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SBA: National Broadband Plan is Key to Small Business Growth and Jobs

November 18th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

A report to Congress released by the Small Business Administration this week tells us something that makes sense: broadband makes small businesses more productive, which leads to more jobs and greater economic growth. One study cited by the report calculates growth in broadband penetration over a two-year period created about 300,000 jobs.

The report also raises some problems we are familiar with: broadband is less available to rural businesses, and when it is available, it can cost more.  Small businesses everywhere want lower prices and increased value.

Happily, the report proposes a solution that we are not only familiar with but that we wrote: the National Broadband Plan.  To quote, the report recommends that policymakers “Stay the course on national broadband planning and implementation of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.”

We’re not just staying the course. We’re moving full speed ahead. Here are a few examples of how we have advanced the small business broadband agenda detailed in our National Broadband Plan:

  • Launching with SBA a public-private partnership to help accelerate small business growth through the use of broadband technologies.
  • Examining the market for business broadband services to determine the status of competition and whether our policies in this area can be improved.
  • Beginning reform of the Universal Service Fund to help provide broadband in areas where it’s lacking.
  • Revising our rules governing access to infrastructure like utility poles to remove barriers to deploying broadband networks.
  • Clearing more spectrum to unleash wireless broadband.
  • Launching our data innovation initiative that will enable consumers and businesses alike to get more information about the broadband options available in their communities.

Broadband leads to small business growth and jobs, and as the SBA report notes, the National Broadband Plan is the roadmap for reaching our broadband goals.

Our Innovation Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges

November 15th, 2010 by George Krebs

Earlier today, Chairman Genachowski spoke at the annaul meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Atlanta. In concert with the conference's "Keeping the Focus" theme, the Chairman spoke to the primary focus of the FCC: the economy and jobs. We're serving this mission through harnessing the opportunities of communications technology and putting an emphasis on innovation.

Read Chairman Genachowski's full speech.

(This is cross-posted on The Official FCC Blog.)

Wrapping up Open Developer Day

November 12th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

 On Monday, November 11, the FCC successfully held (we think) a first-of-its-kind event in the U.S. federal government! 

FCC Open Developer Day attracted about 100 web developers and other technology professionals to our headquarters building in Washington. We spent a day learning about open data sets and APIs, brainstorming together about how they could be combined to benefit citizens with new apps, and starting coding projects toward those goals.

One focus of FCC Open Developer Day was accessible technology. By facilitating the use of fully-accessible technologies - in line with the FCC’s support for our Accessibility and Innovation Initiative - the FCC is promoting innovation and collaborative problem-solving in the field. One exciting fact: FCC Open Developer Day marked the first time many developers in attendance sat and chatted as a group with others using assistive technologies.

The most valuable take-away from this first foray was the opportunity to build the FCC developer community. The momentum from this event will hopefully help bring the popular activity of Developer Day and "hack-a-thons" to the a federal agency. We were grateful, and a bit surprised, at the number of people who came in from out of town to this event.  It was incredibly exciting to the see the Commission Meeting Room, usually set up for formal hearings and presentations, organized in tables for eight people and laptops plugged into power strips.

Here are some cool things we got from having the event:


One day is too short to get much hacking done, so we are planning to do more developer days to make them a regular activity at the FCC.

P.S. Eager to participate in a gov-related developer day? December 4 is International Open Data Hackathon. FCC will be there. Will you?

(This is cross-posted on The Official FCC Blog)

What the National Broadband Plan Does for National Priorities

November 10th, 2010 by Thomas Brown

Yesterday, Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang and members of the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative presented to the Federal Communications Bar Association on recent progress on some of the “national purposes” recommendations in the Plan. These “national purposes” include issues like health, education and energy.

You can check out their presentation here.

Seeking Nominations for the Chairman’s AAA

November 9th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

 At the July 19th event celebrating the anniversary of the ADA, Chairman Genachowski launched the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative and announced the establishment of the Chairman’s Awards for Advancement of Accessibility (or Chairman’s AAA).  The Chairman’s speech, "Empowering Americans with Disabilities Through Technology" was presented at the FCC’s Americans with Disabilities Act 20th Anniversary Celebration. The A&I Initiative and the Chairman’s AAA are based on recommendations in the National Broadband Plan.

The AAA Awards will be given to pioneers in accessibility and innovations.  Contenders could be individuals or organizations, public and/or private entities, academics, students, application developers, and represent mainstream or assistive technology industries.  In addition to recognizing the development of individual mainstream or assistive technologies introduced into the marketplace, the awards could also recognize other accessibility advancements, such as the development of standards or best practices that foster accessibility, or the development of a new consumer clearinghouse of disability-related products and services.  We also believe that teaching modules and tools that could help students learn universal design and other accessibility practices could be worthy of recognition.

