Federal Communications Commission

Workshops Category

Diversity, Civil Rights and the National Broadband Plan

October 29th, 2009 by Mark Lloyd - Associate General Counsel / Chief Diversity Officer

In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Congress requires the FCC to submit a national broadband plan that seeks to “ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability.”   Congress does not look for a plan that provides access to a majority of U.S. citizens, but to all people.  This is consistent with Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which instructed the FCC to regularly report to Congress on whether advanced telecommunications services (what we now call broadband) were being made available to all Americans in a timely fashion.  On October 2, the FCC conducted a day-long workshop that looked closely at what it would mean to craft a plan to extend broadband service to all Americans, regardless of age, gender, income, race, ethnicity, religion, political orientation, or disability.

As FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell put it in opening the day’s proceedings: “How are we going to be able to get these powerful technologies that can really improve the human condition so dramatically and so quickly – how do we get those resources into the hands of as many people as possible?” This is the first in a series of blogs on that day-long program focused on ensuring that the national broadband plan takes into account the rich diversity of our nation in accordance with equal rights under law. This first blog will address the overarching goal of the day and describe the blog entries to come.

All too often, it seems, words become political noise and cease to carry the meanings conveyed by the dictionary or intended by the user.  Perhaps the term “civil rights” and the word “diversity” have suffered this fate.  One goal of the October 2 workshop was to recapture and clarify those terms.

Diversity means diversity.  It is not a code word for minorities, or creating privileges for some specific group.   The panelists who generously gave of their time, and the staff members who created and managed the various platforms for the panelists to speak, represent the true meaning of the word diversity.  The concerns of the poor, of people of color, of different religious beliefs, of people with different physical and mental impairments, of immigrants and of Native Americans, of Republicans like Commissioner McDowell and Democrats like Commissioner Copps, all of this diversity was represented in the day’s discussion.

All Americans have civil rights.  Civil rights are not passé.  The struggle for civil rights, for equal rights under the law for all Americans, did not begin and end with Dr. Martin Luther King.  That struggle continues and involves the concerns of all Americans, of all colors and incomes and ages and genders and abilities and regions.  As Commissioner Michael Copps said at the start of the second panel, “Access to modern telecommunications is a civil right.”

The connection between equal rights under the law and broadband is not difficult to understand.  A struggling rancher in Idaho has a right to participate in the public debate equal to the right of the wealthy lobbyist living on Capitol Hill.  The migrant worker has a right to participate in the marketplace equal to the right of the Wall Street broker.  Whether it is civic discourse or economic activity, in today’s world the effective engagement in these activities requires access to broadband.  Whether the goal is public safety, education, health care or some other great national purpose, that purpose is either limited or expanded today through broadband.  The great hope for broadband is that it will improve the ability of all Americans to participate in the robust life of our nation.

The diversity of our nation, our different cultures and religions and languages and abilities, is one our great strengths. This diversity also requires the government to take special care to ensure that the needs of all Americans are reasonably addressed. Structural poverty, continuing segregation, unequal opportunities in education, and discrimination in financial markets can all have a profound affect on access to broadband and adoption rates. These challenges affect some groups differently than others. To meet the congressional requirement of making broadband service possible for all Americans, the FCC must recognize the different needs of a diverse America, while holding to the core American principle of equal treatment under the law.

Getting the advice of experts on these complex issues was the work of the day.  Responding to that advice in a national broadband plan will not be easy.

The first challenge, as Rutger’s Dean Jorge Schement noted, is to rethink “the metaphors we develop that cause us to understand policies or proposed policies.  We need new metaphors.”  The first problem is to better understand our diversity.  Dr. Schement described a rapidly changing population, a population that is becoming browner and speaking more languages, in the midst of a massive internal migration.  America is embracing more immigrants, not only from Mexico, but also from Germany and Southeast Asia.  But as Mark Pruner of the Native American Broadband Association points out, “American Samoa is better tracked by the FCC than … the 563 federally-recognized Native American tribes.”  Jim Tobias, an expert on the challenges faced by the disabled, adds that the population is also aging, joining an ever growing number of Americans who need help seeing and hearing.  Dr. Schement noted that the actual makeup of the American household is changing more rapidly than our conventional definition of the word is.  For example, many households are multi-generational, while others are made up of families without children.

