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Archive for September 2009

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).

Furthering National Purposes for People with Disabilities

September 24th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBWe have tentatively planned for a panel at our October 20 workshop to discuss the potential for broadband to further health care, education, public safety and homeland security, job creation/worker training, civic participation/community development for people with disabilities.

Please give us your feedback on workshop planning issues (e.g., how to structure this panel, suggested questions and speakers, and helpful background reading material) and policy issues.

  • Health Care. Please comment and elaborate on the suggestion of one workshop participant that the "National Broadband Plan include a direction that the Health IT standards and funding be highly cognizant of the needs of people with disabilities."  Are there certain health care applications that are particularly beneficial for people with disabilities?  What policies are needed to spur the development of these applications?
  • Education. Are there certain education applications that are particularly helpful to people with disabilities?  Does Bookshare, the world's largest accessible digital library of scanned material for people with vision and reading disabilities, provide a useful model for those seeking to use broadband to further educational opportunity for people with disabilities? What policies are needed to develop and further the distribution and use of accessible educational media, accessible distance learning applications, and accessible school-home integration programs?
  • Public Safety and Homeland Security.  Are there certain public safety and homeland security applications that are particularly helpful to people with disabilities?  What policies are needed to allow users to send and receive public safety and homeland security messages in voice, real-time text, and video for sign language? What interfaces need to be available for those with cognitive disabilities?  What policies do we need to adopt to ensure that 9-1-1 services, including location capabilities, are accessible to people using wireless broadband services?
  • Job creation/worker training.  Are there certain job creation/worker training applications that are particularly helpful to people with disabilities?  We seek comment on the potential of broadband to further opportunities in teleworking, job creation, and worker training for people with disabilities.
  • Civic Participation/community development. Are there certain civic participation/community development applications that are particularly helpful to people with disabilities? What actions are needed to assure the accessibility of . . . [civic participation] platforms and applications?  We seek comment on the potential of broadband to further opportunities in civic participation and community development for people with disabilities.
  • What other information, including information responsive to the more specific questions in the Public Notice do you think would help us better understand the potential for broadband to further these or other national purposes for people with disabilities?

Please 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.

Spectrum

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!

Technological Barriers and Solutions for People with Disabilities

September 23rd, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBWe have tentatively planned for a panel at our October 20 workshop on providing access to people with disabilities to discuss technological barriers, solutions, and costs as they relate to broadband networks, services, equipment, software, content, and tech support.

Please give us your feedback on workshop planning issues (e.g., how to structure this panel, suggested questions and speakers, and helpful background reading material) and policy issues.

  • As a general matter, what technical issues do we need to consider as we formulate policy recommendations "to stay ahead of technology?"
  • How would a "functionally inclusive infrastructure" which would build accessibility features directly into the broadband infrastructure be built?  How much would it cost? Should the National Broadband Plan include specific policy recommendations relating to the "functionally inclusive infrastructure?"
  • What are the technical issues that we need to consider as we formulate policies related to "improve access to 9-1-1 (including location capabilities) for those communicating with non-traditional text, video, and instant messaging communications services?
  • On what technical issues relating to equipment, software, content and tech support affecting the accessibility of broadband should we focus?
  • What are the interoperability challenges that manufacturers face and what steps need to be taken to address these challenges?  What policies would promote "openness" and ensure that assistive technology (AT) vendors are not locked out of closed systems?
  • What are the technical challenges related to ensuring that AT equipment is compatible with broadband equipment and software - and that sufficient tech support is available to help consumers navigate the interaction between these devices?
  • How much accessibility should be incorporated in mass market equipment through universal design principles and how much accessibility should be gained through assistive technologies?
  • What are the technical issues related to making broadband media accessible and what are some of the innovations that will be necessary to make user-generated content accessible?
  • What other information that you think would help us better understand the technological barriers and solutions, including information responsive to the more specific questions in our recent Public Notice?.

Please 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.

Accessibility and Affordability Barriers to Broadband Faced by People with Disabilities

September 22nd, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBWe have tentatively planned for a panel at our October 20 workshop to discuss barriers to broadband accessibility and affordability for (i) people with hearing disabilities; (ii) people who are blind and have vision disabilities; (iii) people with speech disabilities; (iv) people who are deaf-blind; (v) people with mobility disabilities; and (vi) people with intellectual disabilities and social communication disabilities, including autism.

