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Live Blogging the April Open Commission Meeting

April 21st, 2010 by George Krebs

10:30am ET 

Today we put the plan into action. After months of envisioning an effective national broadband network, this is the exciting stuff we’ve been waiting for. Today we begin a long but fast-paced process to implement policy. The baton has been passed from the Broadband Team to the FCC’s Offices and Bureaus to put the plan to work. In presenting the final document, and in his last appearance before the commission, Broadband Team Executive Director Blair Levin told the commissioners, “The value of this plan should be judged by what comes of it. You have a Plan. Now is your time to act.”
 
Today we will present six items for the chairman and the commissioners to consider. These items range from planting the seeds for the Connect America Fund to efforts to bolster cyber security.
 
For background on today’s items visit our April Open Meetings page.
 
10:44am ET
 
“A full agenda,” Genachoswki says after Secretary Marlene Dortch announces the items to be considered. The chairman runs down a lengthy list of reforms the FCC has already put into place. Like the Broadband Plan that came before it, “the processes for implementing the plan will be characterized by transparency, inclusivity, and openness.”
 
11:04am ET
 
Item One - Connect America Fund: Tackling long awaited Universal Service reform
 
First up, Carol Mattey from the Wireline Competition Bureau introduces the Connect America Fund. She tells the story of a child she met who had trouble completing her homework without the Internet access available to other students. The Connect American Fund would directly support broadband without increasing the cost of the existing Universal Service Fund. The proposed Notice of Inquiry considers replacing the “legacy high cost program” with “efficient, targeted funding of networks that can provide data and voice service.”
 
Commissioners are overwhelmingly supportive. The item is voted for approval across the board. Reservations expressed arise from their recognition that this is a herculean undertaking. There’s a reason it has taken such a long time to enact reform. The Chairman sums up the sentiment of the bench saying, “[reforming Universal Service is a] multi-layered, complex, rubik’s cube of a project. It will not be easy. But it is also what we’re committed to do…There’s no dispute that we need to do this. It’s a big challenge.”
 
 
11:23am ET
 
Item Two – Roaming for mobile
 
Mobile data roaming is crucial these days. Consumers purchase phones for more than voice service. The Commission looks to adopt an automatic data roaming requirement. Again, the chairman and the commissioners come to a consensus and unanimously vote to adopt the item.
 
11:57am ET
 
Items three and four – Video devices
 
The Media Bureau’s Notice of Inquiry urges the Commission to develop an interface standard for all video services. This standard will encourage four goals:
  • Spur investment and innovation
  • Increase consumer choice
  • Allow unfettered innovation in multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) delivery platforms
  • Encourage wider broadband use and adoption (televisions are the most widely present screens in the home)
 
The second prong of the presentation seeks to fix the problems with the CableCARD regime in the interim before a successor takes it place. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would achieve this through ensuring that these devices have equal access to programming, transparency in billing, and other mechanisms.
 
Commissioners and Chairman are, again, in agreement of the pressing need in this arena. The results of video services and CableCARD have been, in Commissioner McDowell’s words, “disappointing.” Both segments are adopted unanimously in the vote.
 
 
 
12:12pm ET
 
Item five – Survivability features of broadband
 
Moving to the public safety realm, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau urges the Commission to consider “A Notice of Inquiry that examines the survivability of broadband infrastructure and seeks comment on the ability of existing broadband networks to withstand significant damage or severe overloads as a result of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics or other major public emergencies.” More broadly the bureau asks what the FCC can do to improve the resiliency of broadband networks during times of crises.
 
The importance of this examination cannot be overstated. Not surprisingly, the chairman and the commissioners lavish wide spread praise for the proposal. “This item and the next item are last today,” the chairman says, “but they’re certainly not least…This is very important work that you are engaged in, that our commission is engaged in.”
 
