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Clean-tech Investor Summit

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

As we draw closer to the March 17th date for release of the plan, we’re getting more and more excited about our effort and how the plan is beginning to take shape.  I gave a glimpse of what we are thinking today with respect to energy and the environment at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit in Palm Springs  Below are my remarks; comments welcome!


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Good Morning.  I’d like to give a little background about why I’m here.  Congress recognized that this country was long overdue for a national broadband strategy, and in the Recovery Act, Congress identified three national broadband objectives, and asked the FCC for a plan to achieve these objectives. First, they asked how broadband could be made available to all Americans.  Second, they asked how broadband could be made more affordable, and how adoption could be increased. About 93 million Americans are not connected to broadband today.  Third, Congress asked how broadband and advanced communications could be used to achieve other national priorities such as health care, education, energy efficiency and energy independence. There is also explicit mandate in the Recovery Act about a national broadband plan encouraging private sector innovation and investment.

Around 50 people joined the FCC to work on this plan, from industry, academia, government, the investor community—and hundreds more within the FCC have been active in preparing the plan. This is a plan that is designed for the unique attributes of the American broadband ecosystem. It is a data-driven plan, with input from across all America.  We’ve held 44 public workshops, and field hearings, issued 31 public notices, and received tens of thousands of pages of comments.

Having invested in IT, telecom, and clean-tech companies for a number of years, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this historic process, and have been honored to lead a small team looking at how broadband can help with our national energy independence and energy efficiency goals.  As part of the process, we’ve been speaking with telecom carriers, electric utilities, technology vendors, federal and state energy officials, entrepreneurs, and yes, even VCs too. 

The national broadband plan will be delivered to Congress and the American people by March 17th.  It will contain a series of specific recommendations to the FCC, to the Administration, to Congress, and to the States. I want to take this opportunity to discuss with you where we are in reaching some of our important findings and conclusions.

First and foremost, broadband and advanced communications will play an important role in achieving our national goals of energy independence and efficiency, serving as a foundation of smarter electric grids, buildings, homes, and vehicles that collectively can prevent up to a gigaton of carbon emissions by 2020.  Broadband alone cannot solve the country’s energy and environmental challenges.  But it will be an important part of the solution, as a platform for new applications and new business models.

I want to focus today on where broadband and advanced communications can make the greatest impact on energy and the environment: 1) modernizing the electric grid and 2) unlocking energy data to promote innovation in the smart home and smart building.

Modernizing the grid is critical for our economic prosperity, our national security, and our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  The smart grid, as it’s often called, is the great enabler that will allow us to accommodate renewable power, energy storage, and distributed generation at mass scale.  A smarter grid will be necessary if we want to lead the shift towards light-duty vehicle electrification, an important step in reducing our dependency on foreign oil.  A smarter grid will speed recovery from national disasters and terrorist attacks, self-healing by re-routing power around faults, rather than allowing them to cascade and bring the grid down.

The record from the public proceedings is clear:  the smart grid needs reliable, secure, and pervasive communications, including wireless broadband.  Pervasive connectivity to sensors, substations, and switches are critical to transforming the grid into a two-way network of both electricity and information. 

The first section of our plan addresses this need, and will make specific recommendations for bringing mission critical broadband connectivity to make the grid smarter. Broadband networks that could accomplish this task include commercial networks, private utility networks, and shared networks with public safety agencies.  There is no single solution that will work for all regions, applications and types of utilities—our plan will recognize this and pursue multiple solutions.  First and foremost, we will look at how to remove impediments and disincentives to using commercial networks. We will also look at how the FCC can best work with wireless telecommunications providers to improve the ability of commercial networks to provide service during emergencies, not only to attract mission-critical smart grid traffic, but also consumers who rely on wireless networks.  Finally, we are exploring ways to encourage private networks built by utilities to operate in the same band, in order to drive down costs, and to drive open, non-proprietary standards.  There is a range of ways we can do this, but one path, for example, involves working with NTIA to look at federal spectrum bands.    

The second section of the plan will address how broadband, when combined with access to energy information, can unleash the energy innovation economy in homes and buildings.  Pervasive access to the Internet brings innovative competitors, technologies, and business models to the smart home and smart building, letting large cable companies and small web start-ups compete alongside the utilities for demand response, home automation, and energy management services.  Broadband is what lets a company like EnerNOC offer demand response services—essentially creating a virtual power plant from sophisticated software and reliable broadband.

Our review of the record suggests that to facilitate this innovation will require both interoperability standards and policies that provide customers robust access to their own digital energy information.

