Federal Communications Commission

National Broadband Plan Category

E-rate in a Broadband World

October 1st, 2010 by Gina Spade

This week, the Commission released the text of an order that modernizes and upgrades the E-rate program to bring fast, affordable Internet access to schools and libraries across the country. Despite the great success of the E-rate program to date, broadband connectivity in schools and libraries is too slow to keep up with the innovative high-tech tools that are now being used across the United States. In fact, the Commission conducted a survey which found that almost 80 percent of E-rate recipients believe their current Internet connections are not sufficient to meet their current needs.

To begin to address this gap, the Commission’s order will make it easier for schools and libraries to get the highest speeds for the lowest prices by increasing their options for broadband providers. The key provisions in the order include:

  • Allowing participants to use E-rate funds to connect to the Internet in the most cost-effective way possible, including via unused fiber optic lines already in place across the country and through existing state, regional and local networks;
  • Making permanent a waiver that allows schools to create "School Spots" by opening up their doors to greater community use of E-rate supported services and facilities. Schools are already taking advantage of the existing waiver allowing them the option to provide Internet access to the local community after regular school hours. We’d love to hear your community use "success story" so please let us know if you are opening your doors as well.
  • Launching a pilot program to support off-campus wireless Internet connectivity for portable learning devices;
  • Indexing the cap on E-rate funding to inflation so that the program can more fully meet the needs of students and communities;
  • Allowing the program to support connections to the dormitories of schools that serve students facing unique challenges, such as Tribal schools or schools for children with physical, cognitive, or behavioral disabilities;
  • Bolstering protections against waste, fraud, and abuse by codifying competitive bidding requirements and clarifying restrictions on gifts from potential service providers; and
  • Streamlining the E-rate application process.

Having worked on E-rate issues for 4½ years, I am excited to be a part of the process by which the Commission is taking steps to make E-rate an even greater tool for educators and librarians in a broadband world. The Commission’s actions will help ensure that America’s students can learn to think and develop the skills necessary to contribute productively to our society.

The Chairman summed up the potential impact of this order in his statement adopting the order: "At connected schools, students can access the best libraries in the country, the best learning tools, and the best teachers, wherever they are. A high-school student in a rural town without a calculus teacher can learn calculus remotely, or physics, or Mandarin. Distance learning isn’t a substitute for education reform, but it can enhance reform; it can help schools and students in struggling communities have real opportunity, real access, to the best education can offer."

Rural Counties and Universal Service Reform

September 29th, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered these remarks to county commissioners and staff from rural California counties last week in Napa, CA.

Like each of you, I understand that the health of America as a nation is inextricably dependent on the health of rural America. My hometown was an agricultural, railroad town in the rural plains of Arkansas, where farmers made their living raising cotton, rice, and soybeans. Just as my hometown farmers realized in the 1920s and 1930s that electricity was essential for them to compete, Americans today realize that broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity to participate in the modern economy.
This recognition – that broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century – led Congress to mandate that the FCC put together our country’s first-ever National Broadband Plan. And I am pleased to share with you some of what we learned in putting together the Plan.
When drafting the plan, we identified several gaps in broadband. Specifically, 14-24 million Americans do not have broadband available to them, even if they wanted to subscribe to it. Despite rising mobile and wireless broadband usage through iPads, e-books, smart energy meters, and telemedicine, we have only 50 MHz of spectrum in the pipeline. One-third of Americans do not subscribe to broadband, even if it is available to them, because of cost, digital literacy, and their knowledge of its relevance.

Communications Technology and Health Care

September 28th, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Phoebe Yang, Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband, gave this speech about the intersection between communications technology and health care at a conference sponsored by the American Telemedicine Association on Monday, Sept. 27.

Over a century ago, Alexander Graham Bell met with the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, to demonstrate a new invention: the telephone. After Bell finished his demonstration, the President turned to him and said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”

As it turned out, the answer to the President’s question was simple: doctors.