12:30pm ET
 
Item six – Cyber Security Certification Program
 
Remaining at the table, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett begins, “At the same time that we’re seeing increasing dependence on these networks, communications providers are seeing increasing threats.” The Broadband Plan recommended the commission create a voluntary cyber security certification program. This Notice of Inquiry will look into establishing such a program. The proposed program will provide consumers more complete information about their providers’ cyber security apparatus. The presenters note that 87% of cyber security breaches could have been avoided if necessary cyber security measures were in place.
 
Commissioner Copps initiates comment from the bench. He, along with the others, sides with brevity. “The importance of these two items speaks for itself.” Chairman Genachowski summarizes, “Our broadband communications networks are becoming more essential in the lives of every American.” At the same time, the vulnerabilities are more alarming than ever before. These are items we need to move on forcefully. All those on the bench vote in favor of the Notice (constituting a trend on the day).
 
The meeting is adjourned.

Long Lines for the iPad and Staying Ahead of the Curve

April 2nd, 2010 by Phil Bellaria - Director, Scenario Planning, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

By Phil Bellaria - Director, Scenario Planning, Omnibus Broadband Initiative and John Leibovitz - Deputy Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

With lines expected to go out the doors of Apple stores nationwide when the iPad is released tomorrow, it's a good time to think about the changing ways Americans are accessing broadband.  More and more, it seems Americans don’t want to be tethered to a desktop computer -- or even a laptop -- but want a light mobile device they can curl up on the sofa with to watch an on-line movie, stow in a backpack for subway reading, or pass around the office with the latest vacation pictures.  The broadband connections that enable this flexibility are wireless – a fact that points out the need for more spectrum for mobile broadband that we identified in the National Broadband Plan.

Many iPads will rely solely on Wi-Fi to connect to broadband, and the Plan recognizes how Wi-Fi broadband access on unlicensed spectrum can relieve the growing pressure on licensed cellular networks. The Plan calls for the FCC to free up a new, contiguous nationwide band of spectrum for unlicensed use over the next ten years. These bands have the added benefit of providing economical broadband access in rural areas that aren’t well served now.

Other consumers will buy iPads configured to also connect to AT&T’s commercial licensed networks, adding to the fast-growing volume of data traffic that has already been fueled by smart phones, like the iPad’s little brother, the iPhone, and laptop aircards. The growth is exciting – and a call for action to stave off network congestion. Consider this: AT&T’s data traffic has grown by 5000% over the past three years. Cisco estimates that smartphones alone can generate 30 times more data traffic than a basic feature phone. And laptops can generate many times the traffic of a smartphone.

Before long, we’ll have an idea about what the iPad’s impact on spectrum use will be. But we shouldn’t wait. The FCC’s National Broadband Plan has outlined the fundamentals of a bold spectrum policy for the future. It includes short-term steps, such as carriers building out 4G networks, more cell phone towers, and migrating to more efficient equipment. But long-term, it’s clear that we’ll need to act on the Plan’s call for more spectrum.

Failing to do so will frustrate consumers with balky networks and hamstring innovation in a sector where America leads the world.

Working Together on Broadband Speed Disclosure for Consumers

April 2nd, 2010 by Peter Bowen - Applications Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Understanding what broadband speeds and performance you will actually experience at home is critical when trying to choose a service or understand what applications and content your service can access once you’re purchased that connection.  The speed you get at home can depend on many things – the speed tier of the service, the degree of congestion on the network, computer processing speeds or multiple devices sharing a connection, to name a few. Including only one factor would be like planning a trip based on just one leg of the journey, even though in the end, the trip’s real time and cost will depend on every leg – a better flight won’t save you money or time if you must travel to an inconvenient airport. The National Broadband Plan focused on the whole picture -- the actual broadband speeds experienced by consumers -- for exactly this reason. What we found was that there is a 40% to 50% gap between the actual speeds that consumers experience and the advertised maximum speeds that ISPs provision.
 
Recently, the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) filed comments protesting the data we used from a company called comScore for projecting the average national gap between advertised speeds and actual speeds experienced. Citing to a document prepared by NetForecast, a company hired by Comcast to test usage meters, NCTA complained that the FCC used comScore results as an absolute indicator of individual ISPs’ performance. NCTA noted that because the data doesn’t account for delays caused by a user’s computer, or between client and server, or conflicts from the test traffic itself, and other reasons it did not reflect ISP performance.
 
