You've seen the workshops and the flurry of fact-gathering for the National Broadband Plan. And that is continuing even as we start pulling information together for a September 29 Commission meeting on the Plan. During that meeting, we'll provide the Commission with a comprehensive look at what we have found to date in a mid-project progress report. Because we have a lot of facts and data to report from a number of discrete teams, we have blocked out four hours on the Commissioners' busy schedules for the meeting.What do all those facts tell us about the status quo? What do the facts say about the distance between where we are and where we want to be? Who's been in our shoes before and what can we learn from their experiences? What hurdles do we face, and how can we remove or navigate around them? What existing advantages can we benefit from, and how can we maximize them? What can we create or suggest that is new to improve broadband deployment, adoption, and usage, in light of national purposes, as envisioned by the Recovery Act? We'll take a stab at these and other questions during the meeting. Don't expect a full picture yet. This a short list of conceptual questions we're in the process of trying to answer across a broad range of subject matter relevant to drafting a National Broadband Plan. Four hours understandably sounds like four hours, but there's a lot of ground to cover.
Archive for September 2009
This week's staff workshops at the FCC take on three interesting topics related to the National Broadband Plan: telehealth, online content, and spectrum. The first workshop is today at 1:30 with a discussion of health care and broadband. On Thursday morning at 9:30, the discussion turns to online content and the balance between making content easily available while protecting against piracy. On Thursday afternoon at 1:30, three separate panels discuss spectrum supply and demand, sources of spectrum, and technologies to facilitate more productive spectrum use. As always, the public can attend the staff workshops in person or online.
We are excited to introduce the latest round of new media roll outs that will help increase the participatory elements of the FCC's online operation and facilitate open discussion on the National Broadband Plan.
In addition to participating in the Broadband Workshops online and engaging in discussion on Task Force blog posts, you can now share your ideas on the National Broadband Plan through our new IdeaScale page.
IdeaScale is a crowdsourcing platform that allows users to publicly share and discuss ideas, as well as vote on their favorite ideas and topics presented.
This platform will provide a place for comprehensive and robust discussion of the sometimes controversial issues facing the task force, and will allow the fruitful conversations that have developed from the workshops to continue long after the panels have adjourned.
Our goal is to tap the distributed expertise of the American people through an open and earnest discussion on the best options for broadband in this country. We realize that government does not monopolize the best ideas, which is why we are making public engagement a priority.
I hope you take this opportunity to share your ideas and help advise the task force as it prepares to submit a plan to Congress by February 17th.
In another effort to bring 21st century communications to the agency and increase online citizen participation, you can now find the FCC on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as well. We have also added over 40 new RSS feeds from the FCC, ranging from Commissioner's Statements to announcements of Public Notices.
These are just a few updates from our New Media Team's first month at the FCC. There will be many more to come.
My old friend Randy May recently criticized our staff workshops as focusing too little on regulatory philosophy. But that, I told him, was by design.
Randy was kind enough to say the workshops have been a useful exercise in involving more people and compiling data. But I'm afraid his suggestion that we focus foremost on philosophy would have doomed our effort to deliver a comprehensive broadband plan to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010.
Why? Congress, for starters, told us to devise a plan that will connect every unconnected home. So if you were trying to solve that problem, where would you start? With philosophy or facts?
Obviously, you need the facts. We need to know how many homes are unconnected, where they are, what the technological options are for connecting them, the cost. Staff got a lot of helpful facts from our workshops, and is busy gathering additional data on this and many, many other questions right now.
Before too long, we will deliver facts and options to the Comissioners, and it will be time to begin discussing philosophical issues, such as the appropriate role of the public sector. But to do so now would cut off critical fact-gathering. Moreover, fact-gathering based on a particular regulatory philosophy could effectively blind us to the importance of information that is right before our eyes.
So step back, Socrates. There's method in our madness.
For my more complete thoughts on this subject, read the speech I gave at Randy's conference celebrating the publication of a new book he just edited on "New Directions in Communications Policy."
Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, speaks about his vision on the National Broadband Plan, revitalizing the FCC, and increasing innovation at the agency.