The Chairman’s AAA is open to any individual or entity in the public or private sector.  This year, the product, service, technology, or practice must be available and promoted publicly until May 1, 2011.  In the future, we will consider available and publicly promoted advancements that occur during a 12 month period prior to the award’s announcement. 

We encourage individuals and entities to contact us with ideas and nominations, which can be self-nominations or for others.  We will be accepting guest blog posts and guest v-logs on this topic, and parties can also file nominations in CG Docket 10-100.  We will be forming an internal cross-bureau advisory group to review the nominations and advise the Chairman on the awards. Employees of the Commission and their families are not eligible for this competition.  For more information please contact me at AccessInfo [at] fcc [dot] gov.  The Chairman looks forward to hearing from you!

(This is cross-posted on The Official FCC Blog)

Generating Civic Capital: FCC’s Open Developer Day

November 5th, 2010 by Thomas Brown

The National Broadband Plan called on government to “leverage broadband to experiment with new ideas and technologies to extend opportunities for engagement.” In that spirit, we’re excited to highlight the FCC’s Open Developer Day, coming up this Monday, November 8.

All of us at the FCC, and especially our Chief Data Officer, Greg Elin, have been focused on the power and possibilities of making more data available to citizens, tinkerers and developers; Open Developer Day will be yet another demonstration of that focus. As Greg highlighted in a blog post last week, the event will bring together citizen developers and engineers from Yahoo! to develop a clearinghouse Web application intended to make it as easy as possible for people with disabilities, families, and support professionals to find information about accessible technologies. It will also support the Plan’s recommendation that the FCC “create an ongoing web presence to allow participants to share information about public and private accessibility efforts and discuss accessibility barriers and inaccessible products.”

(To RSVP for Open Developer Day, click here.)

We hope that Open Developer Day will inspire other federal agencies to hold their own Open Developer Days and apply similarly innovative approaches to tackling public challenges. Joshua Tauberer, who founded the congressional transparency website Govtrack.us in his spare time (!), has said that “open data is civic capital.” Platforms for effectively using open data are civic capital too, and we look forward to seeing what our participants on Monday generate.

Gearing Up for Open Developer Day

November 4th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

 This coming Monday the commission will play host to a one-of-a-kind event in federal government. We’re calling on coders, programmers and developers of all stripes to join us at FCC headquarters for our first ever Open Developer Day. This will be a rare opportunity for developers in the public and private sectors to join forces. Out of this gathering will come innovations, collaborations, and continued open government partnership.

Central to Monday’s event will be three tracks weaving their way through the day. Equipped with our laptops and the fellowship of sharp friends we’ll be working through accessibility solutions and open APIs; and we’ll host a Free Develop, an open-ended developer free-for-all. FCC tech minds and leadership will open the event, situating our Developer Day within the larger open government movement.

Programmers from the Yahoo! Developer Network will be on hand to demo their tools and provide guidance. They will give an overview of YQL, their query language which allows developers to “access and shape data across the Internet through one simple language, eliminating the need to learn how to call different APIs.” We will also see a demonstration of their YUI Library, a set of “utilities and controls … for building richly interactive web applications.”

An undertone, pervading a significant strand of the discussion, will be the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. In signing the act last month, President Obama said the act “will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind or live with a visual impairment to do what many of us take for granted…  It sets new standards so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on.”

The full day event will start at 9:00am and take place in Washington, DC at FCC headquarters. All developers are welcome free of charge. Bring a laptop and RSVP soon. If you’re not in the DC area and are unable to make it down here, we will be live streaming portions of the day. You can also join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #fccdevday. To email questions write to livequestions [at] fcc [dot] gov. You can participate by visiting Accessible Event, and entering the event code 005202376. For any TTY issues please contact Pam Gregory (pam.gregory [at] fcc [dot] gov).

Start getting excited for Monday. We’ll see you there.

Lifted By the Cloud

November 2nd, 2010 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

By Elizabeth Lyle, Pam Gregory, and Jamal Mazrui

President Obama has repeatedly made clear his commitment to equal opportunity and full inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of life, including access to technology.  He most recently made this point when he signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which provides access to advanced technologies for people with disabilities.

Chairman Genachowski has embraced this commitment wholeheartedly.  In addition to leading the charge on implementing the recently passed legislation, in July he established of the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, as recommended in the FCC's National Broadband Plan.  The A&I Initiative promotes collaborative problem solving and uses the tools of public and private sector innovation to address accessibility barriers.

