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Federal Communications Commission



The National Broadband Plan and Access for People with Cognitive Disabilities

October 22nd, 2010 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle delivered these remarks to the Tenth Annual Coleman Institute Conference in Westminister, Colorado.

I recently had the chance to work on the accessibility recommendations in the National Broadband Plan that the Federal Communications Commission released in March of this year.

Last year in the Recovery Act, Congress and the President charged the Commission with writing a plan to bring high-speed Internet and its benefits to all Americans.

As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski would say, broadband is our generation’s major infrastructure challenge. It’s like roads, canals, railroads and telephones for previous generations.

Historically, it has taken years – even decades – for people with disabilities to have anything close to equal access to communications. Designers of equipment, services, and networks have often failed to consider accessibility issues in the design and development stage – and retrofit solutions are expensive.

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CGB and WTB Release Advanced Services Accessibility PN

October 21st, 2010 by Karen Peltz Strauss

By Karen Peltz Strauss and Elizabeth Lyle

Today the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released a Public Notice that seeks comment on some of the key provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which the President signed into law on October 8, 2010.

The law’s provisions are designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet Protocol-based communication and video programming technologies in the 21st Century.

The PN seeks comment on the requirement in Section 716 of the Act that service providers of advanced communications services and manufacturers of equipment and software used with those services ensure that their equipment and services will be accessible to people with disabilities, unless not achievable.

The Commission is required to promulgate rules implementing this provision within one year of enactment.  Given the tight statutory deadline, the PN seeks to build a record as quickly as possible to aid the Commission in its rulemaking.

The PN also seeks initial comment on ways to implement new recordkeeping obligations imposed by new Section 717 on entities subject to Sections 255, 716, and 718.  In addition, this Notice seeks comment on the obligation imposed by new Section 718 on manufacturers and service providers to provide access to Internet browsers in telephones used with public mobile services by blind or visually-impaired individuals.

Comments are due November 22 and reply comments are due December 7.  One way to submit comments is via the FCC’s electronic comment filing system (ECFS).  If ECFS is not accessible to you, you may send your comments directly to dro@fcc.gov.  We urge you to help us build this record.

Unleashing America’s Invisible Infrastructure

October 21st, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Just last week, President Obama said that to create jobs today and lay the foundation for economic growth and U.S. competitiveness in the future, “We need … a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century.”

When most people think of infrastructure, they think of visible projects like highways, bridges or high-speed rail.

But just as vital is our invisible infrastructure – the electromagnetic spectrum that travels unseen through the air and enables all of our wireless communications networks, cellular voice and data services, as well as radio, broadcast TV, and satellite.

Wireless innovation fuels economic growth and job creation. Sales of smartphone “apps” – an industry that didn’t exist a few years ago -- topped $4 billion in 2009; our new apps economy has created many jobs and can create more. Our invisible infrastructure also supports breakthrough tools to improve education through mobile online learning and e-books, enhance health care through potentially life-saving remote diagnostics, and promote energy efficiency by supporting the smart grid.

But we are at an inflection point.

The explosive growth in mobile communications is outpacing our ability to keep up. Spectrum is finite. If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to run into a wall – a spectrum crunch – that will stifle American innovation and economic growth and cost us the opportunity to lead the world in mobile communications.

Today, many of the nation’s leading experts on wireless technologies gathered at the FCC for a spectrum summit to identify ways we can solve the spectrum crunch and unleash our invisible infrastructure to spark our economy and create a powerful engine for job creation.

I kicked off the discussion with some remarks that highlighted some of the strategies we are pursuing at the FCC to make more spectrum available and put it to its best use.

I hope you will check out my speech, and I encourage you to watch other videos from the summit, which feature national leaders like Aneesh Chopra, our nation’s Chief Technology Officer, and Jason Furman, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, as well as my fellow Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker.

The future is being built on our invisible infrastructure. Today’s summit identifies important ways we can work together to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century and make sure that infrastructure truly serves our country’s needs.

(Cross-posted at Reboot Blog)

Crunching the Numbers Behind the Spectrum Crunch

October 21st, 2010 by Rob Alderfer

By Robert Alderfer and Tom Peters

The explosive growth of mobile communication is fueling our economy, creating jobs and spurring innovation at lighting fast speeds. But, it is also taxing our nation’s spectrum.

Spectrum is the finite national resource that makes all forms of wireless communication possible. Data usage over wireless networks is rapidly increasing as more consumers surf the web, check email, and watch video on the go, and more mobile device such as smart phones and tablets enter the market. This new demand for mobile spectrum is rapidly pushing us towards the point of running out of open spectrum.

