Federal Communications Commission

Archive for November 2009

Chairman Genachowski Meets With Mayor Bloomberg

November 19th, 2009 by George Krebs

Chairman Genachowski sat down with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today as part of a concerted effort to listen and learn about communications challenges and opportunities from municipalities and states around the country.

The Chairman and Mayor Bloomberg discussed the value of broadband deployment and adoption, the importance of interoperable communications networks for the public safety community, and economic challenges in the media landscape.


“We appreciated the opportunity to talk about using broadband technology to advance innovation in government. We've tried to do it in New York, and were delighted to talk to Chairman Genachowski about his ambitious goals for the country,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

Chairman Genachowski said, “Mayor Bloomberg has shown tremendous leadership in promoting innovative technology solutions for New York City’s government and its citizens. It was a pleasure to speak with him today, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that New Yorkers benefit from broadband’s full potential.”  

Reforming Universal Service for Broadband?

November 19th, 2009 by Carol Mattey - Deputy Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau

Virtually everyone agrees that the current universal service program is broken.  But how to fix it – that’s the $64 million question.  Oh, make that the $7 billion question and growing.  At the same time, universal service has the potential to help provide affordable broadband everywhere.  But if we are going to make that happen, we can’t explode the size of the fund in the process.   It’s not telephone companies that pay for universal service.  It's you and me and everyone else in America that pays.   We have to decide as a nation what exactly we are trying to achieve with the universal service fund and how we can best direct those resources to benefit consumers.

As part of our data-driven process to develop the National Broadband Plan, we are seeking additional comment in a Public Notice released last week relating to various aspects of universal service and intercarrier compensation We aren’t looking for more general advocacy about the need to reform universal service or intercarrier compensation; we want solid factual analyses and data to help shape the path forward.  For instance, we want to know how changes in the universal service fund contribution methodology will impact consumers, how high-cost funding can be targeted to unserved areas, and what specific steps the Commission could take to make broadband more affordable for low income consumers.  Please file comments using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.   You should note in your comments that you are responding to Public Notice #19.  You can also post comments on Blogband, and they will be included in the record for the National Broadband Plan.

Digital Democracy Public Notice

November 19th, 2009 by Kevin Bennett

 Civic participation is critical to the health and legitimacy of our democracy, and our election process, public hearings and town hall meetings are among the most direct and regular opportunities for interaction between our government and its citizens. That is why we have issued a Public Notice (PN) specifically requesting your comments, data and analysis regarding how we can bring our democratic processes into the digital age.

  • Registering to vote: How can broadband help to facilitate voter registration? For example, in Texas, Travis County’s Tax Office has implemented an Internet-based application that allows citizens to register to vote in just minutes over the Internet. What can we learn from what states and local governments like Travis County, Texas have done in this area?
  • Processes leading up to Election Day: There are many steps that come before the election polls open and close where broadband and online services can increase civic participation. Where have these been implemented? What lessons can we learn?
  • Voting: Voting is the most fundamental of civic acts. As technology transforms all aspects of society, could it transform voting as well? Some states and pilot projects have taken steps to enable secure online voting for our brave men and women fighting overseas to ensure that they are not required to give up their right to vote as a condition to defending our country. For example, Arizona enables our brave military men and women overseas to vote online by uploading completed ballots to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website. What can we learn from Arizona as well as other state and local governments and other groups looking at this important issue?
  • Online Government Hearings and Online Town Hall Meetings: The proliferation of Internet-based tools and high speed technologies enable high quality video and new venues for civic participation. Can we apply these technologies to government hearings and online town hall meetings? What examples do we have of integrating new technologies to enable citizens to better engage their government?
We hope that you will take the time to share your opinions, examples, and data with us regarding these important topics. For more details, background and context, please see the Public Notice. Please respond with your ideas to this blog post, or file your comments using our Electronic Filing Comment System, using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file. Please title comments and reply comments responsive to this Notice as “Comments (or Reply Comments) – NBP Public Notice # 20.”

Live Blogging the Open Commission Meeting

November 18th, 2009 by George Krebs

For more information and a host of resources pertaining to today's meeting click here.

