Broadband.gov
Federal Communications Commission



Archive for June 2010

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.

Connecting America’s Stories: Smart Spectrum is Good Business

June 17th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

This is the second in a series of three blogs about spectrum and the National Broadband Plan.

It may not be immediately obvious, but the explosion of mobile devices into the marketplace is making spectrum the lifeblood of mobile innovation and investment. 

The National Broadband Plan points out that

The contribution of wireless services to overall gross domestic product grew over 16% annually from 1992 to 2007 compared with less than 3% annual growth for the remainder of the economy. (Ch. 5, p. 75)

Getting spectrum right is an integral part of our economic recovery efforts. If American businesses are going to grow over the coming decades, industry and public groups must work together to allocate the limited spectrum that we have.

Check out this video where members of the team talk about the changing needs and ideas for allocating spectrum for the benefit of American businesses and consumers.

John Leibovitz, Deputy Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Co-lead of Spectrum team on the National Broadband Task Force

Looking forward, we see mobile broadband just being this huge innovation driver of the American economy.  It combines the two big trends of the last 20 years in telecommunications: One of which was broadband, and the other is mobility.  And it puts them together into one service, and you start to see now, with, the iPhone and the Android phones and the iPad, these new devices that bring a computing experience into your pocket.

Only certain bands on the spectrum have the properties that make them useful for mobile broadband.  And the more people who get and use mobile devices, and the more apps that are created for them, the more congested the airwaves will get.  In order to accommodate increased traffic, the FCC plans to partner with businesses and communities in order to secure the needed spectrum for mobile broadband.

The Broadband Plan calls for 500 megahertz of spectrum to be made available for broadband use over the next 10 years, and 300 megahertz over the next 5 years.  It recommends that this happen in a number of ways.  John Leibovitz explains one:

The idea is to have win-win scenarios – the idea is that rather than having combative proceedings where one person is having their spectrum taken away or being asked to move, instead we create a mechanism that gives them an economic incentive to voluntarily offer up their spectrum, so that they can move somewhere else to provide their service in a different band, so that someone else who may value the spectrum more highly than the current user can move in and nobody does it against their will. 

Everybody gets part of the economic benefit – especially the American people get the economic benefit of making sure the spectrum is used for whatever purpose is the most appropriate given where technology is and what types of services people are using.

When we asked you for your stories about broadband and how it affects your lives every day, we heard from across the nation how much you depend on mobile devices to live your lives, and how much limited bandwidth and high cost affects you.  Dan is just one example.

Dan in Taneytown, Maryland

With more and more of my college classes requiring access to online material and videos, it's getting tougher to complete work and research in a relative time period. While many other Americans enjoy DSL or Cable, I'm stuck with the options of dial-up or overly expensive mobile broadband with a pathetic five gigabyte cap. My community and many other rural communities in the US are being left in the dust to wither while the rest of the country blossoms.

It will not be simple to reallocate spectrum so that it is most beneficial for our economy and our people, but it is essential. 

John Leibovitz

No one owns the spectrum except for the American people.  Spectrum is licensed by the FCC, but the rights to the spectrum belong to the American people.  So it’s important that people are able to understand, what are the important decisions that are being made with this resource, which in some situations can be valued at tens of billions of dollars.  It’s a very valuable resource and our job is to make sure that it’s being used in a way that respects the value to the American public and tried to promote economic growth and innovation going forward.

With the launch of the National Broadband Plan, a website called Spectrum Dashboard was launched to finally make all of the information about who has what spectrum where easy to browse and available to anyone who wants to see it.  Check out the interactive map feature and learn more about who has the spectrum in your area.
 

Connecting America’s Stories: What is Spectrum

June 16th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

This is the first in a series of three posts discussing spectrum, the National Broadband Plan and your stories.

Spectrum.  It’s an issue that is getting lots of attention from consumers and conglomerates alike.  It affects our phone data plans, TV broadcasting and wireless connection speeds.

This is important stuff, this spectrum.  So what the heck is it?

Check out this video for an introduction to spectrum.
Tom Peters, Chief Engineer, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the FCC, explains:

Spectrum is the collection of radio waves, up to visible light.  In between very low frequency spectrum and light there is a whole range of spectrum that is available for transmitting information over. 

That spectrum is broken up into what we call “bands.”  One you might be familiar with is the FM radio tuner in your car.  That band, as the numbers on the dial will indicate, goes from 88 megahertz to 108 megahertz – and that is a slice of this large range of spectrum that’s available for transmitting information.

You might be wondering, what is a megahertz? What do we mean by that?  Radio waves all travel at the speed of light, so they’re all going the same speed.

The time it takes for the crest of each wave to pass by, that’s the frequency.

A hertz is one over seconds (1/seconds).  When you are listening to a station at 88 megahertz – mega means million – you’re getting 88 million crests of these waves coming at you every second.  Just like light, radio waves exist at all frequencies. 