The National Broadband Plan put numbers on the looming spectrum crunch, and made it clear that the time to act is now. The plan recommended that 500 megahertz of new spectrum be made available for broadband, including 300 megahertz in the next five years. The President has issued a call to action for wireless broadband. Clearly, new spectrum for wireless broadband is important to ensuring that we lead the world in mobile.

Today, the FCC is releasing a white paper entitled, “Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum.” This technical and economic forecast of mobile broadband market trends sets forth future spectrum needs in a concrete, data-driven fashion.

Today’s forecast demonstrates that the amount of mobile data demanded by American consumers is likely to exceed capacity of our wireless networks in the near-term, and that meeting this demand by making additional spectrum available is likely to create significant value for the economy. In addition, new mobile broadband spectrum will support innovation in other important areas – such as breakthrough tools to improve education through mobile online learning, enhancing health care through potentially life-saving remote diagnostics, and promoting energy efficiency by supporting the smart grid.

Some of the key findings in the white paper are:

  • Within the next five years, the spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 megahertz.
  • This spectrum crunch will be driven by significant growth of mobile broadband traffic, on the order of 35 times recent levels.
  • Mobile broadband growth is likely to outpace the ability of technology and network improvements to keep up by an estimated factor of three.
  • Meeting this need may create $120 billion in spectrum value, with hundreds of billions more in total value to the economy as one considers broader macroeconomic effects.

The National Broadband Plan noted that making new spectrum available has historically taken between 6 and 13 years. Today’s forecast of the looming spectrum crunch makes clear the need for timely action to realize the wireless economy of the future.

So, take a look at the paper, and give us your feedback. What’s the best way for the nation to meet the growing need for mobile broadband spectrum?

(Cross-posted at Reboot Blog)

Broadband Tools for Advanced Surfers

October 19th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

The demand for the beta version of the FCC fixed and mobile broadband tests have exceeded expectations with over 1.5 million tests taken since March.  While we ready the next versions, we wanted to inform users of other network testing tools available on the Internet.


These tools, which aren’t managed or approved by the FCC, allow users to do such things as test Internet Protocol Version 6 connectivity, determine whether traffic from certain applications is being throttled, and run an advanced overall network health diagnostic test.  And users can do all of this while contributing valuable and anonymous data to the academic research community.  Here are some advanced tools you might find useful and interesting:


IPv6 tests (accessible here and here)
These Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) tests allow you to determine whether your network connection is IPv6 capable.  Internet Protocol (IP) is the packet-switching and routing system for the Internet.  The current IP version (IPv4) was created in 1981 and is limited to around 4 billion unique addresses, most of which have already been assigned.  IPv6 allows for 340 trillion, trillion, trillion unique IP addresses, which should last for a good while.  IPv6 also allows for better security and support for advanced applications.  The White House has released a memo to government agencies about the deployment and use of IPv6, which you can read here; for more information about IPv6 and what you need to know, see IPv6 Act Now.


Glasnost application throttling tool
The Glasnost test is managed by the Max Planck Institute and enables users to check whether traffic from an application is being rate-limited (i.e., throttled) or blocked.  Glasnost works by testing and comparing users’ connection speed for different application flows to determine if a network provider is limiting the traffic for a particular type of traffic.  The tests can also detect whether application flows are shaped based on their port numbers or their packets’ payload.  For those short on patience, be aware that this advanced tool takes approximately 8 minutes to test a connection.


Netalyzr
Netalyzr is a National Science Foundation funded project that tests a wide range of network characteristics, such as TCP and UDP connectivity, buffer measurements, and DNS policy.  Netalyzr is designed for users with sophisticated knowledge of network technology and runs an advanced test on your Internet connection with an attendant detailed report.  The New Scientist magazine has published a guide to help users understand their Netalyzr results.


We encourage users of the FCC Consumer Broadband Tests to also consider these advanced tools.  As a reminder, the FCC does not manage or control any of these tools.


What do you think of the advanced tools blogged about above?  What other tools do you find useful around the Internet?  We’re always interested in hearing from readers so let us know what you think.

Pam Gregory and Jamal Mazrui to Lead Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

October 15th, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

By Joel Gurin and Karen Peltz Strauss

We are very pleased to announce that Pam Gregory will be the Director, and Jamal Mazrui will be the Deputy Director, of the Commission’s new Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. Chairman Genachowski launched the initiative at a joint White House/ FCC/Department of Commerce event in July, consistent with a recommendation in the National Broadband Plan.

The mission of the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is to promote collaborative problem-solving among stakeholders to ensure that people with disabilities reap the full benefits of communications technology. We will use many tools to achieve this objective, including the Chairman’s Award, Accessibility and Innovation challenges, workshops, field events, facilitated dialogues, and online tools such as a problem solving commons and a clearinghouse.