10:03 AM EDT
Welcome to the November Open Commission meeting. Today the commissioners will review the state of the National Broadband Plan and consider a draft ruling on the wireless tower siting time frame petition (an explanation will follow). For a better sense of the gaps the team will be looking at in the Broadband Plan, Executive Director Blair Levin provides brilliant analysis here.

First, the commissioners will vote on the "draft declaratory ruling" on setting a timeframe for processing wireless tower siting applications. With little fanfare, Chairman Genachowski launches into the agenda. The stage is set for Ruth Milkman, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief, and she begins.

10:18 AM EDT
While the docket file with the draft of the rule seems quite dense and involved (at 44 pages in the pdf), the Wireless Bureau presentation is fairly straight forward. Angela Kroneberg, Special Counsel in the Wireless Bureau explains that "The act requires that state and local governments act on wireless facility siting applications within a reasonable period of time." The rule concerns a request for state and local jurisdictions to act on tower citing requests -- mostly made by wireless carriers.

Some applications have laid fallow for three years while providers have been anxious to build their network for consumers. This rule would require applications to be processed within 90 days for co-locations (sites where two or more providers are sharing a tower or sharing a zoned plot of land for more than one tower) and 150 days for all other tower siting applications (say, if a carrier wanted to build a new tower). This rule adopts a fair time frame for all parties involved. Without a fair timeframe for decision making, the providers cannot adequately assess their position in constructing their infrastructure.

10:37 AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski notes that is was an "Excellent and clear presentation." Commissioner Copps exlpains that this rule will provide easier access for broadband and mobile services and says, "This sounds like a win, win, win to me." Commissioner McDowell notes that this ruling adheres to his philosophy of helping businesses. Streamling this process for carriers will pass along cost savings to their consumers and will spur business. Commissioner Clyburn concurs, emphasizing that the ruling will facilitate infrastructure buildup for carriers and ultimately, and most importantly, will benefit consumers. Commissioner Baker says that the rule will provide certainty for wireless carriers. The Chairman takes a vote and with it says, "We have a unanimous approval of this item."

10:50 AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski describes the importance of universal broadband and gives the floor to Blair Levin, Executive Director of the National Broadband Plan. Mr. Levin lays out the agenda for today’s presentation which includes providing a description of the most important broadband gaps, ensuring public awareness of areas of inquiry, beginning a focused discussion of solutions, and setting the agenda for the next 91 days.
The plan is about an ecosystem involving devices, adoption and utilization, applications and content, and devices. These elements are interdependent. The success of one element can bolster the success of the others and in the same way a bottleneck facing one element, say in network services, affects the other spheres of the ecosystem.
11:02 AM EDT
Ruth Milkman, again from the Wireless Bureau, speaks to the need for spectrum. She explains that the demand for mobile data will grow dramatically. A chart on the PowerPoint presentation (which you will be able to find here following the meeting) shows that in 2009 mobile users are consuming 17 petabytes of data a month. A study from Cisco VNI predicts that users will consume 397 petabytes per month in 2013. This will require the commission to free up large swaths of spectrum that is currently unavailable. From our experience we know that it takes years to free up spectrum for use. Milkman says, “We know there’s a spectrum gap and we need to act quickly.”
11: 17 AM EDT
Brian David, Adoption and Usage Director for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative (the Broadband Team), sounds a clarion call. He warns that “the cost of digital exclusion is large and growing.” Education, health care, public safety, small business functionality, and job searches are increasingly dependant on the universality internet. FCC Managing Director Steve VanRoekel adds to Mr. David’s presentations and states that “increasingly job training is only online.”

Mr. VanRoekel continues the panel with a discussion on the importance of protecting the privacy of consumer information. He then transitions to the FCC’s own relationship to the issues the Broadband Team is reviewing. “Around the FCC we’re working on closing a significant gap,” he says, “the gap of data.” To be data driven agency it’s crucial that we utilize existing internal data.