Well, exactly. It’s true that the performance gap can be driven by many factors beyond the ISP’s performance – a slow computer, a shared connection, bad internal wiring, or the general vagaries of IP traffic on the Internet, to name a few. But our conclusions weren’t meant as an “absolute indicator” of an ISP’s performance, as NCTA says.  Instead, we were pointing out what a typical consumer actually experiences, no matter the reason. We noted that this gap often creates confusion for consumers, and can make it difficult for them to choose the right provider or speed service tier. Consumers need to know real-world facts to make real-world choices.
 
Besides, the FCC is, in fact, putting in place testing to measure absolute provider speeds -- an important and related issue, but a separate issue. In 2009 the UK regulator published a report noting that actual speeds delivered by ISP’s were roughly 57% of the advertised speeds and even lower at peak times, and we aim to replicate their approach and make our results available to the public this year. So a few weeks ago, we put out bids, which I blogged about on March 15, to hire a firm to independently test these absolute speeds. We look forward to getting that information..
 
By the way, providers have had a chance to provide us with more data themselves over the last 6 months. Back in September, we asked providers for better data to refine the comScore analysis – new facts and figures, rather than rhetoric and empty attack. NCTA suggests flaws in the advertised speeds of comScore, but ISPs have and could provide data (in aggregate) on the advertised speeds of their consumers to bolster or refine comScore, Form 477 and other data that the commission relies upon. But no provider has stepped forward.
 
We have seen increasingly positive signs that all parties – consumer groups, providers and others – are willing to work with the FCC to create standards for disclosure that benefit consumers. Consumers are confused about broadband performance, but if all parties decide to work together, collectively we can solve this problem.

Sunshine Week (And not just with the weather)

March 19th, 2010 by Vishal Doshi - Government Performance Analyst, National Broadband Task Force

[By Vishal Doshi and Kevin Bennett]
 
It’s Sunshine Week and we’re not just talking about the beautiful weather in Washington, DC (70 degrees and sunny).
 
Sunshine Week, which is wrapping up, is an initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government. We should point out that not only did we release the National Broadband Plan during Sunshine Week, we released it a day ahead of schedule, on James Madison’s Birthday, which is also National Freedom of Information Day. Coincidence? I think not.
 
In that spirit, we’d like to highlight a few of the National Broadband Plan’s recommendations that promote the creation of a more open and transparent government. These recommendations all come from the Civic Engagement Chapter (Chapter 15). I hope that they feel as good as the 70 degree weather, also brought to you by the broadband team at the FCC.
 
The primary legal documents of the federal government should be free and accessible to the public on digital platforms.  For Executive Branch agencies, this means publishing all executive orders and other public documents on the Internet and in easily accessible, machine-readable format. The Executive Branch has taken important steps towards this goal with Data.gov. State and local governments are already taking steps to implement their own versions of Data.gov. But more can be done. Even Data.gov contains only a small amount of the government’s data. For the Legislative Branch, this means that Congress should publish all votes, as well as proposed and enacted legislation, in a timely manner, online and in a machine-readable and otherwise accessible format. Finally, all federal judicial decisions should be accessible for free and made publicly available to the people of the United States.
 
The federal government should create and fund Video.gov to publish its digital video archival materials and facilitate the creation of a federated national digital archive to house public interest digital content. The federal government, as well as public and commercial media, sits on a treasure in the form of hours of video content from government video footage to decades of nightly news broadcasts. The federal government can play a critical role in unlocking this tremendous content for the American people. Video.gov would be a great start. By releasing much of its video content into a national digital archive, the government can create an important tool for students, teachers, parents and all citizens. C-SPAN just announced that it would be putting its video library, covering more than 23 years of history and American life, providing more than 160,000 hours of footage online for free. (See it here.) We applaud this important step and hope that this is the first of many important steps towards providing public interest video content online for the American people.
 
All responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by Executive Branch and independent agencies should be made available online at www.[agency].gov/foiaFOIA is one of the single most important government transparency tools that exists, and it can be expanded to increase transparency even more over the Web.
 
The Executive Branch should establish MyPersonalData.gov as a mechanism that allows citizens to request their personal data held by government agencies. The federal government holds data related to many citizens and the Privacy Act contains provisions for giving these individuals access to their personal data. The federal government should enable citizens to access to this data online thought MyPersonalData.gov.
 
For more about the sunshine recommendations, check out Chapter 15 of the National Broadband Plan. Thank you, and enjoy the sunshine.

A Compelling Vision for the Future of Public Safety Communications

March 17th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Yesterday, the FCC released its National Broadband Plan, which lays out a comprehensive vision for the future of public safety communications. The Plan’s recommendations for advancing public safety and homeland security draw upon an extensive record and incorporate input from the public safety community, service providers, vendors and countless others. We truly appreciate the efforts of all who contributed to development of these recommendations, which we believe will revolutionize public safety communications and emergency response.

Our central recommendation is the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband wireless network through incentive-based partnerships between public safety agencies and the partner of their choice. The Plan asks Congress to commit a substantial amount of public funding—as much as $12-16 billion over 10 years—to support the build-out and operation of this network. It also recommends that the FCC create an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) to ensure a baseline of operability and interoperability for the network nationwide.    Recommendations to enable roaming and priority access on commercial networks will also help ensure that public safety has access to a network when and where they need it.  Our recommendations will ensure that there truly is a nationwide network for the public safety community that is interoperable and provides them with the advanced communications capabilities they need.

The Plan also makes recommendations on how to improve cybersecurity. These include the development of a cybersecurity roadmap, in which the FCC—in coordination with the Executive Branch—will identify the nation’s most pressing cybersecurity threats and develop a plan for confronting them. Other recommendations focus on voluntary programs to promote the implementation of cybersecurity best practices and improve the FCC’s situational awareness and information base regarding cyber attacks and IP-based communications networks.  The Plan also addresses how to preserve the reliability and resiliency of our critical communications infrastructure and ensure that broadband networks can support prioritization of critical traffic.

Also included are proposals to facilitate the deployment of Next Generation 911, which will incorporate broadband technologies to improve the emergency response capabilities of public safety answering points (PSAPs), first responders, and other professionals.  The Plan recommends that Congress grant the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration authority to prepare a report to identify costs and recommend congressional appropriations, and that this report inform the development of a federal regulatory framework for NG911 deployment.

Finally, the Plan calls for the FCC to explore how to develop a multiple platform, redundant, next-generation alert system—one which uses broadband capabilities to better support underserved communities and reach a wider audience.  The Plan also asks the President to clarify agency roles on the implementation and maintenance of a next-generation alert and warning system. This would be an important step toward improved, timely and coordinated federal implementation of next-generation alerting systems.

My staff and I look forward to working with you as we implement the Plan’s recommendations for advancing public safety and homeland security through broadband. The Plan sets forth a compelling vision for the future of public safety communications, and we are already working with our public safety, federal and other partners to make these recommendations a reality.

 

Wireless Broadband Network Takes Form for Public Safety Community

March 4th, 2010 by George Krebs

Soon the FCC will roll out the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). A first-of-its-kind center located within the Commission, ERIC will coordinate communication among the public safety community. As Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett wrote ERIC will be based on a wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. This will include technical requirements for common standards across the field, priority access for public safety users, and choices for how they operate their broadband network. Panelists from the FCC, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Institute of Science and Technology spoke Tuesday about what form this should center should take.

The need for an interoperability network is clear, they noted. Today first responders and public safety personnel are using a wide variety of devices in the course of their time sensitive work. This hodgepodge of systems contains a host of issues that complicates the vital work being performed. Critical communication coordination failures on September 11th and during Hurricane Katrina made the necessity of such interoperability painfully evident.