We have or will be launching soon accessibility challenges to developers, industry, and students related to accessible wireless apps, cloud computing and cognitive disabilities, web 2.0 accessibility, and geo-location accessibility, as Chairman Genachowski mentioned in his July 19, 2010 speech. In the near future, we will be providing more details on the Chairman’s Award for Advancements in Accessibility as well as other upcoming events.

We are thrilled that Pam has agreed to lead the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. Pam has been working on disability issues at the FCC since 1996 and was the first chief of the Disability Rights Office. You can contact Pam at Pam.Gregory@fcc.gov.

We are equally thrilled that Jamal Mazrui will be providing leadership to the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. Jamal has been working as a technology specialist and on disability issues at the Commission since 1999.

We would also like to thank Elizabeth Lyle for her leadership in helping to establish the A&I Initiative. We are happy that she will continue to work with us on these issues, as she takes on new responsibilities as the Special Counsel for Innovation in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

(Cross-posted at Reboot Blog)

Mobile Broadband Performance and Transparency

October 12th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

 On Friday the FCC released a Request for Information (RFI) aimed at potential providers of mobile broadband performance measurement and mapping services.  The submission period is open through November 5, 2010.

 
This RFI release is a major step forward in implementing the National Broadband Plan’s recommendation to make available better data on the performance of mobile broadband networks.  We believe this effort will help inform consumers about mobile network performance, encourage competition based upon service quality, and provide useful data for policymaking and broadband mapping.  You can read the RFI here.
 
Similar to the FCC’s fixed broadband measurement effort (see testmyisp.com), the FCC is seeking a solution to measure the performance of mobile network providers.  Typical sources of mobile broadband performance include drive testing, fixed network probes, application level data, network provider data, and data collected from end-user devices.   Measurements and attendant data will likely focus on key performance metrics such as data throughput rates, reliability, latency, and signal quality. 
 
The FCC will continue to engage industry and other parties in discussions to determine the best methods for gathering accurate and useable data on mobile broadband performance, including the publication of performance data from other sources.  Previously, the FCC released a Public Notice covering this topic, available here.
 
The FCC intends to leverage any data collected to develop publicly available tools for consumers, network designers, and policymakers.  Any data collected from the public will be subject to robust privacy protections.
 
We continue to seek input from all interested parties on consumer transparency and related mapping initiatives.  Transparency and consumer information are critical inputs to encouraging competition and advancing innovation in our broadband ecosystem.
 

Smart Grid Updates

October 12th, 2010 by Nick Sinai - Energy and Environment Director

 By Nick Sinai and Tom Brown

 

It’s exciting to see the National Broadband Plan being put in action. 

Last week the Department of Energy (DOE) released reports on Smart Grid communications and Smart Grid data access and privacy issues.  

These reports are the culmination of a lot of hard work over at DOE.  These are thoughtful and actionable reports that reflect a public stakeholder process – including public forums and detailed RFIs.

It’s clear that there is consensus – perhaps more than you might think – about what the federal government can do to help modernize the electric grid and enable smart home innovations.  There is also remarkable stakeholder consensus about some of the principles we outlined in the National Broadband Plan.  For example, just about every respondent noted that consumers deserve access to and control of their own energy consumption data.  Respondents also had strong consensus on the importance of privacy and security, as necessary conditions for energy management innovation in homes and buildings. 

The Smart Grid communications report also offers some practical recommendations about how to get DOE and the utility industry better involved in spectrum and reliability advisory committees.  It also suggests reviewing priority access and emergency restorations programs to see how utilities could use them better, as well as reviewing “opportunities for increased spectrum access for Smart Grid communications needs, including spectrum sharing and/or leasing.” 

We’re looking forward to working with DOE, NTIA, DHS, the utility industry, and other stakeholders on implementing these recommendations.

General Counsel Scott Harris and Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman and their teams should be commended for their important work.

 

 

 

 

Driving Innovation and Investment in the Clean Energy Economy

October 5th, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

 Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered these remarks to the 1st Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Smart Grid Communications in Gathersburg, MD earlier today.

 
And as you all know far better than I, IEEE members are at the forefront of developing the interoperability standards that will drive the future of the Smart Grid, like GE’s John McDonald, an IEEE Fellow who chairs the Smart Grid interoperability panel. 
 
We at the FCC recognize that open standards are a powerful force driving innovation and investment in the broadband ecosystem. Open standards allow manufacturers to achieve greater economies of scale, driving down the cost of devices and leading to larger product markets. And by opening the technical review process to a much larger group of people, open standards can enable stronger security.
 
But we also know that open standards alone are not enough; They need to be paired with policy.  We need policies that accelerate the harmonization of standards, and policies that encourage these standards to be used. Just as a sculptor needs clay before she can produce a statue, technical innovators need the “raw materials” of broadband connectivity – like spectrum – before they can go to work creating the technologies of tomorrow. 
 

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."



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