Santa Clara Law Professor Catherine Sandoval makes the additional point that not only is the population diverse, but the new technologies we want to make available are diverse as well.  Professor Sandoval also notes that we have to be much more careful about the questions we ask in polls.  “If you ask somebody do you subscribe to broadband?  Well, the FCC is spending a lot of time trying to figure out what broadband is and how we should define it.  And, so, that question assumes that … the person knows what broadband is.”

As all the panelists throughout the day emphasized, we need much better data on who has access and to what, and who is choosing not to adopt broadband and why.  That was the focus of the first panel, and it will also be the focus of the next blog.  The second panel was a very rich discussion of what the government can do, mindful of equal protection law, to extend broadband to a diverse nation.  The third blog will describe that discussion.  And the third and final panel examined best practices in encouraging access and adoption to a diverse nation.  The fourth blog will report on best practices.

Broadband Accessibility II: Recap

October 27th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBHow do you sum up over seven hours of rich and thoughtful content from our October 20 workshop in one blog post?  I'll do my best to follow the model of the 22 participants of the afternoon policy roundtable, each of whom managed to state their views of what recommendations we should include in the National Broadband Plan succinctly and passionately -- while at the same timing beating the three-minute buzzer.

In the first panel, Leveraging Federal and State Resources to make Broadband Accessible and Affordable, we heard about the efforts of Department of Commerce/NTIA, Department of Agriculture/RUS, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Government Services Administration, and the State of Missouri (from Danny Weitzner, Gary Boles, Jennifer Sheehy, Richard Horne, Terry Weaver, and Marty Exline, respectively) to support broadband access for people with disabilities.   While each agency is clearly making an important contribution, the daunting task before us is to figure out how we can better coordinate our efforts at the tribal, local, state, federal, and international levels.

In the second panel, we heard consumers discuss very movingly the specific barriers and opportunities that broadband presents to those who have speech, hearing, vision, hearing and vision, mobility, and intellectual disabilities.  A consultant gave a "big picture" analysis of these barriers and opportunities.  The panel did a superb job of clearly articulating the problems that we have to solve.  Thanks to Eric Bridges of the American Council of the Blind; Rosaline Crawford of the National Association of the Deaf; Peggy Hathaway of Spinal Cord Advocates; Rebecca Ladew of Speech Communications Assistance by Telephone; Elizabeth Spiers of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind; Jim Tobias of Inclusive Technologies; and Elizabeth Weintraub of the Council on Quality and Leadership.

"Advancing National Purposes for People with Disabilities" was the theme of the third panel.  Jim Fruchterman of Benetech discussed how Bookshare allows people with vision, learning, and mobility disabilities to have online access to over 50,000 books and periodicals.  Peggy Hathaway of Spinal Cord Advocates discussed how broadband  provides new job and civic participation opportunities for people with mobility disabilities, and Claude Stout of Telecommunications for the Deaf discussed the urgent need for people in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to be able to contact E-911 services directly using pagers, e-mail, and real-time text and video.  Kate Seelman of the University of Pittsburgh discussed how broadband-enabled telerehabilitation can help people with disabilities better manage their health and employment, and Ishak Kang of DOT UI discussed how the Smart Grid could benefit people with disabilities.

During the lunch break, people had time to check out some technology exhibits.  They included a demonstration of WGBH's Teacher Domain; Bookshare; PLYmedia's online video captioning solution; RIM's blackberry smartphones; and the Wireless RERC's emergency communications project.

The fourth panel was a fascinating exploration of the technological barriers and opportunities relating to broadband accessibility.  Among other things, the panelists addressed E-911 issues; the importance of interoperability and open architecture; the potential to address accessibility challenges through cloud computing; and the challenges related to captioning on the Internet.  We needed a lot more time than 55 minutes to cover these topics (and other topics that we wanted to cover).  Thanks to Greg Elin of United Cerebral Palsy and Life Without Limits; Jim Fruchterman of Benetech; Dale Hatfield of Silicon Flatirons;  John Snapp of Intrado; and Gregg Vanderheiden of the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their participation.