As the eminent sociologist Dr. Paul Starr notes, the first recorded telephone exchange connected 21 Connecticut doctors with the Capital Avenue Drugstore in Hartford. The first phone line in Rochester, Minnesota, connected a doctor by the name of Mayo with his local drugstore. By 1923, use of the telephone was so widespread in the medical profession that a Philadelphia doctor’s manual on medical practice remarked that it had become as necessary to the physician as the stethoscope.

Our era is perhaps an even more transformative time for medicine. As all of you know firsthand, we’ve seen tremendous innovation and investment in telemedicine over the last decade.

Read More

Opening the Door to E-Rate in Our Communities

September 28th, 2010 by Julia Benincosa

Last week, the FCC created “School Spots” by allowing schools to authorize community use of Internet connections funded by the E-rate after school hours.  Earlier this year, the FCC granted a temporary waiver so that West Virginia and other states could move ahead immediately with community use projects, and our guest blogger Julia Benincosa, who is the West Virginia E-Rate and Instructional Technology Coordinator, writes about how the policy is already helping close the broadband gap in West Virginia.  We’re encouraging other schools who have experimented with this open-door policy to tell us about their experience, which they can do here.

For years, West Virginia was frustrated by restrictions in the E-rate program that kept school computer access cloistered for use solely by teachers, staff and students within the building.  Many opportunities for schools to partner with the community and collaborate with parents to enrich student learning could not be realized due to historical E-rate rules.  Under the previous rules, if "ineligible users" accessed the network, schools were required to allocate the cost to non- E-rate funding sources, which could be a difficult and confusing task. Since no one wanted to jeopardize precious funding during times when budgets were already shrinking, schools opted not to participate.
As more and more educators recognized the benefits that after-hours use of school Internet connections could provide, it became clear that changes were needed to eliminate barriers to broader parental and community involvement.  At the same time, the FCC was making a number of logical and positive improvements in the E-rate program. The supportive atmosphere of the FCC encouraged us make the case for a waiver that would allow more community use of E-rate-funded networks.   With the assistance of our E-rate contacts at the county level, we compiled a list of ways that a more flexible E-Rate program would better meet the educational needs of our communities and students.
Of course, student instruction is always our number one priority.  We made it clear that we were only asking for community use during times when school is not in session...evenings, weekends, holiday breaks and summers.  Since the Internet isn't turned off during those times, it was available and begging to be utilized to help close the broadband gap and meet the broader educational needs of the community.   The WV Department of Education shared its list of helpful community uses at the federal level and soon after, the Community Use Waiver became part of the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) that was released in the spring of 2010. 

This waiver allows for community members to utilize school networks, at the discretion of the school, without requiring burdensome cost-allocation and without jeopardizing E-rate funding.  While still in its infancy, this waiver has great promise, and the Internet utilization will definitely grow exponentially.  We have seen utilization by the public in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Suzie Martin, a Library Media-Technology Integration Specialist, has her library open after hours and during the summer and works with parents and students in a reading program that utilizes the Internet.  This change has also allowed parental training to occur for distance learning programs that allow students to be educated at home and other state initiatives.

For example, the Acuity and Compass Odyssey programs enables students to continue their instruction from home using the Internet. Without training on how to access these sites, parents would be less likely to participate in the education of their children.

A more visible example occurred during the Upper Big Branch mining disaster.  Since students were on spring break, Raleigh County's Marsh Fork Elementary School became an emergency site for the Governor and (MSHA) Mine Safety and Health Administration representatives.  They met for news conferences and state information was provided to media from around the world for updates and information to chronicle the desperate, 100-hour rescue effort.

Thanks to the FCC's Community Use Waiver, there are new opportunities emerging daily.  There is currently a pilot program developing that will train parents of Preschool students in the use of the World Wide Web for educational, personal and occupational use.

These opportunities highlight how the E-rate program can help to show families the importance of broadband Internet access in the home.  We have reached a time when having Internet access is as vital for families as having a telephone, and are glad the E-rate can now do a better job of helping West Virginia families to take advantage of this great 21st century educational resources.

These opportunities highlight how the E-rate program can help to show families the importance of broadband Internet access.  We have reached a time when having Internet access is as vital for families as having a telephone, and believe that these improvements in E-rate will help families in West Virginia – and across the nation -- take advantage of this great 21st century educational resource.