11:38 AM EDT
Erik Garr, Managing Director of the Broadband Plan, wraps up the presentation. The way to do this right is to look at the whole ecosystem. He details the road ahead with a list that includes resolving workshop responses, accessibility for people with disabilities, spectrum for broadband, telework, and public safety and homeland security issues. He says, “The important thing for you [the Commissioners] and the public is if there’s anything not on this list, please let us know. It is important we get all the public input we can.” He concludes by saying that the “February date,” February 17 when the plan is due, “is the one that keeps us up at night.” The team has scheduled a handful of future hearings and workshops and set up a schedule for the next three months. In December the team will report on their policy framework, in January on opportunities to drive national purposes, and February will see the completed plan. With that the presentation concludes and the panel opens for questions.

11:59 AM EDT
Following brief questions from the Commissioners, Chairman Genachowski wraps up. The broadband plan will provide the country with infrastructure that it “needs and deserves,” he says. Speaking to Executive Director Blair Levin and the collected panelists, he says, “We deeply appreciate and acknowledge the ‘round-the-clock work and willingness to engage in spirited public dialogue. It all makes it a lot harder; we note it and appreciate it.” With that, the commission secretary announces the date of the next commission meeting and the November Open Commission Meeting is adjourned. Until next time.

12:15 PM EDT
The press conference, which always follows the meeting, has commenced and the Chairman is giving answers to the questions of the press corps. You can watch the livestream of the press conference here. Key commission staff members have remained in the Commission Meeting Room and will also answering questions on the topics that were discussed this morning.

Mind the Gap

November 17th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

“Mind the gap” is a phrase long associated with the subway system in London, known as the Tube or Underground. But it works equally well for the current phase of development in the National Broadband Plan.  In the Tube, the warning is robotically voiced in stations where the gap – the space – between the subway platform and car is wide enough for a passenger to fall through, or when the train and platform are at different heights.  At the FCC’s monthly meeting Wednesday, the members of the Broadband Task Force will also  voice warnings about gaps -- gaps in broadband deployment, adoption and usage that are big enough for a consumer to fall through.  Or, more broadly, gaps in universal access to robust broadband, the goal that Congress asked the plan to address.
So we will be minding the gap. But we aren’t getting on the train yet.  Gap analysis is part two of what is essentially a three-part process.
The first was gathering data, accomplished in a series of staff workshops, field hearings, public notices, blog comments on, and scores of meetings.  That process continues, including a major consumer survey on broadband adoption which is underway.
The second phase is gap analysis, the point we have now reached.  At Wednesday’s meeting, we’ll look at what kind of broadband the U.S. will have in the near-term without a change in government policy, and where the status quo results in demonstrable public interest harms.  We’ll look at the places where there’s a gap between the goal of universal, robust, affordable broadband and current reality.
The final phase is closing the gap – finding solutions to the broadband problems that keep individual households and the nation’s economy as whole from enjoying the benefits of universal broadband.  We will begin identifying a policy framework for solutions in December.  In January, we’ll outline the opportunities for broadband to drive improvements in national priorities like education, energy independence, homeland security, and others. Finally, February, the FCC will vote on the plan, which is due to Congress, by law, on Feb. 17, 2010.  The Commission has every intention of meeting that deadline.
So does the subway analogy stay on track for the final phase of the plan?  One reason there’s a gap to mind in the London Underground is that some stations were built on a curve in the tracks, leaving a scary gap between the curved platform and straight subway car.  Completely fixing that and other accessibility problems in the Tube may never be possible.  While fundamental reform is needed in some of our broadband policies, it’s not clear that realigning a 150-year-old subway system and building a better broadband future are comparable tasks.  But this much is clear – we don’t want to have voices in our society warning us to “mind the gap” every time a young person in a poor neighborhood needs to go online to do homework, or when a business in rural America needs to go online to compete in the global marketplace, or when we are looking for the economic growth that universal broadband can bring.  
We want to more than mind the gap: we want to bridge it.  

Marlee's Remarks

November 16th, 2009 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

The FCC held a field hearing at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 2009 as part of its effort to gather information from experts and consumers for the development of a National Broadband Plan. Among those on the first panel was Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is the spokesperson for the National Association of the Deaf for accessible broadband services and Internet media.


What is the Effect of Broadband on Education?