Smart Grid standards, as many of you know, is the focus of an effort at NIST.  Of particular interest for many of you, NIST is coordinating the development of data formats for how energy information can be communicated into a home, either via a smart meter or over the Internet.  These open standards are necessary to build a secure and interoperable Smart Grid, and they are critical to help ensure the smart home is plug’n’ play, increasing the ease of use and energy savings for all Americans.

But the record suggests interoperable standards are not sufficient, if we want to unlock the innovation potential of the smart home and smart building.  It appears that we also need policies that result in utilities providing their customers and their customers’ authorized third parties access to their own digital energy information, in open machine readable formats.  Some states have been out in front here – with the California Public Utility Commission recently announcing a decision to mandate its large investor owned utilities to provide digital energy information to consumers, including real-time energy information by 2011. Pennsylvania is another state that is aggressively pursuing these policies.  But other states are moving slowly.  We are reviewing how best to urge them to move fast with providing real-time information from smart meters, as well as past bill information over the Internet. For example, the federal government could help speed this effort by rewarding states and utilities with strong data access policies in its grants and loan programs. If such efforts don’t work, there are other options such as national energy data accessibility legislation.  Our energy and environment challenges are great and speed in providing such data is an urgent matter.

I think we can all agree real-time information and communication is the way people and systems work today.  You can check your frequent flyer miles, get real-time traffic alerts, or check your bank balances, all from your iPhone.  I don’t need to preach to this audience about the power of real-time information – if you listen carefully, you can hear the quiet peck of blackberries in the back row.   And maybe the front row as well. . Real-time feedback is what lets people make better energy decisions. Perhaps more importantly, real-time feedback in standard digital formats will allow companies to innovate new products and services that will help customers “set it and forget it,” saving energy and money on electric bills with a minimum of fuss.

The record tells us that most people get paper bills for energy, or at best, electronic PDFs.  We have 8 million smart meters today, going to 80 million by the end of the decade, according to FERC.  But most of the smart meters today, and even many of the ones planned for the coming years, will not provide real-time data to consumers, much less authorized third parties.  This raises the obvious question: It’s your energy use, and your dollars going to pay for the infrastructure – why can’t you have your own digital energy information?  And if you want to release your energy consumption information to someone who wants to sell you ads, or wants to analyze your energy usage and suggest energy efficiency investments, why should the utility hold you back?  What about generation mix information—maybe a company would like to measure its carbon footprint in real-time? Or consumers might want to charge their vehicles with green power? What about all the demand side applications we can’t think of right now?

It’s not the government’s role, any more than the utility company, to pick the winners and losers in thermostats, appliances, energy displays, and building technologies.  As we think about the plan, we believe we must aspire for policies that facilitate the ferocious competition that drives innovation.  Companies, technologies, and business models will compete for your investment capital and compete to deliver value for customers.  Many companies will fail, yes, even those in your top-quartile portfolios.  The ones that succeed will build new industries, create new jobs, and also help our country achieve its important national energy goals.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and I look forwarding to working with you.

Winners and Winners

January 19th, 2010 by Phil Bellaria - Director, Scenario Planning, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Very early in the process of developing the National Broadband Plan, we recognized the impact that exploding growth in wireless broadband usage would have on spectrum policy. Though the Plan will make recommendations spanning many areas of spectrum policy - including getting spectrum "in the pipeline" to market and fostering more productive use in existing broadband bands - there's no getting around the need to reallocate some spectrum from current uses to broadband use.  We must get more spectrum out there for broadband if we want a world-leading broadband infrastructure.

The perception, reinforced by recent press articles and television commercials, is that any such reallocation effort creates “winners” and “losers”. So, the public discussion about spectrum policy has centered on reallocations and, more specifically, reallocation from TV broadcasters.  It’s just more interesting and tangible to talk about or report on something that could have winners and losers… human nature, I suppose.  I hesitate to perpetuate this over-emphasis on one aspect of spectrum policy, but given the attention it’s received, I do think it’s important to explain our current thinking.

The most attractive spectrum for wireless broadband is below 3.7 GHz; since broadcast TV bands occupy 294 MHz within that sweet-spot, they have naturally been one of the areas we are examining. For example, on average there are 20 full-power TV stations in the top 10 markets; they directly use only 120 MHz of the 294 MHz allocated to broadcast TV. Across all markets, they only directly use on average 54 MHz (9 channels) of the 294 MHz total.  Naturally, we asked the question – is there a more efficient way to deliver free over-the-air TV and reallocate spectrum for broadband use?