Super Wi-Fi is Super for Energy Too

September 24th, 2010 by Nick Sinai - Energy and Environment Director

By Nick Sinai and Tom Brown

We at the FCC are very excited about yesterday’s order to free up the unused "white spaces" spectrum between television channels, intended to spur a wave of innovation in new devices and applications. Most commenters have focused on the possible use of this spectrum in "Super Wi-Fi" networks with wider range and better structural penetration than is available today.

But Super Wi-Fi isn’t just for consumers; it’s super for improving how we transmit and distribute energy in America too. The National Broadband Plan made several recommendations designed to integrate broadband into the emerging Smart Grid and enable improved Smart Grid communications; white spaces spectrum is yet another option for utilities to use for their communications networks. As we have seen in a recent trial in Plumas-Sierra County, California, white spaces spectrum can be used effectively and securely for grid automation applications, as well as retail broadband services. Opening white spaces spectrum is also likely to have a particular impact on utility operations in rural areas, which often have challenging terrain and fewer options for broadband service than urban areas.

The FCC remains committed to doing its part to usher in a new era of utility communications, and we look forward to seeing the innovations in all sorts of "national purpose" areas – health care, education, and yes, energy – that will result from yesterday’s action.

(Cross-posted at the Department of Energy Blog and The Official FCC Blog)

Educate to Innovate

September 13th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign aims to improve the performance of America’s students in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The FCC, building on the President’s call to action, has proposed a series of recommendations in the National Broadband Plan that recognize broadband as an important tool to help educators, parents and students meet major challenges in education, including those in the STEM fields.  The Broadband Plan recognizes that investment in broadband and STEM education will help us lead the world in 21st century educational innovation.

Discovery Communications, as part of the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, has launched a new, commercial-free science education programming block that is airing Monday-Friday (4:00 to 5:00 PM ET/PT) and Saturdays (7:00-9:00 AM ET/PT) on Science Channel.  In place of commercial advertising, Science Channel is running PSAs highlighting notable “cool jobs” in the STEM fields.

Today, the PSA featuring Chairman Julius Genachowski, promoting broadband and STEM education, will premier during the Science Channel’s education block.  View the PSA here:

To further promote the importance of educational innovation, Chairman Genachowski will be the featured speaker and panelist at Back to School Learning and Growing in the Digital Age, a public forum for policymakers and technology industry leaders sponsored by Common Sense Media, PBS, The Children’s Partnership and The Annenberg School of Communication at USC.  The event will also feature an interactive technology showcase of innovative digital learning and parental empowerment tools.  The event is open to the public.

Event details:

Back to School Learning and Growing in the Digital Age 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard

Mountain View, CA  94043 

8:15 - 9:00 a.m.
Continental breakfast and Tech Showcase
 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Panels and Discussion

Tech Showcase continues until 1:00 pm.

Other confirmed participants include:

·         Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education
·         James P. Steyer, CEO, Common Sense Media
·         Scott McNealy, Founder,, Co-founder, Sun Microsystems
·         Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer, Facebook
·         Catherine Teitelbaum, Director of Child Safety, Communities and Content Policies, Yahoo!
·         Geoffrey Cowan, Dean Emeritus, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
·         Mandeep Dhillon, Co-founder and CEO, Togetherville
To RSVP, Click Here
For more information, contact
For exhibitor information, contact

Health Care Connectivity White Paper

August 30th, 2010 by Kerry McDermott

Imagine a world where your electronic health record contains a video from an upper GI endoscopy and your follow up consultation occurs via video link. Practitioners are collecting and sharing greater amounts and types of data, as well as engaging patients in new ways. The more data that need to flow through the health care system, the bigger the pipes needed and the better they need to perform. But some health care providers face a connectivity gap – meaning the mass-market broadband infrastructure available to them is beneath a certain bandwidth threshold.