November 13th, 2009 by Anita Cheng

Last week, we released a Public Notice seeking comment on the effects of broadband access on education.  We want data, analysis, and comments about how schools are using broadband and digital learning technologies.  We also want to hear your suggestions for changes to the E-rate program to improve broadband deployment to schools and libraries.  Some sample questions:
1.  What is the current state of broadband connectivity, device availability, and adoption in U.S. schools and classrooms?
2.  What are the barriers to broadband adoption?
3.  What types of broadband initiatives have schools deployed?
4.  What types of online and digital content are schools using (e.g., online textbooks)?
5.  What has been the impact of digital literacy programs?
6.  What online learning systems (e.g., online text books, resource libraries, Distance Learning Programs) have been successfully implemented?
7.  How have communication tools like instant messaging and online video conferencing supported instructional program implementation?  How have concerns of content appropriateness been addressed with regard to minor students?
8.  How can the E-rate eligibility of applicants, equipment, and services be expanded to improve broadband deployment?  For example, should we allow use of broadband facilities at schools by the general community, rather than just by school faculty and students?
9.  How can we change E-rate disbursement or the discount methodology to maximize the deployment of broadband?  For example, should we target additional E-rate discounts to schools and libraries that have slow Internet speeds to enable such entities to catch up?
For more details, background and context, see the Public Notice.  You can respond directly to this blog or file comments through ECFS Express (or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file).  Please title comments and reply comments responsive to this Notice as “Comments (or Reply Comments)—NBP Public Notice # 15.”

A Note From The Chairman...

November 11th, 2009 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Chairman GenachowskiI recently had the privilege of visiting our troops in the Gulf region, and of meeting with a number of senior officers from U.S. Central Command, stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. My goal was to better understand the complexities and challenges of military communications, and explore ways the FCC can support the mission of our military.

I couldn’t have been more impressed by the extraordinary group – from Generals to enlisted men and women. They face daunting challenges every day with a can-do spirit and a deep commitment to our country.

From a communications perspective, the military’s challenges include using multiple radio, radar, and computer networks to support real-time battle management; conducting and defending against “electronic warfare” designed to disable communications; and supporting construction or reconstruction of communications infrastructure in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I learned a great deal from these enormously experienced officers, and we discussed a number of shared priorities, such as making the best use of scarce spectrum and ensuring interoperability, whether between members of different military services or different categories of civilian first responders. We also discussed how the FCC might benefit from military expertise, as well as the FCC’s role in supporting the military’s communications efforts – for example, with respect to commercial communications facilities used by the military, and our ability to lend expertise to nations still developing their regulatory frameworks for communications.

While at the Base, I was able to see firsthand the importance of broadband connectivity in the daily lives of our troops. I visited the Base’s innovative education and online learning center, where troops can work towards college degree and other continuing education. I spoke with an expert working to place military medical records online, with the potential of real life-saving benefits to soldiers. And I spoke with troops at the Base’s recreational plaza, where WiFi access lets them keep in touch with families and friends through VoIP and social networking tools. There was a consistent and strong feeling that Internet access was a major plus for troop morale.

It was a privilege to visit the troops, and I’m humbled by their service.

New Staff Bring Deep Experience to National Broadband Plan

November 10th, 2009 by Eric Garr - General Manager, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

I’d like to take a few minutes to introduce Blogband readers to some of the great leaders we’ve hired for the broadband team in recent weeks.
Dr. David S. Isenberg has joined the broadband team as an Expert Advisor, and will be working on how physical infrastructure choices facilitate or impede policy options.  David is best known to the telecom policy world as the author of the 1997 essay, The Rise of the Stupid Network.  When Dale Hatfield was Chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, he called The Rise of the Stupid Network “one of three works that changed my perception of the telecommunications industry."
David wrote The Rise of the Stupid Network during his 12 years at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs, where he was named "Distinguished Member of Technical Staff."  He holds a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in Biology.  For the past five years he's produced a Washington, D.C. technology policy conference called F2C: Freedom to Connect. He lives in Cos Cob, Connecticut and Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and he'll be helping us look into the future in terms of next generation architectures.
Dr. Mohit Kaushaul joined the FCC over a month ago to head up the newly formed digital healthcare team.  He was previously at a venture capital fund in Boston focusing on the healthcare sector, and back in the day was an ER physician.
At the FCC, he will direct a team that is focusing on the convergence of connectivity, technology and healthcare. He will be looking at the potential promise of broadband to both cut costs out of the health care system and improve outcomes for people. He is also focusing on analyzing the current connectivity of healthcare in the US, covering both wired and wireless infrastructure. In addition, his team is also evaluating the current and future healthcare applications that run on the connectivity infrastructure.

