One swing.”

Chairman Genachowski advocates for the Broadband Plan with the Washington Post

March 3rd, 2010 by George Krebs

Chairman Genachowski sat down yesterday with Fred Hiatt, Editorial page editor of the Washington Post. The Chairman explained why we need a National Broadband Plan, especially in our competitive global economy, and the rising societal costs of not being connected.



Live Blogging the February Open Commission Meeting

February 18th, 2010 by George Krebs

Welcome to our live blog. The meeting will begin at 3PM EDT. In the meantime, check out our Open Meetings page where you will be able to see a live stream of the meeting and the slides used in today's presentation. We will also be live tweeting the meeting here. If you're on Twitter yourself, you can join the conversation by using #FCCopen.

3:11pm EDT
By any standard, we are on countdown. There are only twenty-seven days to go until the Broadband Plan is to be submitted. This is the last Open Commission meeting before that big day. This is the last time the Broadband Team will present in front of the Chairman and all four commissioners. The National Purposes Team will present today. They cover portions of the plan relating to the impact of broadband on healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government and civic engagement, public safety, and economic opportunity. They will identify the gaps that exist in these areas and they will provide a framework for their coming recommendations. Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn, and Baker, representing the FCC’s top brass, will give them insight and suggestions. 

Before their presentation, we will have an update on the Commission’s continuing work in Haiti. (For more information on this front, see International Bureau Chief Mindel de la Torre’s superb, on-the-ground updates on our Reboot Blog.) We will also hear a presentation on FCC reform.