The contributions of the wide variety of stakeholders who gave us their views on what recommendations we should include in the National Broadband Plan were amazing.  Most consumers and some in industry stated that it was critical to update the accessibility regulatory framework and promote universal design but others warned that too much regulation could hamper innovation.  A wide range of stakeholders thought that subsidizing broadband services and equipment -- particularly expensive assistive technologies used by people with disabilities -- was critical.  Most stakeholders thought that consumer/industry/government fora could play an important role in addressing some complex issues.  Most participants also thought that the government could take an active role in working with industry to promote best practices -- and perhaps foster some kind of innovation center.  Finally, many stated that government itself should be a better model of accessibility and do a better job of enforcing the accessibility rules that are already on the books, including the ADA, Section 255, and Section 508. We very much appreciate the participation of Rob Atkinson of IITF; Ellen Blackler of AT&T; Alan Brightman of Yahoo; Kathy Brown of Verizon; Deborah Buck of the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs; David Capozzi of the U.S. Access Board; Larry Goldberg of the Media Access Group at WGBH; Patrick Halley of NENA; Dale Hatfield of Silicon Flatirons; Matthew Knopf of PLYmedia; Jane Mago of NAB; Helena Mitchell of the Wireless RERC at Georgia Tech; Randy Pope of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind; Ken Salaets of ITIC; Paul Schroeder of American Foundation of the Blind; Grant Seiffert of TIA; Dane Snowden of CTIA; Claude Stout of TDI; Karen Peltz Strauss of COAT;  Jim Tobias of Inclusive Technologies; Gregg Vanderheiden of the Trace Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Joe Waz on Comcast.

This event could never have happened without the engagement of so many people throughout the Commission.  Moderators included Commissioner Copps; Sherrese Smith and Mary Beth Richards of the Chairman's office; Jennifer Schneider of Commissioner Copps' office; Erik Garr, General Manager of the Broadband Team; Workshop Coordinator and DRO Deputy Chief Cheryl King; Broadband Team members Elise Kohn, John Horrigan, Kristin Kane, Steve Midgley, Jing Vivatrat, and Kerry McDermott; Walter Johnston of OET (subbing for Chief Technologist Stagg Newman); and Jennifer Manner and Ronnie Cho of PSHSB.  Official Government Observers included David Furth of PSHSB; Jane Jackson of WTB; Mark Stone and Cheryl King of CGB; and Terry Weaver of GSA.  Finally, there were numerous people behind the scenes from CGB and DRO, the A-V team, and on the Broadband team policy staff who helped make the event run smoothly.

The input we've received is invaluable.  We do have some follow up questions and will be soliciting further ex parte submissions in a separate blog post in the very near future.  But for now, my three-minute buzzer has gone off!

Cyber Security

October 16th, 2009 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

The recent Cyber Security Broadband Workshop was a fascinating discussion, featuring panelists from a diverse group of backgrounds and perspectives.  We explored solutions and discussed many of the challenges that government and the private sector face in achieving cyber security as a matter of public safety and economic security.  So much of our lives rely on the Internet and the need to secure our online infrastructure is critically important, so I want to highlight just a few take-aways from the workshop. The experts agree that cyber security is not a barrier to broadband deployment, but methods of prevention, detection and restoration must continually be developed.  The public must have knowledge of what cyber attacks are and where they may come from and stay alert.  We all must do our part.   As technologies get more sophisticated, so do the threats.

Our panelists acknowledged the need to expand cyber security awareness and education for consumers and provide user-friendly tools and best practices to help protect personal computers.  Dr. Don Welch noted that the return on investment for cyber security, for both private and public entities, is negative; in other words, all the money and resources spent to protect systems go to ensuring that nothing happens.  The business community and government face the challenge of implementing robust cyber security solutions without severely stifling innovation or devalue the user experience. These were just a few interesting items of discussion from a conversation I hope we continue to have as the broadband plan is developed.  A key measure of our success in this area will be the degree to which we help increase the American public's knowledge and awareness of cyber security and the actions they can take to protect themselves and their privacy. Please feel free to contribute to the on-going conversation by sharing your comments and questions. In case you missed the workshop, you can view the presentations and materials here.

Public Notices

October 1st, 2009 by Randy Clarke - Legal Counsel, Wireline Competition Bureau

Over the past several months, the Commission has held a series of public workshops -- 27 so far -- as part of the process of developing a National Broadband Plan.  Dozens of panelists have addressed a multitude of issues related to broadband including availability, accessibility, deployment, adoption, health care, security, and technology - just to name a few.  While the workshops are essential to the Commission's data-gathering process, followup questions frequently arise.  To get answers and round out the discussion, the Commission has released targeted Public Notices and we expect more Public Notices to be put out in the coming weeks.