Please give us your feedback on workshop planning issues (e.g., how to structure this panel, suggested questions and speakers, and helpful background reading material) and policy issues.  For each disability, we are interested in learning

  • the number of people who use broadband;
  • the biggest accessibility barriers;
  • whether affordability is a major concern;
  • whether subsidizing the cost of specialized equipment would increase broadband use, and, if so, by how much;
  • whether subsidizing the cost of broadband service by low-income consumers in the community would increase broadband use, and, if so, by how much;
  • whether the marketplace is more or less responsive to accessibility concerns than it was in the past;
  • the percentage of mass market consumer broadband equipment and devices that have the needed accessibility features;
  • what broadband applications are potentially the most beneficial;
  • whether more outreach will help spur broadband use, and, if so, whether there are effective mechanisms or networks by which to do so; and
  • any other information that you think would help us better understand the accessibility and affordability barriers faced by people with disabilities, including information responsive to the more specific questions in the PN.

Please 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.

“The Open Internet: Preserving the Freedom to Innovate”

September 21st, 2009 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Julius GenachowskiThe Internet is the most transformational communications breakthrough of our time. It has become essential to the fabric of the daily lives of Americans.

More and more, the Internet is how we get news, information, and entertainment; how we stay in touch with our friends and family; how we work and start new businesses; how we -- and people across the globe -- learn about our communities and express points of view.

The Internet has also been an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, economic growth, and opportunity. It has unleashed the potential of entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America.

The key to the Internet's success has been its openness.

The Internet was designed to be "future-proof" -- to support ideas, products, and services that today's inventors have not yet imagined. In practice, it doesn't favor or disfavor any particular content or application, but allows end users, content creators, and businesses of every size and in every sector of the economy to communicate and innovate without permission.

Notwithstanding its unparalleled record of success, today the free and open Internet faces emerging and substantial challenges.

We've already seen some clear examples of deviations from the Internet's historic openness. We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen one service provider deny users access to political content.

And as many members of the Internet community and key Congressional leaders have noted, there are compelling reasons for concern about even greater challenges to openness in the future, including reduced choice in the Internet service provider marketplace and an increase in the amount of Internet traffic, which has fueled a corresponding need to manage networks sensibly.

The rise of serious challenges to the traditional operation of the Internet puts us at a crossroads. We could see technology used to shut doors to entrepreneurs instead of opening them. The spirit of innovation stifled. A full and free flow of information compromised.

Or we could take steps to preserve a free and open Internet, helping to ensure a future of opportunity, prosperity, and the vibrant flow of information and ideas.

I believe we must choose to safeguard the openness that has made the Internet a stunning success. That is why today, I delivered a speech announcing that the FCC will be the smart cop on the beat when it comes to preserving a free and open Internet.

In particular, I proposed that the FCC adopt two new rules to help achieve this.

The first says broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. The second says broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices. These principles would apply to the Internet however it is accessed, though how they apply may differ depending on the access platform or technology used. Of course, network operators will be permitted to implement reasonable network management practices to address issues such as spam, address copyright infringement, and otherwise ensure a safe and secure network for all users.

I also proposed that the FCC formally enshrine the four pre-existing agency policies that say network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.

This is just the first step in what will be an ongoing process. While these goals are clear, the best path to achieving them is not, and involves many hard questions about how best to maximize the innovation and investment necessary for a robust and thriving Internet. That is why we have created www.OpenInternet.gov.

This site is a place to join the discussion about the free and open Internet. OpenInternet.gov is in Beta, and we'll be adding features to enable participation in the near future. I encourage you to check it out to offer your input, or simply to read or watch today's speech.

With the help of all stakeholders, the FCC can help secure a bright future for the Internet, and make sure that the garage, the basement, and the dorm room remain places where inventors can not only dream, but bring their ideas to life.

And no one should be neutral about that.

(Cross-posted on Huffington Post)

Field Hearing in Austin, TX

September 21st, 2009 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

In an effort to solicit input from the public in the development of a National Broadband Plan, the Commission will host a field hearing on September 21, 2009, in Austin, Texas. FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will represent the Commission and two panels will explore the challenges of broadband deployment in Texas, including spectrum access, infrastructure, and rural issues.

Click here to watch the event live and submit your questions to have them asked during the Q&A session. Use hashtag #BBwkshp or email them.

After today, the next two field hearings will be on October 1 in the Washington, D.C. area, and October 6 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Watch the blog and the news page of broadband.gov for details.

Collaborating On Bringing Broadband To People With Disabilities

September 18th, 2009 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

Today, we are launching a new category on Blogband called "disabilities access."  In this category, we will start with five posts tracking the five panels that we have tentatively proposed for our October 20th follow-up workshop on disabilities access.  The first five posts solicit information relating to workshop planning and policy issues on the following topics:

  • Accessibility and Affordability Barriers Faced by People with Disabilities
  • Technological Barriers and Solutions
  • Furthering National Purposes and People with Disabilities
  • Federal, State, and Local Resources to Make Broadband Accessible and Affordable to People with Disabilities
  • Policy Solutions and Recommendations

This new process has tremendous potential to shape our work on the national broadband plan.  It will allow many more people to have input on the structure and substance of our upcoming workshop.  It will also make possible in-depth, collaborative discussions on complex topics - of which there are many.  In sum, we hope to facilitate an iterative process in which diverse parties can build from and react to the ideas of others, in a productive and thoughtful manner.  And, of course, we welcome your ideas about how we can make this process more accessible.