As part of this initiative, on October 21 the FCC partnered with the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities at the University of Colorado and Raising the Floor, an international coalition of individuals and organizations who promote internet accessibility for people with disabilities, to launch "Lifted by the Cloud:  Visions of Cloud-Enhanced Accessibility" on GSA's new challenge.gov platform.  The challenge solicits short multimedia presentations from the public on their visions of how cloud computing can create new opportunities for people with disabilities.  Find out more information about this challenge, which will run until May 1, 2011.

To understand what an opportunity cloud computing can be for people with disabilities, you first have to understand the barriers that people with disabilities currently face to communications technology.  The National Broadband Plan found that only 42 percent of people with disabilities use broadband at home, compared to 65 percent nationwide.  A remarkable 39% of all non-adopters have a disability.

There are many reasons for this disparity.  Among them is the fact that devices, services, software, and content are often not accessible to people with disabilities.  Furthermore, assistive technologies used by people with disabilities - such as Braille displays, augmentative and alternative communication devices, and screen readers --  are often very expensive, not interoperable with the latest technologies, and are difficult to find and repair.

So how can cloud computing help? Cloud computing and other platforms can allow people to access the assistive technologies they need anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Imagine the cloud knowing and storing your personal preferences (in a secure way) so that any material on the web that you wanted to access would be accessible to you.  If you are blind, you could pull down an audio version of any document on the web; and if you are deaf, any video you would access would be captioned.   For others, information could be simplified, highlighted, or translated into other languages, including sign language.   The cloud could allow consumers to choose from an ever expanding choice of third-party open source and commercial software applications that can provide access in new and innovative ways.  In short, the cloud will allow innovation and competition to address the access needs of people with disabilities and ensure that they share fully in the benefits of the broadband age.

To make this vision a reality, industry, developers, innovators, technologists, and researchers must understand the needs of people with disabilities.  Government can help by facilitating collaborations and participating in interdisciplinary conferences and workshops, such as those sponsored last month by the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado and sponsored in September by the Interagency Committee on Disability Research, overseen by the Department of Education.

We also need to make cloud computing and its implications for people with disabilities understandable to a broader range of policymakers and the public.  The challenge that the FCC, the Coleman Institute, and Raising the Floor just launched is an effort to tap into the imagination and ingenuity of students, filmmakers, developers, and others to help make manifest the benefits of the cloud for people with disabilities and to chart a path for moving forward.

We need your help to ensure that all Americans, including people with disabilities, have full access to technology and are truly lifted by the cloud.  We urge anyone who might be interested in participating in this challenge or encouraging others to participate to go to challenge.gov or contact us directly.

(This is cross-posted on the Official FCC Blog)

The Power of Partnerships

October 29th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

We had an inspiring couple of days in Colorado last week.  On October 21 in Westminister, we participated in the 10th Annual Coleman Institute Conference, entitled “All Together Now:  The Power of Partnerships in Cognitive Disability & Technology.” 

While at the conference, Pam announced that the FCC was partnering with the Coleman Institute and Raising the Floor, an international coalition of individuals and organizations who promote internet accessibility for people with disabilities, to launch a challenge to the public to submit short multimedia presentations on their visions of how cloud computing can create new opportunities.  The challenge, titled "Lifted by the Cloud: Visions of Cloud-Enhanced Accessibility" is the Commission’s first challenge using GSA’s new challenge.gov platform.  More information can be found here.  Preceding Pam’s announcement of the challenge, Elizabeth Lyle, Special Counsel for Innovation in the Wireless Bureau, gave remarks on “The National Broadband Plan and Access for People with Cognitive Disabilities.”

We also participated in a pre-conference workshop in Boulder on October 20, entitled “Implications of Cloud Computing for People with Cognitive Disabilities,” which was sponsored by the Coleman Institute and Silicon Flatirons.  Jamal participated on a panel on “Technical Opportunities and Commercial Infrastructure, including the Farther Future” and Elizabeth participated on a panel entitled “Legal and Regulatory Barriers to Accessibility Technology in the Cloud.”

The Power of Partnerships was truly an apt title – for both days.  The Coleman Institute and Silicon Flatirons created a powerful learning environment by bringing together people with disabilities, advocates, families, researchers, academics, developers, technologists, and policymakers – and we are happy that the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative could be a part of it!

More Thoughts on Unleashing our Invisible Infrastructure

October 28th, 2010 by Thomas Brown

As Chairman Genachowski noted in an earlier post, "the future is being built on our invisible infrastructure" - the electromagnetic spectrum that has enabled innovations like the smartphone and Wi-Fi. Recently, senior leadership at the FCC provided their thoughts on the National Broadband Plan's efforts to unleash this invisible infrastructure to audiences at a Law Seminars International event in Washington, DC and 4G World in Chicago, Illinois. Their remarks, after the jump.

Read their remarks here.



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