We're trying to make it easy for everyone interested in the issues to give us their views, so we created what we hope will be a handy chart, showing what's been released and all of the deadlines.  The chart also has links to the released Public Notices to provide an easy way to access them.   We'll continue to update it as new Public Notices come out; the updated chart will always be available on Blogband.  We hope you will participate in this important process - getting your input is essential to creating the best possible National Broadband Plan.

FCC Hearing - watch @

October 1st, 2009 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

Gray BBTune in now to watch the FCC Hearing on Capital Formation in the Broadband Sector. You can find the agenda and presentations here.

For the Q&A session, send in your questions via Twitter (#BBwkshp) to be asked in the room.

Mid-Term Review

September 28th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Blair LevinIt's mid-term review time for the broadband team:  on Tuesday, with 141 days left to go before the deadline to deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress, we're providing the Commission with a major status report on the plan.

We still have a lot of work to do.  But with all of the data we've gathered in our workshops and hearings, in the record, and in our own research, we think we have a pretty good handle on the status of broadband in the U.S.  We'll be laying out some specifics of what we have found out about broadband speeds, spectrum and fiber resources, the increasing cost of digital exclusion, and the benefits to the economy and to individual citizens that broadband can provide.  We'll look at the adequacy of the tools available to promote robust, universal broadband -- tools such as universal service.  We'll be fielding questions about all of this and seeking guidance from the commissioners about whether we're on the right track in our examination as we proceed toward developing recommendations for the plan.  We also want the public to weigh on the facts and analysis we will present so we can make adjustments now, while we are still at a relatively early point in the process, rather than later, after decisions have been made.

We're eager to build upon the work we've done thus far and establish policy recommendations that can result in a high-performance America, fueled by broadband.  Join us in the Commission room Tuesday or online to help us take stock of where we are in our plan to reach that vision.


September 28th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Blair LevinWhen our Staff Workshops started, some critics immediately concluded that the nature of the participants demonstrated that the FCC just listens to communications industry giants. If we're going to be criticized now (which we undoubtedly will be) the numbers suggest we may be in danger of the critique that we haven't heard from enough industry giants.  So far, academics have comprised over 13 percent of all participants at the workshops, followed by consumer and public interest groups (9.3%).  The largest industry group was equipment makers, comprising a little over 8% of the participants, followed by alternative wireless services at nearly 6 %.

This past week, we had our first field hearings, with more coming.  They will certainly tip the scales again - toward the public.

Our goal for these workshops and hearings was to gather new data and fresh insights so we could break out of Beltway policy stalemates.  I think we are doing that.  But we recognize that all the workshops, field hearings and other efforts to gather input will only pay off if we can put together a coherent, comprehensive program to address the concerns Congress discussed in the authorizing legislation.  That is not easy, as it requires doing more on limited resources; always difficult math.  So while the numbers from our workshops suggest the way we are approaching things, the numbers that we really have to stay focused on are those about broadband deployment and adoption.

Participant Type

Number Represented

Percentage Represented






Consumer & Public Interest
















Alt wireless




Government - Federal




Government - Local




Think Tanks
















Government - State




























Government - International








Total Represented



*Other - Consists of multiple, publishing, other, retail, legal & health care categories

Cyber Security Workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

September 25th, 2009 by Rear Adm. (ret.) James A. Barnett Jr. - Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief, FCC

How much of your daily communications, as well as business, personal, entertainment and informational sources, depend on the Internet?  My best guess is that it is a primary way for you to obtain and share information. The use of the Internet by the public has grown exponentially in the past five years. And, with the growth of the Internet come new communications challenges and threats.  This potential threat is why you should attend and participate in our Cyber Security Workshop on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.   I will be one of the moderators and I hope you will be able to attend - either in person or via the web. The workshop panel is represented by a great combination of government, industry and education subject matter experts.  The panelists will explore with you how broadband technologies can help prevent and detect cyber attacks and expedite restoration of networks and services after an attack.  I encourage your input during the workshop - questions and comments can be submitted in-person or to the online coordinator for consideration during the workshop.   I look forward to seeing you there or hearing your questions and comments!