Last week, we published a paper on the connectivity analysis in the Health Care section of the National Broadband Plan. This paper explains the methodology and underlying assumptions used to determine the broadband connectivity gap for health care providers ranging from solo physician practices to hospitals. The gap matters because it affects doctors’ ability to move data and use health IT solutions that can help them better treat their patients. It also affects patients’ ability to access care – especially specialty care.

This analysis is a starting point for figuring out how big the pipes need to be and where they’re lacking. Based on extensive input from industry on the types of health IT solutions and the bandwidth and performance measures needed to support them, we profiled different health IT usage scenarios across various delivery settings and created some connectivity guidelines. We then matched these guidelines against the available mass-market infrastructure to identify potential connectivity gaps.

Due to the limitations of currently available data, the model is only able to estimate available infrastructure and does not address price disparities. Although comprehensive availability and actual purchase data at the provider level are not currently available, we hope the federal government will work together to get such data, as recommended in the National Broadband Plan.

Not withstanding, the value of the model is that it helps us understand that certain segments of providers face greater challenges than others in securing adequate infrastructure to support health care delivery. It also informs our efforts for targeted follow up and enables us to work with partners across government to quantify actual provider-level connectivity. We hope to build on this initial analysis to ensure that every doctor has the broadband infrastructure needed to provide the highest quality care for his or her patients.

Connecting America’s Stories: Empowering America’s Disabled Citizens

July 26th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

July 26th marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In two decades our nation has come a long way in appreciating the contributions and needs of those people who, in the past, were all too often left behind.

Another major innovation that has changed the lives of disabled Americans in the past 20 years has been broadband internet access.  Never before have people been so empowered to communicate, work, play, learn and enjoy entertainment – if they have broadband access.  Unfortunately in many areas it just isn’t available, or affordable.
Sara in White Swan, Washington
With Broadband made available here in the rural areas of the Yakama Indian Reservation it would help us out alot. My Sister and I are disabled and do not drive much so our entertainment is at home. Faster internet would help with education needs in our home, access to information on the web for health, research, entertainment at a low cost (web surfing), able to keep in contact with family in other states. 
The phone co keeps telling us soon for broadband, we have seen them upgrade the lines right in front of our home, but still waiting for some type of upgrades to come in to the substation to allow people further out access to broadband. It would be nice to have a faster service at a decent rate.
The Broadband Plan makes several recommendations to help get access to Tribal Lands and other rural areas, and has already set out a path to make those plans a reality.  In addition to access, it is important that people are educated on the potential that broadband hold for personal and professional purposes.
Brian in Spring, Texas
After a long and successful career as a systems architect I became disabled at the age of 42. My only hope to return to work and support my family is to be able to work remotely via broadband connection. 
The issue is two fold - first, none of the companies I could potentially work for are willing to hire remote resource / telecommute workers despite the fact that every aspect of my trade can be performed this way without modifications or added expense. Given the fact that I used to travel 100 percent for work the switch to telecommute resources would save thousands of dollars per year in travel expenses, energy, time, etc. The current business model is a huge waste of time and money. 
Secondly, though we have high speed internet the actual speeds and quality of connection are border line. We live in an area where a single provider is our only path to broadband. This allows them to provide poor service at higher than normal rates vs. areas where they have at least one competitor. This is a much larger issue than wiring connections from point A to point B. Our country could save billions if not trillions of dollars per year and unimaginable energy resources via a conversion to telecommute program.
Brian raises two important points that the plan addresses.  First, encouraging telework is an essential part of developing economic opportunity through broadband access. Congress recognizes the importance of teleworking to the new economy and is currently working on legislation that will promote it.  
Second, having competition for customers’ business, as well as clear and accurate consumer information about services, is an important component of ensuring access.  Since releasing the plan, the FCC has launched an app that allows you to test your actual broadband speed so you can compare it to what your provider promised. The app has recently served its 1 millionth test proving that the need for quality and accurate broadband service.
Click here to see a video with more information. 
Jeffrey N. in Wilton, Connecticut
I am visually impaired. I rely on broadband access to access printed content and video for viewing via adaptive devices. I also utilize broadband for remote video monitoring of my home when traveling. This in addition to the normal research, email/web, VPN to work, and social networking comprises the majority of my broadband usage. 
As we celebrate 20 years of empowerment with the American’s with Disabilities Act, we can also see a bright future 20 years from now, with broadband innovations we can’t even imagine improving the lives of all Americans, with all of their different abilities.