So when you tune your radio, make a cell phone call, or use wireless internet, you are tapping into a particular wavelength of the spectrum.  In the Information Age, these waves are becoming increasingly important.

Tom talks about the many different ways Americans use our spectrum:

FM radio is one use…AM radio is another use, and your cell phone is another use, the federal government has lots of uses: the Department of Defense, weather balloons transmit information, there’s satellite communications that need to be enabled...  what the FCC does is manage all the commercial uses of spectrum.  And what NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Agency) does is manage all the federal uses of spectrum. 

Right now, the spectrum is all chopped up and allocated for many different uses, the product of an entire century of changing technologies and market needs.  A major issue now is that there isn’t enough left for the new technology that is rapidly growing and changing almost every facet of American life: Mobile Broadband.

Tom Peters:

A particular spectrum – UHF – the Ultra High Frequency band, is commonly referred to in the press as “Beachfront” spectrum … It just turns out that the UHF spectrum is right in that sweet spot [for mobile phones], where you can build a device of a reasonable size and have reasonable power and have reasonable battery life and you get the benefit of having great propagation characteristics – meaning it travels far and it travels in buildings, through walls very well, so you get very good coverage.

Just yesterday the FCC released a paper called Spectrum Analysis: Options for Broadcast Spectrum that details ideas for repurposing spectrum.

The stories you have shared with are the most eloquent argument for making sure spectrum is allocated as efficiently as possible. 

Richard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As a first responder, having reliable wireless data communications is necessary when responding to an event and a large amount of data has to be moved or information garnered about the area and what is being dealt with. This could also involve sending pictures, text, information files, etc., by wireless.

Victor in Pahrump, Nevada

I am the WiFi chairman for the "Pair-A-Dice" RV Park. We are among the millions of RVers who depend upon internet access for managing our financial, business, and personal affairs. We have 48 WiFi users on our little in-park Lucky85 WiFi system.

If we don’t find enough spectrum to support all of the information we want to send and receive over mobile phones and wireless internet, we will stagnate.  Prices will rise even higher.  Connections will get slower.  Calls will be dropped. Innovation will decline.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we discuss The National Broadband Plan’s recommendations on how to handle spectrum for a future of current and yet unimagined technological advances. And please keep sharing your stories with us.

 

NTIA Sets July 1 Deadline for Additional State Grant Applications for Broadband Mapping, and Regional Broadband Efforts

June 15th, 2010 by Steve Klitzman

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced in a press release last month that it will accept supplemental grant applications from state governments and other existing awardees in its State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program for additional broadband improvement and mapping activities. Act quickly: the deadline is July 1.

The NTIA noted that one of the primary purposes of the grant program is to “assist states in gathering data on the availability, speed, and location of broadband services” in furtherance of the purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009  and the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008 (BDIA). The broadband data states compile will be used to help create the National Broadband Map that the Recovery Act requires NTIA to make publicly available by February 17, 2011. This map, which NTIA plans to update every six months, should provide consumers more precise information on available broadband services and facilitate government efforts to increase broadband availability nationwide.

In addition to mapping, this NTIA grant action can be used for other purposes, including  implementation of Recommendation 9.11 in the National Broadband Plan  that “federal support should be expanded for regional capacity-building efforts aimed at improving broadband deployment and adoption.”  Eligible initiatives cited by the NTIA include state broadband task forces or advisory boards, technical assistance programs, local or regional technology planning efforts, and programs to promote increased computer ownership and Internet usage.

This announced use of Recovery Act funds by NTIA to help launch and expand broadband planning functions in the states and territories is part of the $350 million Congress appropriated under the Recovery Act to implement the BDIA and develop and maintain a broadband inventory map. To date, NTIA has awarded more than $100 million in grants to 54 eligible entities to carry out initial broadband data collection, mapping and planning activities.

Cross-posted to The Official FCC Blog.

FCC-FDA Public Meeting on Converged Health Care and Communications Technologies

June 15th, 2010 by Julius Knapp - Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology

By Julius Knapp, Office of Engineering and Technology, and Phoebe Yang, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis.

The FCC and FDA have announced their first-ever joint meeting to discuss how to get innovative wireless medical devices to consumers as quickly and safely as possible. Recommendation 10.3 of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan recognized the need for close cooperation between the two agencies so that the convergence of medical devices and wireless communications ultimately will bring new options for care to consumers that can save money, time – and lives. Click here for more information on the meeting.

The combination of devices, applications and communications networks is enabling clinicians and patients to give and receive care anywhere at any time. For example, mobile sensors in the form of disposable bandages and ingestible pills relay real-time health data over wireless connections. Diabetics can receive continuous, flexible insulin delivery through real-time glucose monitoring sensors that transmit data to wearable insulin pumps. Medical body area networks monitor various vital signs and detect the onset of a patient “crash” while in a hospital in time for treatment.