Broadband Deployment and Adoption on Tribal Lands

September 24th, 2009 by Shana Barehand - and Steve Klitzman

We know that Tribal lands are among the most unserved/underserved areas of the country with respect to broadband deployment and adoption.  This is why we issued a Public Notice seeking comment on specific barriers to broadband deployment and adoption in Indian Country or Tribal lands and how they can be reduced or eliminated.  Also, we posted this blog to facilitate the exchange of information on these important issues, and encourage all parties - Tribal organizations and members as well as broadband providers, academics, state and local government authorities and the public - to submit comments on the record and postings on this blog.

We are particularly interested in:

  • Any quantitative data, studies, or analyses on the current extent of broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands;
  • Specific suggestions for solutions to the problems with broadband deployment, adoption, and use on Tribal lands;
  • Promoting digital literacy and education on Tribal lands;
  • Whether subsidizing the costs of computers, related equipment, and broadband service for low income consumers would increase broadband accessibility, adoption, and use on Tribal lands, and by how much;
  • The percent of Tribal community centers, schools and households that are passed by: a) fixed telephony; b) mobile telephony; c) cable services, and d) satellite services;
  • Any other information that would help us better understand accessibility, affordability, and usage problems regarding broadband on Tribal lands.
Please read the Public Notice and file comments using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.  Please note that your comments should reference NBP Public Notice #5 (DA 09-2093).


September 23rd, 2009 by Phil Bellaria - Director, Scenario Planning, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Phil Bellaria BBLast Thursday, September 17, we held a workshop on Spectrum.  Though I may be slightly biased (and very geeky), I thought it was the coolest workshop to date.  Where else can you have well-informed people disagree so starkly on such key issues as the need for more licensed spectrum (some say we need it now, others that we still have a lot of idle capacity) and sources of that spectrum (some say the government, others point to specific commercial users)?   At what other workshop have panelists thrown out such cool terms as "White-Fi" and "self-optimizing networks," then actually been able to explain their application to the real world?

Though it's nearly impossible to capture the essence of such a rich discussion, I drew 3 conclusions from the workshop.

1.      The usage of wireless broadband services is growing at a faster rate than technological advances and other innovations to make more efficient use of spectrum.  At some point, therefore, we will face a spectrum supply-demand imbalance.

2.      There are numerous approaches to address the supply-demand imbalance, all of which are important and none of which can alone solve the problem:

  • A complete, dynamic database of current occupants, licensed and unlicensed, by time, geography, and frequency, would help bring transparency to the marketplace.
  • Building on this database, a well-functioning secondary market would facilitate movement of spectrum licenses to their most productive uses.
  • Investment in and commercialization of innovative new technologies will continue to deliver more efficient and economic usage of existing spectrum allocations.
  • We can only squeeze so much juice out of the orange, so to speak.  We will need to find additional sources of spectrum to allocate to wireless broadband services to meet growing demand.

3.      Finally, wireless broadband service is critical to solving our broadband deployment and adoption challenges - we need to start working on solving the spectrum supply-demand imbalance today, even if it won't reach "crisis" stage until some point in the future.  Coleman Bazelon, one of the panelists, summarized the importance best when he said that no other current commercial usage of spectrum delivers as much economic value as wireless broadband service (I paraphrase, of course).

Another point came across clearly during the workshop: we can learn a lot about using spectrum more efficiently from the explosion of devices and applications in unlicensed spectrum, and from non-commercial use of cognitive radios and ad hoc networking driven by DARPA for military applications.

Like any animated discussion, though, the workshop also raised more questions in my mind:

  • How much additional spectrum will we need for wireless broadband service to close the supply-demand gap?
  • By when will we need this additional spectrum?
  • From whom do we get this additional spectrum?  How?
  • What policies will enable continued innovation in spectrum efficiency and migration towards more productive uses of spectrum?  What policies would hurt?

I'm very interested to read what others think about the spectrum challenges and opportunities we face today.  I encourage you to engage in this process by continuing the discussion thread on the blog or by filing comments with ECFS Express (or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file).  You can also file comments responding to the Wireless Innovation NOI using the same docket number, 09-51.  Thanks in advance for your input!

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