In trying to answer this question, we have followed 3 core principles:

  • Preserve free, over-the-air TV
  • Reallocate a portion of the broadcast TV bands to broadband use
  • Establish a market-based mechanism to effect that reallocation

Initially, we identified a set of scenarios that would meet those principles through various means.  We analyzed the impact of each scenario on consumers and spectrum reallocation, gathered feedback on the scenarios from broadcasters and other stakeholders, and absorbed thousands of pages of public filings, analyst reports, and other research material – all to refine and narrow options.  Sounds a lot like a typical strategic planning process, huh?

Where have we landed?  Of course, the process is not done yet, but our current preference is to establish a voluntary mechanism through which owners of broadcast TV stations could choose what they want to do with the spectrum they current license.  Some may choose to retain all of it; some may choose to share bandwidth with another station for continued high-definition, standard-definition, and/or mobile DTV broadcasts; some may relinquish their license to pursue alternative business models.   Station owners could receive a share of the auction proceeds from the spectrum they relinquish.  We would repack remaining stations in the most efficient manner, and reallocate the spectrum “freed” to flexible, broadband use.

I hate to disappoint, but such a mechanism wouldn’t create winners and losers, only winners and… more winners.  Broadcasters would win more options in a challenging business and investment climate for the industry; consumers would win more innovation in wireless broadband services and continued free, over-the-air television; auction winners would win capacity to meet customer needs (but pay for that capacity, of course).

Like any strategic planner would, we continue to explore other alternatives if the voluntary mechanism doesn’t receive Congressional authorization or result in sufficient spectrum reallocation – e.g., changes to the broadcast architecture to reduce spacing between channels, auctions of overlay licenses, mandatory channel sharing options. 

Those alternatives are fraught with complexity and tradeoffs.  We can get out of the “winners and losers” mindset if we actively support and pursue a voluntary, market-based mechanism to effect the reallocation of spectrum to meet the country’s future needs for wireless broadband.

The International Experience

December 21st, 2009 by blogband admin

 By Jordan Usdan, Attorney-Advisor, Broadband Task Force

 The FCC is making a determined effort to understand the global broadband ecosystem and to extract relevant lessons from the international broadband experience.  These efforts have included holding two workshops in partnership with the FCC’s International Bureau: International Lessons and Global Broadband Connects America and the World; visiting or teleconferencing with regulators, academics and companies in over a dozen countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America; and posting for comment the Berkman Center’s study of broadband throughout the world.  Today the FCC is releasing a companion video with this blog post of short snippets of our trip to Europe.

 
The task force’s international team recognizes that dozens of countries have already pursued national broadband strategies, with some countries already on their third or fourth effort.  These national efforts vary widely, from nationwide publicly funded fiber build-outs to explicit policies against government deployment subsidies.  A few things do hold true across borders: governments and companies see Internet connectivity as an essential infrastructure with great promise; the world still looks to the United States for policy and technology leadership; and broadband enables a global ecosystem where technologies, services and content can be accessed at high speeds anytime and anywhere.

 

 

Broadband Gaps in the Healthcare Sector

November 25th, 2009 by Mohit Kaushal - Digital Healthcare Director

Last week at the Commission meeting, the Broadband Taskforce outlined key gaps in broadband service that need to be addressed. There are connectivity gaps in the healthcare sector that I think are important and worth highlighting.

Hospitals and clinics need to empower a range of applications such as Electronic Health Records, Diagnostic imaging and Tele-radiology. There is a connectivity gap within healthcare.
 
Every day physicians have to treat patients, and their previous medical history is not available on the hospitals' local databases.
 
This is more common than not: it happens every time such a patient is brought into a hospital network that they haven't visited before. It can also occur when a patient visits their regular hospital but the site has misplaced their hand-written notes or hard copies of their imaging scans.
 
Today, those doctors are forced to act without the knowledge that a previous radiological scan would show them about the patients' baseline disease state. The technology exists so that they could pull up that diagnostic image in real time, from the imaging center where it was performed. But such technology requires a 100 mbps broadband connection -- a fiber connection -- which many hospitals lack.
 
Furthermore, the healthcare ecosystem must be more robust in order for broadband to really benefit healthcare outcomes and cost. Some things that would constitute a strong ecosystem include training and implementation assistance and even reimbursement considerations. Currently, telemedicine usage is hindered by state physician licensure and credentialing rules.
 
Finally, if broadband is going to further national priorities, incentives need to be aligned. A good example is that of reimbursement policy for telemedicine.