Mohit is excited about the vision of a world where much more data in healthcare is captured, which, when coupled with novel applications, could result in better health care outcomes at a fraction of the cost.
Also joining the task force is Dr. Douglas C. Sicker, who will be Expert Advisor to the task force on Research and Development issues. His team will develop a set of research recommendations to enable the United States to be a global leader in broadband networking in the years 2020 and beyond, as well as to further broadband R and D in the US over the next decade. 
Doug is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and in the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program within the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he is a highly respected tenured professor engaged in network systems research and writing. Previously, Doug was previously Director of Global Architecture at Level 3 Communications and served as Division Chief in the Network Technology Division of the Office of Engineering and Technology at the FCC. He earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Telecommunications at the University of Pittsburgh. We’re glad to have Doug back at the FCC.
Finally, Carol Mattey also returns to the FCC as Senior Policy Advisor to the team, focusing on Universal Service issues.  Until recently, Carol was a director in Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Regulatory & Capital Markets consulting practice, providing a wide range of consulting and regulatory compliance services to clients in the technology, media and telecommunications industries. She came to Deloitte in 2005 after over 10 years at the FCC, where she was Deputy Bureau Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau from 2000-2005, and Chief of the Policy and Program Planning Division before that.  As Deputy Chief of the Wireline Bureau, Carol managed the ongoing administration of the Universal Service Fund, managed rulemaking proceedings to promote investment and innovation in broadband, and led initiatives to coordinate public policy with state regulators.  She holds a J.D. and M.A. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Pennsylvania, and B.A. from the University of Virginia.  We welcome Carol’s return; her experience will be invaluable to the team.

The Return on Our Investment of Spectrum

November 5th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

When you’ve been a Wall Street analyst for the past 8 years, as I have, you think a lot about how to get the best return on invested assets.  In my return to the FCC, I’ve found that the same question is relevant, particularly as to our nation’s spectrum.  Of course, our “return” is different—we don’t just think about maximizing profit, we think about providing important public benefits.  But still, it’s the question the broadband team asks each day: how can we maximize the return on our most valuable assets to their owners—all of the American people? 

Recently, I’ve seen a lot in the press about our efforts to consider the best way to maximize the benefits on spectrum.  Much of this chatter was triggered by a recent study submitted through the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  The study suggested that broadcasters own licenses to approximately $62 billion worth of spectrum, but only extract $12 billion of value from that spectrum.  In different hands, the study argues, that spectrum could be worth an extra $50 billion which in turn would drive an extra $500 billion to $1.2 trillion dollars of economic activity. Not everybody agrees with the study, though, and Communications Daily reports that some broadcasters and broadcasting trade groups, including the NAB and MSTV, are preparing to commission their own research that takes into account a different range of factors than did the CEA study. 
We welcome this as great news.  As the record indicates, spectrum is a key input for broadband, but we know that it also has other uses of great economic and social importance.  So we welcome a robust debate about how we can best allocate spectrum—both to maximize economic growth, but also to maximize the public good.  We look forward to the NAB findings. 
Beyond the study, there have been reports about conversations I’ve had with broadcasters about spectrum.  I’m not in the practice of publicly discussing details of private discussions—I want to ensure that every party is as candid as possible in helping us determine the best strategy to move America forward— but I do want to clear up a few details.   
These conversations originated from a few broadcasters, who recognized that they had more spectrum than they needed to deliver an economically efficient bitstream.  We started discussing whether there could be a market-clearing solution that allowed them to monetize their extra spectrum, while allowing us to maximize the public good.  This is the driver behind our discussions: we want the country to use most effectively one of its most valuable resources, while increasing optionality of those broadcasters who recognize that they’re not maximizing returns for their shareholders.  We recognize that not all broadcasters would make the same choice but our goal is to determine if there is a mechanism that will attract the interest of a critical mass. 
I don’t know if we will succeed in our efforts to allow broadcasters that option, but I do know that if we didn’t try, it would be a disservice to citizens and stakeholders on all sides of the equation.


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