Public Notice Seeks Comment on Ensuring Accessible and Affordable Broadband for People with Disabilities

September 18th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBToday we released a Public Notice, or PN, asking for recommendations to ensure that broadband technologies are accessible and affordable to people with disabilities.  The large number of questions in the PN makes it clear that we have a lot to do if we are going to formulate meaningful policy.  There are numerous, complex issues to discuss and distill in the coming months, and it is critical that we work collaboratively with all stakeholders to get this right.  Here is how you can help:

  • Help us plan the structure and substance of our upcoming workshop on Oct. 20. We invite suggestions on panel topics, exhibits, speakers and additional questions.  We also welcome your ideas for background material that may be helpful for us and all those participating in the workshop.  Our goal is to use the workshop time as effectively as possible to help us formulate policy recommendations.  You can give us your input by filing comments in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) by using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.  Please note in your comments that they are responding to NBP Public Notice #4 or in response to a blog that we will be posting for each panel in Blogband (see more details below).  The sooner you file your suggestions, the better.
  • Respond to questions in the PN by October 6. Before we can make policy recommendations, we have to understand better the accessibility and affordability barriers faced by people with disabilities; the technological barriers and solutions; the potential of broadband to advance certain national purposes (related, for example, to health care, education, public safety, job creation/worker training, and civic participation/community development) for people with disabilities; resources existing at the federal, state, local, and tribal level that we can leverage to make broadband accessible and affordable to people with disabilities; and the effectiveness of regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms in promoting accessibility and affordability for people with disabilities.  To the extent that commenters are able to help us gather information in advance of the workshop, we can both build on this information and narrow the focus of the workshop accordingly.  We would also appreciate your help in identifying commenters who may be expert at certain issues (e.g., on barriers faced by those who have intellectual disabilities) who have not participated in this proceeding (or perhaps any other FCC proceeding) to date.  File comments as described above, and once again, please mark your submission as responsive to NBP Public Notice #4.
  • Participate in the new disability access policy blog.  As mentioned above, we are establishing a "disabilities access" category on Blogband where we will post five different blog posts to track the tentative panels that we propose for our workshop.  That is, we will have posts (and ongoing threads) on (1) Accessibility and Affordability Barriers Faced by People with Disabilities; (2) Technological Barriers and Solutions; (3) Furthering National Purposes and People with Disabilities; (4) Federal, State, and Local Resources to Make Broadband Accessible and Affordable to People with Disabilities; and (5) Policy Solutions and Recommendations.  The posts will cover the same kinds of questions that are set forth in the PN.  We know that many of the issues that we raise would benefit from having an ongoing, iterative process in which we could collaborate on these issues before and after the workshop.  We also will post new blog posts when we want to focus on a particular topic in more detail.  And, as noted above, we also invite comments relating to workshop planning in response to these posts.  Finally, if you want to initiate an idea not covered in the blog posts, we encourage you to do so by going to broadband.ideascale.com and clicking on accessibility for people with disabilities.

How valuable is broadband to you?

September 18th, 2009 by Scott Wallsten - Economics Director

Scott Wallsten BBThe answer to that question is crucial for informing data-driven broadband policy.  While those of us who spend most of the day online in one form or another are tempted to respond that it's "invaluable," we're hoping to answer the question with a little more precision.

Knowing how much people value broadband would be necessary, for example, for designing an efficient subsidy program for low-income people or for predicting the number of subscribers to a new network in an unserved area.

Valuing broadband is complicated because people use it so differently and because it comes in so many flavors.  How much do people value different attributes of broadband, like speed, latency, or the simple "always on" aspect that was broadband's selling point in its early days?  For people who are already online, how much more do they value speeds beyond what they currently have?  Similar questions are relevant for content.  How much do people value different services and online content?  How do those answers differ among different groups of people?

The economics literature is surprisingly sparse on this question.  Some of the best work was done by Professors Scott Savage and Donald Waldman at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Unfortunately, their work used data from 2002, meaning that the results aren't particularly useful to us anymore.  After all, the web was different then.  There was no YouTube or Facebook, and Wikipedia had only recently launched.  Only about 10 percent of American households subscribed to broadband, compared to more than 63 percent today.  In short, data from 2002 just won't do.

One of the many projects we're doing here is working to fill that gap in the economics research.  We're collecting new survey data that better captures what people value today, and will use that data to update the relevant economics research.  That updated research can, when combined with the many other projects underway at the task force, help contribute to a rational and effective broadband plan.



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