3:48pm EDT
Haiti update
Mindel de la Torre gives an idea of what it was like on the ground. It’s difficult for someone living here to imagine what the conditions are like in Haiti right now, she says. The pictures included on their slides provide a sense of how entirely destructive the earthquake was. Ms. de la Torre thanks the team from the Commission who went down to help out. Jamie Barnett, Chief of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, discusses the team’s accomplishments in Haiti, including assisting in teleconferences and many of the communications in connecting back and forth to the U.S. (with organizations such as USAID). In concluding, Mr. Barnett says, “It’s going to be a long process in restoring their communications.”
Ms. de la Torre gives a report on “key findings” from the team. Rebuilding efforts of wireless cell sites and wireline infrastructure are ongoing. She shows a collage of images – “a television station that collapsed completely.” A yellow, electronic news gathering car, saved the life of the station owner. Behind the building site, they set up a mobile radio station where the station owner gives radio commentary on Manchester United soccer games and shows movies on his small television viewed by a small gathering in his community. “Anything to make the people feel better,” she says. The Commission has issued 83 wavers representing 716 TV / radio stations to do fundraising for Haiti.
4:35pm EDT
Mary-Beth Richards, Special Counsel for FCC Reform, gives a rundown of reform efforts at the FCC. The Commission will vote on two items suggested by the group Ms. Richards leads. One area she highlights is public safety. The faults in communication around the public safety community is well known.  To address this, Ms. Richards unveils the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC), to reside here at the FCC. ERIC will facilitate public safety communications throughout the country in part by setting standards and giving this crucial public safety need, a centralized hub. Among other areas, she notes that we will bring in a Chief Data Officer to make the Commission more data driven. Also, a rule the Commission will vote on will make Ex-Parte notices available more quickly to the public and to the staff, and will require these notices be submitted online.
The Chairman and the commissioners all assent to the recommended reform measures on e-filing procedure and ex parte.
5:03pm EEDT
E-rate motion
In the last item to be considered before the broadband update, the Commission will consider improvements to the hugely successful E-rate program. In fact, the E-rate is related to broadband as it provides subsidized high speed Internet access for schools and libraries as a recognition of the vital role Internet access plays in the public sphere.
Regina Brown, attorney advisor in the Wireline Competition Bureau, explains the vote. “This waver will allow schools the option to open their facilities to the general public to utilize services and facilities, supported by E-rate, during non-operating hours such as afterschool hours, on the weekends, on school holidays, or during the summer months when school is not in session.”
The motion is widely lauded by the Commission. “In times of economic crisis, having broad community access to broadband is vital,” Chairman Genachowski says. “Broadband connectivity is lagging in rural, minority and tribal communities.” He notes the wide people who will benefit greatly: “The unemployed searching for work, seniors looking for health information and citizens using government services,” among others.
5:12pm EDT
In opening this section of the meeting the Chairman acknowledges the hard work of the team. They came into the office during the massive snowstorm, underscoring their dedication. “You’re out of jeans & snow boots,” he quips.
Executive Director Blair Levin frames their task as solving a mystery. Why have some embraced broadband but others, similarly situated, have not. Some sectors have a “diffusion lag” in adopting broadband. Why? “The team,” he says, will “present ways we need to act to remove the barriers, overcome the diffusion lag, and capture the opportunities others are already seizing.”
With that, Mr. Levin cedes the stage to National Purposes lead Kristen Kane. The goal of National purposes is to “offer a plan for how our country can utilize broadband to have these sectors perform at a higher level.” She says, “What you’ll hear today is the opportunities that broadband presents, secondly the major gaps preventing our realizing these opportunities, and then finally the working recommendations to address those gaps.”
To begin, the team lays out a vision for “high performance America.”  This includes:
  • Making government more effective, efficient, and transparent
  • Ensuring that investments are aligned and forward thinking
  • Creating the conditions for innovation and America’s competitive advantage in key strategic areas
She stresses that integrating broadband into the country’s priorities “can actually change things… Not just the way we do things, but the results we get. New solutions to previously intractable problems.” But, she says, we must act with urgency. “We don’t have that much time.”
We will now hear presentations from each area which falls under the umbrella of National Purposes. They will give context for how broadband impacts their field and provide some framework for their upcoming recommendations.
Health care
Mohit Kaushal begins with the transformative pairing of broadband and medical care. “[There is an] ever growing array of broadband enabled devices and applications that are improving the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare,” he says. Providing an anecdote, Dr. Kaushal explains that enabling e-care can result in great savings: $700 billion in potential net savings over the next fifteen to twenty-five years. Cost savings could be even greater in the future.
Healthcare recommendations framework:
  • Creating the incentives for broader health IT adoption and innovation
    Modernizing regulations to increase access to care and enable health IT adoption
  • Driving innovative applications and advanced analytics
  • Ensuring all providers have access to affordable broadband
Steve Midgely, head of the Education Team, presents a number of anecdotes that showcase the power of broadband in education. Broadband creates “more opportunities for students to learn independently, with teachers acting as their guides,” he says. Online learning is highly effective. New research has shown hybrid learning – combining online learning with in person support – can be significantly more effective than traditional instruction. One of Midgely’s slides reports that only 16% of public community college campuses have high speed broadband compared to 91% of research universities.
Education recommendations framework:
  • Upgrading E-rate
  • Supporting and promoting online learning
  • Unlocking the power of data to personalize learning and improve decision-making
Energy and the environment
A former energy investor, Nick Sinai leads a team best known around the commission for extolling the virtues of the smart grid for America. “Imagine if consumers and businesses could not only access their energy bill online but could adjust their lights, heating and cooling from their smartphones or a netbook,” he says, eliciting a sense of wonder in the room. He points to the extraordinary potential for new jobs in Internet-based companies that monitor, store and manage energy. “Making our homes, buildings, and vehicles smart will help us meet our national energy goals,” he says. An interesting stat from their slides – providing consumers energy information could reduce consumption by 5 – 15 % (a $60-$180 annual savings per home).
Energy and the environment recommendations framework:
  • Integrating broadband into the smart grid
  • Expanding consumer access to energy information
  • Seeking opportunities to lead in data center efficiency
  • Making transportation safer, smarter, and cleaner
Government Performance
In government, broadband facilitates transparency, efficiency, and clarity. A connected government enables enhanced access to services and streamlines online interactions between the citizen and their government.
Team lead Eugene Huang has a number of anecdotes that he cites. “One example of how universal broadband can increase performance in the filing of taxes. Individual paper tax returns cost eight times more to process than electronic returns [$2.87 per paper return, $0.35 per electronic return], but nearly 43% of returns are still filed by paper. If all Americans processed their taxes online, the government would save over $300 million over five years.”
Government performance recommendation framework:
  • Transforming government service delivery (through cloud computing, competitions for ideas, and greater use of social media)
  • Increasing the quantity and quality of civic engagement
  • Using government assets to improve broadband deployment
Public Safety
A familiar face, Admiral Barnett, is back. Barnett assisted in the initial Haiti update and appears with Jennifer Manner to represent public safety. “I can explain what broadband can do for public safety very briefly,” he says. First, we must protect against cyber threats; second, we can improve the methods and effectiveness of alerting people to danger and provide information for their safety; third, we can improve the effectiveness of people who need to ask for help, by alerting public safety; lastly, broadband can help first responders exchange critical, information rich data through a nationwide, interoperable wireless network. “We get one at bat and one swing,” he cautions. We need to get this right.
The microphone is ceded to Jennifer Manner to present the more substantive public safety recommendations.
Public safety recommendation framework:
  • Creating a nationwide interoperable broadband wireless public safety network
  • Transitioning to a next-generation 9-1-1 system
  • Developing a comprehensive next-generation alerting system
  • Enhancing security measures to safeguard networks and core infrastructure
Economic Opportunity
Broadband plays a crucial and pressing role in increasing economic opportunity nationwide. On behalf of the team, Elana Berkowitz explains the compelling case. “Americans use broadband to support a universe of online job search, job applications, job training that can be used anywhere at any time with lower cost and with increased effectiveness. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can use online tools, reach new markets, develop new business models… Broadband can enable regional communities to compete globally or farm communities trying to compete nationwide.”
Economic opportunity recommendation framework
  • Creating a robust national employment assistance platform
  • Promoting telework through federal policy
  • Expanding efforts to trains and equip SMEs with broadband applications
  • Utilizing broadband to enhance economic development tools and planning


Given the late afternoon start time the meeting has predictably run into the evening. Managing Director Erik Garr, wraps up expeditiously. “If we can do a lot of these things for the country it will make a material difference for how we find jobs, how we’re trained for jobs, how we’re educated, and how we care for each other when we’re sick,” he says. “This is important stuff. We look forward to taking this to final recommendations from working recommendations.”
Chairman Genachowski and the assembled commissioners agree that this was an “impressive and very important presentation.”
6:35pm EDT
After a brief presentation from Steve Waldman on Future of Media the Chairman adjourns the meeting. The Broadband Team retires to their secluded lair to continue writing. Interested onlookers, filled with national purpose, disperse into the night.

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