 

GAPS IN BROADBAND FOR EDUCATION

November 25th, 2009 by Steve Midgeley - Education Director

As we progress in our work on the national broadband plan as it relates to education, we are focusing on evaluating three key gap areas:  connectivity required for schools and applications, the ecosystem necessary for broadband to advance progress in education, and the incentives that need to be aligned to realize the potential of broadband.
 
Thanks to E-rate, virtually all of our schools and libraries are connected. The most recent statistics put the number at approximately 94% connected instructional rooms (classrooms and similar). While ostensibly good news, the key questions are what is the level of connectivity in these classrooms and is it sufficient to meet the needs of students mastering 21st century skills.  There is evidence of significant increases in teachers’ use of the Internet for classroom-related work (in 2007 nearly half of teachers report using the Web for preparation compared with fewer than a third in 2005), yet more than half of teachers report dissatisfaction with connection speed for their current usage, which involves predominantly low-bandwidth tasks. Imagine the level of dissatisfaction when their usage needs require greater bandwidth.  According to CIOs in school districts across the country, projected bandwidth needs are projected to grow five times current levels by 2013.  How can the E-Rate program best support the learning objectives of our schools and teachers?
 
However necessary it is, connectivity isn’t the only thing that matters.  There is a lot lacking in terms of pervasive and effective use of technology in our classrooms today – the broadband ecosystem is weak in multiple dimensions.  This is due, in large part, to a lack of innovation in the field.  For example, we need better, smarter applications to support the ecosystem related to broadband in education.  The questions we are exploring include how to bring the kind of innovation from other sectors into education.  As Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation at the US Department of Education, noted in our August workshop, something is wrong with our priorities when we have a “Genius” functionality for music selection on our I-Pods that uses a complex algorithm to predict what we would like to hear next and we don’t have anything nearly that sophisticated to anticipate what skills a student lacks and what specific application or content might be both effective for and compelling to him.  Imagine a world of personalized, just-in-time learning enabled by broadband.
 
Finally, the education community needs better aligned incentives to realize the potential of broadband in schools.  As an incentive investment program, E-rate has proven very effective. Yet there are potential changes in rules and regulation, investment strategies, and standards development that could have an equally significant impact.  Imagine a world where all education content and devices use common, interoperable standards to securely share content and instructional data. The effect could be aggregation of once-fragmented demand of individual classrooms and schools. How many new entrepreneurs could enter the education market? How many of those entrepreneurs might be teachers or former teachers? What would this mean for the education outcomes of the next generation of American students?
 
Through broadband as a platform we can help bring sufficient connectivity, standards and appropriate incentives to permit innovation. We can also expand the rewards for creativity, engagement and personalized learning. While there are no silver bullets, these strategies should help create greater educational opportunities available to all students.

 

Promoting Broadband Diversity Within the Law

November 24th, 2009 by Mark Lloyd - Associate General Counsel / Chief Diversity Officer

Mark LloydThis is the third in a four-part series of blogs on Diversity and Civil Rights Issues in Broadband Adoption and Access.  The full biographies of all participants can be found at http://www.broadband.gov/docs/ws_diversity/ws_diversity.doc.

What is the federal government compelled to do, and what is it prohibited from doing to promote access and adoption for all Americans in the National Broadband plan?  That was the topic of the second panel in the workshop on Diversity and Civil Rights Issues in Broadband Access and Adoption.  As FCC Commission Michael Copps said in opening the panel, "This is where the rubber really hits the road."

The panel featured a range of lawyers and scholars wrestling with the thorny issue of federal action that might target those groups that do not have access to broadband or are not adopting broadband, while adhering to the constitutional mandate of equal protection for all Americans.  The panelists discussed the different legal review standards applied to racial and ethnic minorities as compared to Native Americans or the poor, the challenges in subsidizing religious groups, and what other federal agencies have done to address the different needs of distinct American communities.

Allen Hammond, a law professor at Santa Clara University, focused on the FCC's responsibility.  Relying on the preamble to the Communications Act, Sections 706 and 257 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Professor Hammond argued that "the Commission is required to facilitate inclusive, non-discriminatory, affordable access to broadband in a reasonable and timely manner, and if access is not reasonable and timely, to take immediate action to accelerate deployment by removing barriers to investment and promoting competition." 