Jeff Goldthorp, Chief of the Communications Systems Analysis Division at the FCC, spoke to the possibility of interoperability and the urgency of roaming:
 
Rich benefits come with deployment of new commercial wireless technology. Is it possible to create a network of networks? Absolutely. We need to harmonize the actions of public safety entities…
 
We need for first responders to be able to move between jurisdictions [roaming] in a way they’re not able to today.
 
Mr. Barnett said ERIC must be launched to coincide with the National Broadband Plan. When the Broadband Plan is rolled out, industry will be jumping on board.
 
These networks are taking off. These people are ready to build. We need to get public safety right up there with the industry. When the truck rolls out to put up a tower, it should also be putting up a tower for public safety. If we fall behind and the truck has to roll out a second time, it will be much more expensive.
 
The public safety and homeland security recommendations in the Broadband Plan are already getting an outpouring of support. As we move quickly toward implementing these recommendations we must get it right, Mr. Barnett urged. “We’ve got to get going. We get one at bat. One swing.”
 

The Seeds of Digital Health Care: Nourished by the National Broadband Plan

February 26th, 2010 by Mohit Kaushal - Digital Healthcare Director

Chairman Genachowski had it exactly right when he said: “we see the digital seeds sprouting—high-speed Internet beginning to produce medical miracles, and evidence of the potential to save hundreds of billions in health care costs.” I’ve had the good fortune of leading the Connected Health team here at the FCC to make sure the federal government can help those seeds become forests.

Next week, we are very excited to be participating at the HIMSS conference in Atlanta, the largest and most important health IT conference in the country. If you are there, please stop by our Tuesday (March 2nd) session to learn more about the Plan’s working recommendations for healthcare. We’re scheduled for 8:30-9:30 AM in Room C306 at the convention center

One message of the entire plan is that broadband is only valuable when it supports a vibrant eco-system of devices, software, and uses that make all our lives better. This couldn’t be more true for health IT; it will require a dramatic and coordinated approach across the federal government and private sector to realize this vision. To that end, I’m excited to be joined by many senior health IT officials on Tuesday, including:
 

  • Dr. Charles Friedman, Deputy National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the Office of the Secretary for Health and Human Services
  • Peter Levin, Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Mark Rives, Director of Information Technology Operations at the Indian Health Service, and
  • Erik Garr, General Manager of the National Broadband Plan


I hope I’ll see many of you there. And I’d love to hear what you think of our ideas. I discussed them at a high level last week at the Commission Meeting and we’ll be getting into a lot more detail Tuesday.  Hopefully this blog can be a great place to continue the conversation after the conference!

-Dr. Mo

Live Blogging the February Open Commission Meeting

February 18th, 2010 by George Krebs

Welcome to our live blog. The meeting will begin at 3PM EDT. In the meantime, check out our Open Meetings page where you will be able to see a live stream of the meeting and the slides used in today's presentation. We will also be live tweeting the meeting here. If you're on Twitter yourself, you can join the conversation by using #FCCopen.

3:11pm EDT
By any standard, we are on countdown. There are only twenty-seven days to go until the Broadband Plan is to be submitted. This is the last Open Commission meeting before that big day. This is the last time the Broadband Team will present in front of the Chairman and all four commissioners. The National Purposes Team will present today. They cover portions of the plan relating to the impact of broadband on healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government and civic engagement, public safety, and economic opportunity. They will identify the gaps that exist in these areas and they will provide a framework for their coming recommendations. Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn, and Baker, representing the FCC’s top brass, will give them insight and suggestions. 

Before their presentation, we will have an update on the Commission’s continuing work in Haiti. (For more information on this front, see International Bureau Chief Mindel de la Torre’s superb, on-the-ground updates on our Reboot Blog.) We will also hear a presentation on FCC reform.

3:48pm EDT
Haiti update
Mindel de la Torre gives an idea of what it was like on the ground. It’s difficult for someone living here to imagine what the conditions are like in Haiti right now, she says. The pictures included on their slides provide a sense of how entirely destructive the earthquake was. Ms. de la Torre thanks the team from the Commission who went down to help out. Jamie Barnett, Chief of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, discusses the team’s accomplishments in Haiti, including assisting in teleconferences and many of the communications in connecting back and forth to the U.S. (with organizations such as USAID). In concluding, Mr. Barnett says, “It’s going to be a long process in restoring their communications.”
 
