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Connecting America’s Stories: Public Safety

May 12th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

The effort to manage the oil spill hitting the Gulf Coast is just one more reminder of how critical the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan are for ensuring public safety.  The gulf coast states have built a communications network to help their safety and cleanup operations talk to one another – a problem that has plagued emergency responders for years – quite memorably during both Hurricane Katrina and September 11th. Around the country people are using broadband technology in new and creative ways to help keep their communities safe and informed. 

Peggy is a farmer in Deming, Washington.

We've recently started a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) that disseminates information (flood warnings, announcements for emergency training sessions, and alerts about at-large criminals, sex-offender re-locations, etc.) Without this email-tree, we would all be in the dark, cut off from training that could save lives, and at higher risk to danger.

In this video authors of the plan look at how communications technology can be better designed to make Americans safer.
 

Jennifer Manner, lead for the Public Safety and Homeland Security chapter of the Broadband Plan, focused on the need to get all of the country’s public safety agencies on the same frequency – literally. 

One of the challenges has been that the networks are very fragmented, so emergency responders aren’t often able to talk to one another across jurisdictions, or across geographies… if you remember during Katrina this was a big problem, during 9-11 this was another big problem. …

[One of our proposals is] an Emergency Reliability and Interoperability Center (ERIC) – we wanted the system to be interoperable – we wanted the officer in New York to be able to go to California to help out and be able to use his device there. 

In addition, the Broadband Plan looks at ways for citizens to get information more quickly and efficiently.  Jennifer also talks about the great potential for activating citizens in emergencies.

If you think about the Amber Alerts that we have today, wouldn’t it be more effective if they could actually show you the face of the child who is missing, or the picture of the car in a real time basis?

Check out the Action Agenda for the next steps the FCC is taking to make these and other changes to support public safety in America a reality, and keep sharing your stories of how broadband access helps you and your community stay safe.
 

Connecting America’s Stories: Broadband Availability

May 10th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

Goal #1 of the National Broadband Plan is that 100 million U.S. Homes will have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.

What do these numbers mean to you? Email that doesn’t take all day to send.  Sharing photos with friends.  Working from home instead of a long commute.  Getting your degree while supporting your family.  Not letting an illness keep you isolated from work and family.  You told us this, and so much more.

Maria is a college professor and mother in rural York, New York:

Four-tenths of a mile down the road residents have access to cable. When I contacted [the local internet provider] I received a letter stating that in order to have cable run to our home we would have to pay them $5,000 (in addition to monthly fees).

Residents four-tenths of a mile down the road have cable television, wireless Internet and all of the benefits that go along with it--they can watch movies from their PCs, they can upload games wirelessly, watch educational videos for free on PBS.org with their children, share home movies with family across the country. Four-tenths of a mile down the road, residents did not have to pay anything to have cable run to their homes. Four-tenths of a mile down the road moms have the option to work from home with their high-speed Internet without the cost and stress of enrolling their children in daycare.

Maria’s frustration is echoed in the stories many of you have sent us.  Spotty, slow and non-existent internet connections have deep economic, social and personal consequences that may well shape the future of our nation.

In this video leaders on the National Broadband Plan team talk about increasing availability of broadband to all Americans.

Carol Mattey worked on the Universal Service Recommendations in the Broadband Plan:

Our current regulatory policies in this area are broken.  They needed to be fixed.  The system has accomplished a great deal over the years, but it is not suited and is not going to bring broadband to all of America.

We brought in perspectives from industry and academia, and actual users and participants… We really were focused on trying to develop facts and information, which ultimately are the foundation of making good decisions.

The result is a set of recommendations that will help people find creative solutions to the unique issues in their communities, such as:

Helping schools, hospitals, local communities and Tribal lands afford the infrastructure they need to set up broadband, and share it with businesses and neighbors.

Helping local governments set up broadband in areas where private business can’t make a profit.

Changing the way that companies charge to connect people across the country.

To find out more about how the National Broadband Plan can help to increase broadband availability, read more here, and share your stories on how broadband has impacted you and your community.

 

Connecting America’s Stories: The Current State of the Broadband Ecosystem

April 30th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

When Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last February, it tasked the FCC with creating a plan to expand broadband access to Americans.  The first step was to ask Americans about the role of broadband Internet access in their daily lives – at home, at school, and at work.

Who had it, who didn’t?  Who used it, who didn’t?  How do they use it? And perhaps most importantly… Why?

This research showed clear themes, and a complex problem.  Some consumers lament an inability to afford service and lack of access in their community.  Others are confused by complicated offerings from service providers.  And many simply do not know how to use a computer or understand how the internet would be useful in their lives.




 


John Horrigan is the Director of Consumer Research.