With these new solutions come new challenges. When medical and wireless devices and applications converge, the regulatory lines become blurred. Uncertainty regarding regulatory frameworks and approval processes can discourage private sector innovation and investment, and ultimately delay or prevent the availability of such solutions.

The FCC and the FDA heard industry’s and consumers’ concerns and are holding a joint public meeting to address these challenges. We propose to bring together various stakeholders from manufacturers to practitioners to patients to better understand the types of devices and applications that are being introduced, clarify the requirements that apply, and improve the regulatory and approval processes to the extent we can.

We need your input on the key challenges to make this endeavor a success and ask that you respond to our Public Notice. While we have a long history of collaboration with the FDA, we are excited about the prospect of working even more closely with our sister agency to ensure every American has the opportunity to benefit from promising health IT solutions that can positively impact health outcomes, improve quality of life and reduce health care costs.

Looking Under the Hood: Technical Paper on Options for Broadcast Spectrum

June 14th, 2010 by Julius Knapp - Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology

The National Broadband Plan stresses that mobile broadband networks, devices, and applications are a critical component of our country’s broadband infrastructure and our economy. It recommends that the FCC repurpose spectrum from several bands to make it available for flexible use, including mobile broadband use. This recommendation includes repurposing 120 megahertz from the broadcast television bands. These bands are attractive due to strong propagation characteristics and relatively low average market value under their current uses compared to recently auctioned flexible use spectrum with similar characteristics.

Today we are releasing an Omnibus Broadband Team Technical Paper called Spectrum Analysis: Options for Broadcast Spectrum that provides further details on the technical analyses that support the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan relative to repurposing the TV broadcast spectrum.  We cannot emphasize strongly enough two critical points that are the cornerstones of the paper.  First, any contributions of spectrum by TV broadcasters to an incentive auction will be voluntary.  Second, consumers will continue to have access to free over-the-air TV broadcasting service and every effort will be made to minimize any losses of service due to repacking of the TV broadcast band.  

This paper presents several new analyses and methodologies that are worth pointing out:

•    The paper offers more detail on how an incentive auction might work. 

•    It presents the first, in-depth analysis and publication by the FCC of actual bandwidth requirements of various video streams.  The analysis provides data to support the assertion that two television stations could voluntarily share a single six-megahertz channel and continue to broadcast their primary video streams in HD.

•    It provides an initial look at a new TV allotment optimization model being developed by the FCC. This model will help to maximize the efficiency and collective benefits of broadcast TV and broadband services in the band.  For example, it will allow the FCC to optimize channel assignments to achieve various objectives within given constraints, such as minimizing disruption to over-the-air television viewers.

This paper represents the start of the process – not the conclusion.   It offers provocative ideas that deserve to be fully vetted and considered.  That is why Chairman Genachowski asked the Commission staff to hold the Broadcast Engineering Forum.  We look forward to a constructive and robust dialogue with TV broadcasters and other interested parties. 

It is entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that the best ideas on how to repurpose TV broadcast spectrum are yet to be developed or put forward.   We invite readers to comment on the technical paper through this blog and to participate in forthcoming rulemaking proceedings, offering comments and alternatives that can help lead to the best policy decisions for our country. 

Click here to download a pdf of the Spectrum Analysis: Options for Broadcast Spectrum.

Broadening Development of Universal Service Policy for Broadband

June 14th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

It’s an axiom that broadband breaks down barriers, an axiom that is true at the FCC as well.  Take Universal Service, the program meant to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable telecommunications services.  The program has long focused on telephone service, and its policies have been developed by the Wireline Competition Bureau.

But the National Broadband Plan recognized that Universal Service needs to be updated to provide all Americans with access to the communications technology of the 21st Century: broadband. The Plan also recognized that broadband may be delivered by a variety of technologies, including wireline, cable, wireless and satellite.  So it only makes sense to involve multiple bureaus – not just the Wireline Bureau – in the process of overhauling the program. 

That’s why Chairman Genachowski has launched the Universal Service Working Group, which will facilitate collaboration between the bureaus on the FCC’s broadband universal service agenda.  I will lead the group, which will include representatives from the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Managing Director, the Office of Strategic Planning, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the International Bureau (satellite) and my bureau, the Wireline Competition Bureau. 

I look forward to collaborating with this group to develop a truly comprehensive approach to Universal Service reform for the broadband age.  You can  a meeting with Universal Service Working Group staff regarding Universal Service issues related to the broadband action agenda using this online form.

Lessons for Cities from the National Broadband Plan

June 8th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Director of Consumer Research John Horrigan prepared this speech last week for delivery at the event "High Speed Fiber and Baltimore's Future" in Baltimore. 