Ms. de la Torre gives a report on “key findings” from the team. Rebuilding efforts of wireless cell sites and wireline infrastructure are ongoing. She shows a collage of images – “a television station that collapsed completely.” A yellow, electronic news gathering car, saved the life of the station owner. Behind the building site, they set up a mobile radio station where the station owner gives radio commentary on Manchester United soccer games and shows movies on his small television viewed by a small gathering in his community. “Anything to make the people feel better,” she says. The Commission has issued 83 wavers representing 716 TV / radio stations to do fundraising for Haiti.
 
4:35pm EDT
Reform
Mary-Beth Richards, Special Counsel for FCC Reform, gives a rundown of reform efforts at the FCC. The Commission will vote on two items suggested by the group Ms. Richards leads. One area she highlights is public safety. The faults in communication around the public safety community is well known.  To address this, Ms. Richards unveils the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC), to reside here at the FCC. ERIC will facilitate public safety communications throughout the country in part by setting standards and giving this crucial public safety need, a centralized hub. Among other areas, she notes that we will bring in a Chief Data Officer to make the Commission more data driven. Also, a rule the Commission will vote on will make Ex-Parte notices available more quickly to the public and to the staff, and will require these notices be submitted online.
 
The Chairman and the commissioners all assent to the recommended reform measures on e-filing procedure and ex parte.
 
5:03pm EEDT
E-rate motion
In the last item to be considered before the broadband update, the Commission will consider improvements to the hugely successful E-rate program. In fact, the E-rate is related to broadband as it provides subsidized high speed Internet access for schools and libraries as a recognition of the vital role Internet access plays in the public sphere.
 
Regina Brown, attorney advisor in the Wireline Competition Bureau, explains the vote. “This waver will allow schools the option to open their facilities to the general public to utilize services and facilities, supported by E-rate, during non-operating hours such as afterschool hours, on the weekends, on school holidays, or during the summer months when school is not in session.”
 
The motion is widely lauded by the Commission. “In times of economic crisis, having broad community access to broadband is vital,” Chairman Genachowski says. “Broadband connectivity is lagging in rural, minority and tribal communities.” He notes the wide people who will benefit greatly: “The unemployed searching for work, seniors looking for health information and citizens using government services,” among others.
 
5:12pm EDT
Broadband
In opening this section of the meeting the Chairman acknowledges the hard work of the team. They came into the office during the massive snowstorm, underscoring their dedication. “You’re out of jeans & snow boots,” he quips.
 
Executive Director Blair Levin frames their task as solving a mystery. Why have some embraced broadband but others, similarly situated, have not. Some sectors have a “diffusion lag” in adopting broadband. Why? “The team,” he says, will “present ways we need to act to remove the barriers, overcome the diffusion lag, and capture the opportunities others are already seizing.”
 
With that, Mr. Levin cedes the stage to National Purposes lead Kristen Kane. The goal of National purposes is to “offer a plan for how our country can utilize broadband to have these sectors perform at a higher level.” She says, “What you’ll hear today is the opportunities that broadband presents, secondly the major gaps preventing our realizing these opportunities, and then finally the working recommendations to address those gaps.”
 
To begin, the team lays out a vision for “high performance America.”  This includes:
  • Making government more effective, efficient, and transparent
  • Ensuring that investments are aligned and forward thinking
  • Creating the conditions for innovation and America’s competitive advantage in key strategic areas
 
She stresses that integrating broadband into the country’s priorities “can actually change things… Not just the way we do things, but the results we get. New solutions to previously intractable problems.” But, she says, we must act with urgency. “We don’t have that much time.”
 
We will now hear presentations from each area which falls under the umbrella of National Purposes. They will give context for how broadband impacts their field and provide some framework for their upcoming recommendations.
 