I fielded a survey of 5000 Americans on their broadband usage patterns and looking at the reasons why people don’t have broadband…it goes into two big categories: cost and getting people trained and comfortable with using the internet. 

We found about a third of Americans did not have broadband at home, and the leading reasons were cost, digital literacy and a perceived lack of relevance to people about whether this gadget, this tool, the internet, is useful to them. 


Broadband Adoption by American Adults by Socio-Economic and Demographic Factors

 


At America's Digital Inclusion Summit on March 9, 2010, stories from everyday Americans illustrated how a lack of Internet access can exclude people from jobs, adequate education, family connections, and in no small way, deprive them of full ability to pursue the American dream in a knowledge-driven global economy.

One mother, Rhonda Locklear, a housing specialist with the Lumbee Tribe in Pembroke, North Carolina talked about the difficulties her family and tribe face due to a lack of access to affordable, reliable broadband service.

Like most families across the state who either don’t have access to high speed internet, or who can’t afford it, we were stuck with dial-up service in our home until two months ago.  I feel that this has put my family, my sons in particular, at a severe disadvantage.  …

Seemingly easy [school] assignments took him hours to complete.  Isaac got very upset, discouraged and frustrated because he could not do what he needed to do.  As a mother, it breaks my heart and causes me to feel that I have failed him in some way.


Peter Bowen, Applications Director, researched how people are using and experiencing the internet, at home, at work and through mobile devices.  In addition to finding out how people are using their broadband connections, his research led him to focus on ensuring transparency in the buying process for consumers.

Broadband is very confusing. You can imagine a day where you go online and you go to a consumer-reports-type website… and there’s literally:  ‘Here are the five services you can get in your area, by all the different providers that are there, the prices they’re offering’…. some service providers are going to be better at certain things than others. 

What we really need to do is help consumers understand the differences in broadband, and then help promote competition by allowing them to look at it… and make an informed choice and sign up for something feeling good about it.


Advertised Versus Actual U.S. Fixed Broadband Residential Download Speeds (Mbps)
 

 


The landscape is changing quickly.  Every day, new mobile devices and online applications are being developed that affect how Americans will use, and need, broadband.  Last week the FCC released an Action Agenda for the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. On this blog we’ll continue to track our progress, and invite readers to join us in the conversation.

Click here to learn more about the state of the broadband ecosystem.

Your Stories About Broadband Internet Access

April 14th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

Since the rollout of the National Broadband Plan last month, Americans have shared their stories about broadband in their daily lives. In the end, expanding Broadband access is about improving people’s lives - fostering communities, providing access to services and information, and saving time and money.  

We asked you to share your stories of how access to broadband – and in some cases, the lack of broadband – affects you and your community.  The response has been phenomenal.  On this blog we will be talking more about your experiences, and how broadband innovation will make a difference for Americans and their families.  Here is just a sample of what you’ve shared with us so far.

Daniel in Sebastian, Florida
Librarian

We offer essential services -- employment opportunities, applications for government assistance such as unemployment benefits and food stamps, and online interactions with educational institutions. Here at the Indian River County Library System … an ever-increasing number of patrons are filling our public computing sections to overflow. We want to add more computers. But we don't have sufficient bandwidth to handle the extra load. And with the severe budget cuts we've endured, we don't the funds to pay for it.

Stephen in Marietta, Georgia
Non-traditional College Student

Without broadband I would not have been able to easily and effectively continue my Bachelor of Science degree while working full-time.

Richard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Volunteer First Responder

I am a trained volunteer weather spotter for the NWS in the Milwaukee area, a First Responder trained by the CERT program, and an instructor in Emergency Communications for the American Radio Relay League.

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. My current provider, -----, from my experiences, would not have a wireless system that could be reliable enough for First Responder needs in the field.

Jason in Guthrie, Oklahoma
Local Football Fan

We stream our Oklahoma Metro Football League over the internet live.

Frank in Eatonville, Washington
Commuter

The only internet access available in our area is dial-up. The dial-up connection is a horrible 28.8Kbps. My company offers telecommuting but I can't work from home with such slow speeds. It's too bad because I have to drive almost 40 miles to work. Rural customers like me need an affordable broadband solution. It's like we're living in the stone age out here.

Carol in Reading, Vermont
Rural Doctor

As a surgeon, I need to watch surgical videos to learn new techniques and get my continuing medical education credits. I CANNOT DO THIS IN MY OWN HOME. … it is the lack of highspeed that hinders me professionally and may cause me to move back to civilization, depriving my rural neighborhood of a highly qualified doctor. My husband is a consultant and loses credibility because he cannot access information quickly during conference calls. Please help us.

Please keep sending us your stories.  We’ll continue to share your thoughts about the National Broadband Plan as we work to ensure broadband access for all Americans.



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