Today, I would like to give you a brief “Broadband Plan 101” lesson – and do so in a way that leaves you with a sense of how Baltimore can put broadband to work for economic and community development. The grand vision, as laid out in the National Broadband Plan (NBP), is to have 90% of America connected to 100 Mbps home broadband by 2020. It is heartening to see Baltimore – the place I call home – be one of the first cities since the Plan’s release to convene an event focused on how best to use high-speed connectivity for economic and community development.

[Read the full speech here.]

Connecting America’s Stories: A Government Of, By and For the People

June 8th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

President Obama has set clear goals that federal agencies must strive to meet -- changes that will result in greater government efficiency, transparency, and responsiveness.

The National Broadband Plan team heeded that call -- highlighting successful initiatives and identifying areas for improvement -- and their recommendations show how broadband innovation can help drive government accountability. Across the nation people shared their stories and ideas about Broadband, helping to shape the future of government accountability and civic engagement in our country.

Alberta in Little River, California

Why is Broadband important? Try to access a US Government website and wait 5 minutes for it to load. Try to download a tax form. An email with a file attached may take an hour or more. Try to run a business.

Expanding access to broadband is an important step, but getting government agencies online and working together with citizens is the next frontier in our society.

In this video, members of the Government Performance and Civic Engagement team talk about the plan and exciting innovations that are already happening.

Eugene Huang led the Government Performance and Civic Engagement team on the National Broadband Task Force.

One of the things that we found was that there were pockets of government inefficiency, certainly. But there were pockets of excellence in government that we found throughout the country, and using the Broadband Plan to highlight those best practice examples… was a historic opportunity, in my estimation, to chart a new course for the country, not just in the coming year, but in the next decade and years to come.

By opening up government, not only does government become more accountable and accessible to people, but innovations can happen in the public and private spheres.

Kevin Bennett worked with Eugene on the plan.

We’re also seeing agencies develop Open Government plans, so that each agency becomes more open to citizen engagement, more approachable.  There’s more information provided online to citizens.  So instead of government maintaining its often stereotype of being a Black Box – a place that’s difficult to navigate, hard to understand - it becomes more open and engaging for citizens and there becomes a more two-way dialogue developed.

Rob in El Centro, California

I love that it is possible to bring public meetings to the masses through broadband. You can access a meeting "on-demand" 24/7 and be apart of the decision making process.

One of the most exciting aspects of the plan is that the team reached out to Americans in the development of the plan itself.  A national survey, live workshops around the country, the Broadband blog, crowdsourcing from ideascale.com, Facebook and Twitter all played a role in creating the recommendations in the plan.

Eugene Huang

We really attempted to practice what we preached in the Broadband Plan in terms of engaging citizens, seeking input, using new forms of new media. 

As an example, if you took a look at how Broadband.gov developed over the course of the Broadband Plan.  We reached out to the public at large to solicit their ideas for what went into the Broadband Plan.  We broadcast over the web all of our public hearings.  We did so in a very open and transparent process.

One of the things that we are very fond of it the number of Twitter followers we had: Third highest number of Twitter followers in the federal government behind the White House and the Centers for Disease Control.

David in Peyton, Colorado found a way to demonstrate to us exactly why we need to make broadband AND the government more accessible.

As a test of my dial-up speed, I downloaded the 'National Broadband Plan' PDF file (11.77MB) in a total of 72 minutes. I hope the FCC broadband plan is successful.

Check out these links to learn more about improving government performance and increasing civic engagement through broadband technology, and please continue to share your stories about broadband with us.  Follow us on Twitter @FCC and stay tuned into #bbplan for more on the future of broadband.

 

The Appetite for Measuring Broadband Service

June 7th, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

Last week, we announced that the FCC has begun recruiting volunteers for a landmark study of broadband performance in consumers’ homes. In conjunction with our partner, SamKnows, we launched the website www.testmyisp.com to inform people of the project and solicit volunteers. Individuals that are selected for the panel will be provided with a free, state-of-the-art custom router for their home network, secure access to all of their personal broadband performance data, and the opportunity to shape the future of broadband in America.

I am pleased to announce that the support we have gotten for this initiative thus far has been overwhelming. In less than a week, nearly 20,000 people have already volunteered! Moreover, major media outlets have taken note of this effort and its importance in the broadband marketplace. This is a clear indication that consumers are clamoring for more transparency and disclosure of broadband services, and that there is an appetite for the actual performance data that this project will deliver.

However, we are by no means done. We are still looking for more volunteers that represent a wide swath of ISPs, access technologies, service plans, and regions of the country. We’ve had a number of questions about whether consumers that are on a certain provider’s network or have a particular service plan are eligible to volunteer. The answer to all of those questions is “yes”! The more the merrier! So for those that have not done so already, please go to www.testmyisp.com and sign-up to be a part of this important effort.



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