The FCC must be a twenty-first century agency for the information age, New media technologies can help achieve that important goal. Using innovative online tools will enable the Commission to perform more efficiently and communicate more effectively. They will also encourage the widest possible participation in what the FCC does and harness the communications expertise we have all over the country. -Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
Tomorrow, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and I will be speaking at the Gov 2.0 Summit on the topic of "Broadband as a Platform," during a session scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
The Gov 2.0 Summit is tackling some of the same questions we are examining in the Omnibus Broadband Initiative as we develop a National Broadband Plan at the FCC. For example, our Government Operations Team held a workshop on Aug. 6 that evaluated how broadband can improve the performance of government in terms of transparency, effectiveness and efficiency, and examined how new media, including social networking tools, advance civic participation.
In the weeks to come, we welcome your continued thoughts and ideas on what Government 2.0 looks like, and look forward to continuing the conversation at the Gov 2.0 Summit on September 10th.
Additional information on the Gov 2.0 summit may be found here.
Once something becomes a part of our everyday lives, we tend to assume that it will always be roughly as we see it now. In the case of the Internet, while we hope that even greater data rates will become available, and that these rates will become available to even more homes and businesses, we may assume that little else will change. Last week's panel discussion on "the Internet of the Future" was a powerful reminder that the Internet, and broadband technology more generally, will continue to evolve. Moreover, innovation is critical to an infrastructure that meets our long-term needs, and this has implications for broadband policy. For this discussion, it was my privilege to bring together six true thought leaders: engineers Dave Clark of MIT, Van Jacobson of PARC, Scott Shenker of UC-Berkeley, Taieb (Ty) Znati of NSF, Dick Green of Cablelabs, and economist Rob Atkinson of ITIF.
Moore's law suggests that electronic devices will continue to improve exponentially, and if the Internet does not improve at a comparable pace, it may become what Dave Clark called a "sea anchor." Moreover, progress does not simply mean we will see the same actors doing the same things but more quickly. Although the Internet has been around for four decades, elements of the current infrastructure, applications, and industry structure have emerged fairly recently, quickly, and sometimes unexpectedly - a phenomenon that could continue in the future. Even a visionary researcher like Van Jacobson thought the world wide web was a surprise out of "left field" when it emerged in the late 1990s. And as Dave Clark pointed out, today's ISP, which many now see as the only possible form of service provider, emerged only 15 years ago, and at that time, ISPs generally leased infrastructure rather than building their own. Are comparable changes ahead? The panel discussed possible technical advances that could conceivably change the nature of the Internet and associated businesses, creating new challenges and opportunities for policymakers in the process. Will virtualization shift some control from the owners of communications facilities to a new kind of service provider that does not yet exist? Will changes in switch design shift some control from equipment makers back to facilities-based providers of Internet services? Will a proliferation of virtual networks operating over the same physical infrastructure "blur the boundary of what it means to be connected to the Internet," as Dave Clark conjectured? It is too soon to tell.
While much of the recent broadband policy discussion has focused on data rates, we know this is just one limitation of current technology that could motivate innovation. The problem cited most in last week's panel was security. Other issues include mobility, manageability, and support for new device types such as sensors, or perhaps meter readers in a new smart grid. Rob Atkinson pointed out that some Americans are not using the Internet not because it is unavailable or unaffordable, but because they find it difficult to use; this too could drive innovation. If capacity does remain a limitation, there may also be ways to address it other than greater data rates. Van Jacobson has suggested new ways of using increased storage as a substitute for increased communications capacity, although success may depend on finding more intelligent ways to share stored information across users, and more effective security mechanisms.
Some of the emerging technical approaches under consideration have the potential of facilitating subsequent innovation, creating a virtuous circle of rapid change. Scott Shenker suggested that today's complex switches may someday be replaced with commodity hardware combined with software that can easily be customized to meet its owner's needs, perhaps giving the owners of networks (and server farms) a new ability to innovate. Taeib Znati described how virtualization of some communications functions could enable what he called "evolvability," allowing multiple Internets to exist in parallel. This could support multiple versions designed for the same purpose, thereby facilitating improvements, or it could support multiple architectures designed for very different purposes.