Broadband Key to Smarter Grids and Smarter Homes

July 21st, 2010 by Nick Sinai - Energy and Environment Director

I was honored to give the keynote at yesterday's Broadband breakfast, and took the opportunity to talk about how broadband plays an important role in smarter electric grids and smarter homes.  The keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion where we discussed how IT and advanced communications has the potential to improve the grid for utilities and consumers alike.

Chapter 12 of the National Broadband Plan outlines our specific recommendations, which include two major themes on the Smart Grid:

  • Unleash energy innovation in homes by making energy data readily accessible to consumers.
  • Modernize the electric grid with broadband, making it more reliable and efficient.

Below is a video of the event:

Connecting America’s Stories: 21st Century Economic Opportunity

July 15th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan



Small business is a cornerstone of the American economy. From the growth of the Internet, small businesses have created more than 1.2 million new jobs in the last 10 to 15 years.
The National Broadband Plan is a key part of the recovery and reinvestment in America, ensuring we remain an economic powerhouse of innovation in coming years.  By getting people to work in new ways, spreading digital literacy, and ensuring reliable, affordable broadband access to all corners of America, our future will be brighter. 
Matt in Portland, Oregon
I'm sure I am one of a growing number of Americans who work over the internet. I basically can't live without affordable reliable high speed internet. It is the first question I ask when looking to move (which I do often). In the future there will be many many more people like myself out there.
Ellen Satterwhite, Policy Analyst with the Omnibus Broadband Initiative
This is the 21st century. We’re going nowhere but faster internet, more things online, more ways to interact and transact and work online, and I see the fact that the FCC has identified ways to channel this as hopefully impacting the future conversation.

At the end of the day, it’s about being competitive in a global economy and we can argue about whether or not we’re 14th or 17th all day.  But I think it will be reflected in our GDP, I think it will be reflected in how competitive our university graduates are with graduates around the world.  I think it will be about the US software industry remaining competitive, and those are very real consequences.
If we are going to create jobs in this country, then enabling small businesses to thrive is essential.  Today it isn’t just a luxury, but a necessity to be connected.
Darryl in Glade Spring, Virginia
Full service DSL or cable are not available at my home. We would like to set up a home based business but without affordable high speed Internet, it is almost impossible. DSL is available within a mile in one direction and 1/3 of a mile in another. As far as I can find out, no phone or cable company has a plan to get service to my address. Please help as soon as possible. Opportunities for a successful business are slipping away!
Dave Vorhaus, Economic Opportunity Team, National Broadband Task Force
There’s recommendations in place for public/private partnership for increasing broadband usage among small businesses by giving them better training in digital literacy, fee or discounted applications, access to counselors, things like that. …
In the job training section, it was really about putting job training online and making it more accessible for everybody.  So rather than having to go to Department of Labor One stops, which are physical locations, to take that concept and put it online, so that people can  effectively go through job training, get some career placement help, get some skills assistance, but to be able to do it online.
Making telework a more accessible option could give 17.5 million people a chance re-enter and join the workforce.
But opportunity has a similarity with real estate in a major way: location, location, location.  Being able to telework is a boon to businesses and workers, as talent can be sourced in a much more efficient way for both parties. 
Dave continues:
Telework – the goal was relatively simple – to get more people to telework, because there is an understanding that by allowing people to work from remote locations you can increase the productivity of workers, you can make businesses run more efficient.
Jim in Garden City, Idaho
My employer is combining and closing offices, pushing people to work-from-home. Broadband, for me, is a way of commuting, like the new Interstate Highway System was for commuters of the 1960s. Broadband enables people to live remotely and access the world. "I can't drive 55"
21st century jobs require digital literacy. 21st century businesses require connectivity.  As we rebuilt our economy, we must make sure that we build it for the century to come – with training, access and affordability.  Learn more about building economic opportunity with broadband in the plan and keep sharing your stories with us.

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