Health care
Mohit Kaushal begins with the transformative pairing of broadband and medical care. “[There is an] ever growing array of broadband enabled devices and applications that are improving the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare,” he says. Providing an anecdote, Dr. Kaushal explains that enabling e-care can result in great savings: $700 billion in potential net savings over the next fifteen to twenty-five years. Cost savings could be even greater in the future.
 
Healthcare recommendations framework:
  • Creating the incentives for broader health IT adoption and innovation
    Modernizing regulations to increase access to care and enable health IT adoption
  • Driving innovative applications and advanced analytics
  • Ensuring all providers have access to affordable broadband
 
Education
Steve Midgely, head of the Education Team, presents a number of anecdotes that showcase the power of broadband in education. Broadband creates “more opportunities for students to learn independently, with teachers acting as their guides,” he says. Online learning is highly effective. New research has shown hybrid learning – combining online learning with in person support – can be significantly more effective than traditional instruction. One of Midgely’s slides reports that only 16% of public community college campuses have high speed broadband compared to 91% of research universities.
 
Education recommendations framework:
  • Upgrading E-rate
  • Supporting and promoting online learning
  • Unlocking the power of data to personalize learning and improve decision-making
 
Energy and the environment
A former energy investor, Nick Sinai leads a team best known around the commission for extolling the virtues of the smart grid for America. “Imagine if consumers and businesses could not only access their energy bill online but could adjust their lights, heating and cooling from their smartphones or a netbook,” he says, eliciting a sense of wonder in the room. He points to the extraordinary potential for new jobs in Internet-based companies that monitor, store and manage energy. “Making our homes, buildings, and vehicles smart will help us meet our national energy goals,” he says. An interesting stat from their slides – providing consumers energy information could reduce consumption by 5 – 15 % (a $60-$180 annual savings per home).
 
Energy and the environment recommendations framework:
  • Integrating broadband into the smart grid
  • Expanding consumer access to energy information
  • Seeking opportunities to lead in data center efficiency
  • Making transportation safer, smarter, and cleaner
 
Government Performance
In government, broadband facilitates transparency, efficiency, and clarity. A connected government enables enhanced access to services and streamlines online interactions between the citizen and their government.
 
Team lead Eugene Huang has a number of anecdotes that he cites. “One example of how universal broadband can increase performance in the filing of taxes. Individual paper tax returns cost eight times more to process than electronic returns [$2.87 per paper return, $0.35 per electronic return], but nearly 43% of returns are still filed by paper. If all Americans processed their taxes online, the government would save over $300 million over five years.”
 
Government performance recommendation framework:
  • Transforming government service delivery (through cloud computing, competitions for ideas, and greater use of social media)
  • Increasing the quantity and quality of civic engagement
  • Using government assets to improve broadband deployment
 
Public Safety
A familiar face, Admiral Barnett, is back. Barnett assisted in the initial Haiti update and appears with Jennifer Manner to represent public safety. “I can explain what broadband can do for public safety very briefly,” he says. First, we must protect against cyber threats; second, we can improve the methods and effectiveness of alerting people to danger and provide information for their safety; third, we can improve the effectiveness of people who need to ask for help, by alerting public safety; lastly, broadband can help first responders exchange critical, information rich data through a nationwide, interoperable wireless network. “We get one at bat and one swing,” he cautions. We need to get this right.
 
The microphone is ceded to Jennifer Manner to present the more substantive public safety recommendations.
 
Public safety recommendation framework:
  • Creating a nationwide interoperable broadband wireless public safety network
  • Transitioning to a next-generation 9-1-1 system
  • Developing a comprehensive next-generation alerting system
  • Enhancing security measures to safeguard networks and core infrastructure
 
Economic Opportunity
Broadband plays a crucial and pressing role in increasing economic opportunity nationwide. On behalf of the team, Elana Berkowitz explains the compelling case. “Americans use broadband to support a universe of online job search, job applications, job training that can be used anywhere at any time with lower cost and with increased effectiveness. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can use online tools, reach new markets, develop new business models… Broadband can enable regional communities to compete globally or farm communities trying to compete nationwide.”
 