So is the U.S. prepared for the innovation to come? Here, the views were more mixed, and the discussion more sobering. On the one hand, it was suggested that the U.S. has strong abilities to commercialize new ideas quickly. However, great concern was expressed about innovation over the longer term. Dick Green discussed the need for experimentation. Van Jacobson said fewer of the traditional research leaders are thinking long-term, citing DARPA's desire to produce "commercially relevant" technology and the rise of the professor-entrepreneur as among the reasons. Scott Shenker said that even in a research university it was difficult to do long-term work when one has to write many short-term funding proposals every year. Dave Clark said many of his best students were choosing short-term work in industry over long-term research because they found the research climate in the U.S. too "hostile." Dave also considers the total funding level for research to be "simply miserable." Overall, according to a report by Rob Atkinson and his ITIF colleagues, the U.S. ranks 40th among the 40 nations ITIF considered in "progress toward the new knowledge-based innovation economy." According to Dave Clark, many of our competitors overseas have an "articulated national policy" designed "to exploit our failure, in order to leapfrog us and make sure we are left in the past." They believe they can do this because the U.S. is no longer "serious" about maintaining its technological leadership. Let us hope they are wrong.
There have been over 10,000 comments filed about the National Broadband Plan. And there will be a lot more in response to the Public Notices issued by the Commission to drill deeper into specific issues. Following are instructions on how to access and read those comments using the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System, known as ECFS.
A docket number is key to using ECFS, and this link takes you to the ECFS retrieval form with the docket number for the National Broadband Plan, 09-51, already filled in. Just hit "Retrieve Document List" to get a list of all filings. Yes, there are lots of them, and you need to click on each individual filing to read it. But there are many ways you can focus your search, which include:
- Entering the name of a specific individual whose comments you want to see in Field 4 (Filed on Behalf of)
- Narrowing your search to people in your community by using the "City," "State," or "Zip Code" fields
- Entering "FCC" in Field 5 - (Law Firm) - to see FCC filings.
- Clicking on the box in field 15 (Eliminate Brief Text Comments) to narrow the search considerably by retrieving only longer comments
- Finding comments for a specific public notice by using a date range on either side of the comment due dates
You can contact ECFS staff during business hours at (202) 418-0193 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join in the broadband dialogue by reading and writing comments!
As part of the Broadband Plan NOI, we specifically sought comments on cyber security. In an effort to gather more data on this issue, we will hold a Cyber Security Workshop on September 30th. While the Workshop will be here in D.C., it will of course be accessible on the web. I am really excited to have folks join us as we and the panelists discuss the prevention and detection of cyber attacks and the restoration process in the event of an attack. As we are still planning the workshop, I would be very interested in hearing from you what issues you think we should cover. I look forward to reading your comments here.
The word "Smart" is getting used a lot today. Smart Phones, Smart Homes, Smart Building, Smart Cars, and - especially - Smart Grid. Behind many of these "smart" innovations is the addition of advanced communications capabilities to devices, equipment and infrastructure that previously couldn't communicate. That's why the Energy and Environment team on the Omnibus Broadband Initiative is asking for public comment on the Smart Grid.
The Energy and Environment team is charged with developing a plan to advance national goals to promote energy independence, increase efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Smart Grid has the potential to help achieve these goals and more.
Just as broadband Internet enabled new and unexpected ways to communicate, work, and use data, adding advanced communications infrastructure to the electricity grid can change the way America generates, delivers, and consumes electricity.
Communications is just one part of the movement towards a smarter grid, but it's a key enabler of many Smart Grid applications. We have already observed a wide variety of communications networks and technologies being employed for many different Smart Grid applications. In releasing a Public Notice seeking public comment on Smart Grid communications, we hope to learn more about the communications networks being used in the Smart Grid:
- What networks are suitable for which types of applications?
- How available are these networks?
- What could be done to make networks more suitable or more available?
- How can the data generated by the grid be secured? How can it be used to drive efficiency and innovation?
We're looking for data, analysis and perspectives from participants across the entire Smart Grid ecosystem. We want to know what works and what doesn't, and we want the data to back it up. The data we gather through this process will be an important part of the analysis our team is undertaking. The deadline for responses is October 2, but we're hopeful that many will begin submitting facts and findings to the record right away. We'll be presenting some preliminary findings at the Commission meeting on September 29.
This is an exciting time to be working on the Smart Grid. Our team is intently focused on identifying the best ways to support and accelerate these developments. These ideas will be an important part of the National Broadband Plan.
**Please read the Public Noticeand file comments using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file. Please note that your comments are responding to Public Notice #2.