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Archive for September 2010

Spectrum Task Force Update

September 9th, 2010 by Julius Knapp - Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology

In creating a strategy for the utilization and allocation of spectrum in Chapter 5 of the National Broadband Plan, we laid out our initial strategic spectrum plan.  We have since moved forward with the important work of the Spectrum Task Force.  As Chairman Genachowski previously announced earlier this year, the Spectrum Task Force has been launched to execute the spectrum recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, including long term spectrum planning.  Armed with our directives to advance the Commission’s spectrum agenda, as well as to promote collaboration across the agency, the work of the Spectrum Task Force is now well underway, with participation from the Chiefs and expert staff of the Bureaus and Offices, including Enforcement, International, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Media, and Strategic Planning and Policy.

As Chairman Genachowski emphasized, given that spectrum is one of our country’s most important assets, we will need to pursue policies to promote greater spectrum efficiency and flexibility, in addition to ensuring sufficient spectrum for broadband.  In order to achieve these goals, we are working closely with our colleagues at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  In particular, we are supporting NTIA’s efforts to identify spectrum that might be made available on a fast track basis and to develop a longer term plan to make spectrum available for wireless broadband over the next 10 years.

The National Broadband Plan called for the FCC to maintain an ongoing strategic spectrum plan including a triennial assessment of spectrum allocations.  The National Broadband Plan was effectively the first strategic plan and the first triennial assessment will be conducted in three years.  We are laying the foundation for this project through our work on the spectrum dashboard, which will provide greater transparency concerning spectrum allocation and utilization.  In conjunction with NTIA, we have also begun work to develop accurate spectrum measurement and monitoring methods.

The Commission is continuing to make great progress towards achieving the goal of making available an additional 300 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband by 2015, and 500 MHz by 2020.  At the May agenda meeting, the Commission adopted an order on WCS-SDARS, making 25 MHz of spectrum available for mobile broadband services.  At the July agenda meeting, the Commission proposed to provide additional flexibility in the rules for the Mobile Satellite Service to account for another 90 MHz of spectrum that could be used for terrestrial wireless broadband service.

Work is also continuing on other spectrum-related recommendations in the National Broadband Plan.  For example, in late June we held an engineering workshop on innovation in the TV bands.   We are also reviewing the recommendation that the Commission create new opportunities for innovative spectrum access models, including opportunistic use.

In the coming weeks, we will share updates regarding the Spectrum Task Force’s progress in implementing the National Broadband Plan’s spectrum agenda.  Please continue to follow Spectrum Task Force blog posts for new information.

The Evolution (and Revolution) in Broadband Data

September 2nd, 2010 by Steven Rosenberg


Broadband is an evolving technology, as is our twice-annual report on Internet access connections in the U.S. In our last report, we introduced changes that were closer to revolutionary – county and census tract-level data, reports on 72 different upload and download speed categories, and improved information about mobile and residential connections. The changes in the report we’re releasing today, based on June 2009 data, are more evolutionary, but they’re important nonetheless. 

First, we move away from the framing the report around speed classifications based on the 200 kilobits per second (kbps) standard that we have used for a decade, classifications the Commission dubbed “high-speed” if connections were greater than 200 kbps in one direction and “advanced” if > 200 kbps was delivered both up and down. Consistent with that move, we’ve renamed the report the Internet Access Services Report (it used to be called the High-Speed Services report).

Second, we add information about the number of fixed connections with 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream or faster. As we explain in the recently released 706 report, this speed tier is the best approximation for the availability of a network capable of delivering 4 Mbps down- and 1 Mbps up-stream. The 4/1 speed was also the national broadband availability target laid out in the National Broadband Plan and related papers. 

Interestingly, while the 706 report notes that more than 90% of homes have access to networks capable of providing that speed, today’s report shows that only 44% of fixed residential subscriptions have advertised speeds of at least 3 Mbps down, 768 kbps up. This may be surprising, but it is consistent with the types of use that are most common and to other data (see Broadband Performance paper).

Of course actual speeds may lag advertised – hence our effort to gather hard data on the differences between actual and advertised speeds.

As with prior reports, this Internet Access Services Report includes information on the number of broadband providers in each area. It’s important to remember that the maps we have posted portraying these numbers do not represent the number of competitors in any area. Because every provider’s service footprint is different, the presence of multiple providers in a census tract does not mean those providers all offer service to any particular business or residential location. Even for providers that serve the same area, different offerings may not compete with one another (e.g., a 50 Mbps fiber-to-the-home offering may not compete with a 768 kbps DSL offering). But, as you’ll see, with the new report providing data on higher-speed tiers, a whole new picture emerges.

The report doesn’t focus only on fixed broadband service.  Note the incredible growth of wireless data plans: subscriptions to mobile data services for full Internet access increased by 40% in just six months. That increase underscores how critical it is to free-up more spectrum to support these popular, innovation-driving services, as called for in the National Broadband Plan and by the President in his June 28th Executive Memorandum.

All good, but we’re not yet satisfied: the report still needs improvements – and, more to the point, the data collection needs to be improved. As we underscored in our Data Innovation Initiative, we want the decisions of this Commission to be driven by the best data possible. That means gathering the data we need to support policy decisions – including, for example, answering questions about competition – and improving public access to as much data as we can while protecting confidential data. 

Change – either evolutionary or revolutionary -- is good, but change is a challenge for everyone. I believe the changes we’ve made so far and are planning for upcoming Internet Access Services Reports are worth the effort.

National Broadband Plan Translations Released

September 1st, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

By Phoebe Yang and Lyle Ishida

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission released translations of the National Broadband Plan’s Executive Summary in six Asian and Pacific Islander languages.  The translated documents are available at http://www.broadband.gov/plan/executive-summary/ and include Chinese (Simplified), Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, and Samoan.  We anticipate posting additional translations in other languages within a few months. (If there are particular languages in which members of the Blogband community would find useful to have a translation of the Executive Summary, please let us know in the comments section of this post.)

Although a recent NTIA survey suggests that Asian Americans may adopt broadband in the home at a rate close to the national average, some Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations have lower-than-average median household incomes (Korean Americans) or have many members that live in rural areas (Hmong Americans) – demographic indicators correlated with lower broadband adoption rates. In addition, AAPI populations include many households that are “linguistically isolated” – defined by the Census Bureau as “a household in which all members age 14 years and over speak a non-English language and also speak English less than ‘very well.’” For example, at the last census, over 30% of Vietnamese-American households were linguistically isolated. For these Americans, and others like them, access to translated materials is important to increasing their understanding of broadband and closing the digital divide.

These translations represent an early step – but not our last step – in our efforts to reach out to AAPI populations about the power of broadband. Yesterday, the two of us were in Los Angeles, holding an outreach event in partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission, the Office of the California CIO, and the Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, and talking to a crowd of community based organizations, small business owners, and consumers about what they can do to help bring broadband to all members of the Los Angeles community. We look forward to working with the Asian American community to make broadband access a reality 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