Economic opportunity recommendation framework
  • Creating a robust national employment assistance platform
  • Promoting telework through federal policy
  • Expanding efforts to trains and equip SMEs with broadband applications
  • Utilizing broadband to enhance economic development tools and planning

---------

Given the late afternoon start time the meeting has predictably run into the evening. Managing Director Erik Garr, wraps up expeditiously. “If we can do a lot of these things for the country it will make a material difference for how we find jobs, how we’re trained for jobs, how we’re educated, and how we care for each other when we’re sick,” he says. “This is important stuff. We look forward to taking this to final recommendations from working recommendations.”
 
Chairman Genachowski and the assembled commissioners agree that this was an “impressive and very important presentation.”
 
6:35pm EDT
After a brief presentation from Steve Waldman on Future of Media the Chairman adjourns the meeting. The Broadband Team retires to their secluded lair to continue writing. Interested onlookers, filled with national purpose, disperse into the night.

Privacy, Personal Data, and the Plan

January 26th, 2010 by Andrew Nesi - Special Assistant

In addition to his Wired for Social Justice speech, Blair also delivered a speech last Friday on privacy issues in the National Broadband Plan to EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center).  In the speech, Blair discussed the dynamics of private data in the applications market, as well as the pending public notice on privacy.  Full text of the speech is below.

Thank you.

I particularly want to thank Mark, whose work I have followed for years and who has been both visionary and relentless in pushing on an issue which has always been important and, as I know you all know, will only be more so in the future.

I want to start with what my team was asked to do.  As many of you know, in the Recovery Act, Congress set aside more than 7 billion dollars for NTIA to establish a grant program designed to provide a short-term stimulus to fund broadband infrastructure build-out.

In addition to that program, Congress asked the FCC to develop a Plan for the long-term development of broadband in America. It asked us to evaluate those grants, and analyze the most efficient and effective mechanisms to get broadband infrastructure to all Americans. 

But Congress asked us to look beyond networks, too. 

It asked how we could achieve greater affordability, and increase adoption of broadband by Americans everywhere. 

It asked how broadband could advance a number of national purposes: energy, health care, public safety and consumer welfare, among others.  And it asked how to ensure maximum utilization of broadband, and how to realize its transformative potential.

Many still focus only on the first question—how can we get the fastest networks to the most number of people?

(Continue reading here...)

Wired for Social Justice

January 25th, 2010 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

This past Friday, Blair Levin, Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, delivered a speech entitled 'Wired for Social Justice.'  Blair spoke at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council's Broadband and Social Justice Summit this past Friday. 

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When President Eisenhower was desegregating schools and the Armed Forces, he said: “there must be no second class citizens in this country.”

No one in this room would argue. But as society changes, the attributes of citizenship can change as well.

And so in every age the question must be asked anew: “Are our policies contributing to a form of second class citizenship?”

This is a question we have spent a great deal of time—difficult time—working on as we try to develop a national broadband plan.

And that is what I want to talk about today.

I want to have a frank conversation about how we can ensure that in a society in which citizens increasingly interact, transact, communicate, collaborate, contribute and work online, digital citizenship is denied to no one.

Over the last thirty years, we have seen increases in income inequality, residential segregation and social isolation, and the concentration of disadvantage.

The number of neighborhoods today with a dangerous poverty rate—poverty above 30%-- is higher than it was in 2000.

In areas with a dense concentration of poverty, jobs disappear. Opportunity disappears.  The American tradition of justice, of achieving the American dream, emphasizes equality of opportunity – of having access to equal sets of resources that can enable us, our families, our children to succeed.

Let me be clear: access to high-speed Internet, even when paired with the digital skills needed to use it, is not a guarantee of such opportunity – it also requires values such as hard work and diligence that neither technology nor government can provide.

But broadband can help people get access to better jobs, better education, better health care information and improved government services.

And those services should be accessible anytime, anywhere, not requiring a day spent traveling to and waiting in line at government welfare offices in the midst of a workday.

This is no theoretical exercise. Connecting those previously excluded can bring real results.

(Continue reading 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