University of Pennsylvania Professor and former Chairperson of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Mary Frances Berry noted that "race is the bugbear in the room." According to Dr. Berry, to meet the judicial standard or review applied to race-conscious measures, also known as strict scrutiny, "What you've got to do is make sure that you prove that there is a compelling governmental interest and make sure that you show that you narrowly tailored whatever you do in this plan, and that you tried every alternative possible, that you are monitoring what you are going to do, and that whatever you're doing is of short duration."  Dr. Berry repeatedly emphasized the importance of "overwhelming evidence."  She ended on an encouraging note, saying that it was "possible for the FCC to develop a plan that will ensure success, meeting the needs of all our people and exercising the FCC's responsibility." 

Thomas Henderson, a long-time civil rights attorney, argued that the FCC "can act with an awareness of race . . .  so long as you're not classifying people or treating people differently."   However, he added, although "race-neutral remedies are sometimes disparaged and seen as not effective, there are lots of reasons to consider them thoroughly.  One, you can get a lot done through race-neutral means.  Secondly, they can be really useful in identifying where the real barriers are.  And the third thing is employing them and using them provides a very good basis for race-conscious actions if you need to take them."

David Honig, Executive Director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, and chairperson of the Diversity Advisory subcommittee on constitutional issues, referred the FCC to the advisory committee recommendations to replace the current eligible entity designation with a program like those used in state university systems, also known as a full file review.  Honig proposed that an entity might be considered eligible for a credit if it has overcome a disadvantage.  "The overcoming of which is predictive of entrepreneurial success."  According to Honig, credit would be given to those who could demonstrate some social disadvantage, such as "disadvantages that derive from having experienced racial discrimination or gender discrimination or the various disabilities that, unfortunately, attend veterans' status or living in certain geographic areas or certain kinds of disabilities."  

Geoffrey Blackwell, of the Chickasaw Nation Industries, the National Congress of American Indians, and Native Public Media is also a member of the Diversity Advisory Committee.  He noted that Native Americans could also be considered in the proposed full file review program.  Blackwell noted that "the Commission has very good tools... developed over the last 10 years that it can draw upon" to increase broadband access and adoption on Tribal Lands, such as the Enhanced Tribal Lands Lifeline and Link-Up Program "that created significant rises in the telephone penetration rate in Indian Country."  According to Blackwell, because of the special status of sovereign Native American Tribes, strict scrutiny would not apply. 

Professor Mara Einstein of Queens College and the Stern School of Business at New York University argued that whatever policy the FCC considered needed to take into account the economic fundamentals of media in the U.S.  Dr. Einstein argued that it was especially important to recognize that "when it comes to revenue generation, new media looks exactly like old media, and this economic model is anathema to content diversity." 

She gave various examples of "why the market can't or rather won't solve the problem of the digital divide" as it relates to generating content that might spur adoption.   Dr. Einstein suggested that the government "fund and promote categories of content without specifying what exactly the content should be."

Henderson proposed that there were measures that the FCC could take now to advance diversity and equal opportunity in any National Broadband Plan that contemplates direct federal employment to advance either deployment or broadband service.  Specifically, Executive Order 11246 requires a federal contractor not to discriminate.  In addition, with respect to any federal contracts with private employers, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act provides that recipients of federal financial assistance are prohibited from discriminating. 

Henderson also suggested that the study conducted by the Department of Transportation would be a useful guide.  That study resulted in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.  A program upheld in the federal courts as being constitutional.

All the panelists agreed with the importance of gathering data to guide and support any regulatory action.  But they also noted that the FCC has to avoid its tendency to develop rules in silos without fully appreciating the impact of all its policies. As Professor Hammond put it, "You can't implement [diversity] policy without taking into account what you're doing in the rest of the regulatory space."

Professor Berry echoed Commissioner Robert McDowell's opening comments about the inevitability of litigation aimed at whatever rules the FCC eventually adopts, and urged the Commission to anticipate "who is likely to bring a legal attack, understand why would they bring it and what are they likely to argue, and to know how to repel them before they do it."

Reforming Universal Service for Broadband?

November 19th, 2009 by Carol Mattey - Deputy Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau

Virtually everyone agrees that the current universal service program is broken.  But how to fix it – that’s the $64 million question.  Oh, make that the $7 billion question and growing.  At the same time, universal service has the potential to help provide affordable broadband everywhere.  But if we are going to make that happen, we can’t explode the size of the fund in the process.   It’s not telephone companies that pay for universal service.  It's you and me and everyone else in America that pays.   We have to decide as a nation what exactly we are trying to achieve with the universal service fund and how we can best direct those resources to benefit consumers.

As part of our data-driven process to develop the National Broadband Plan, we are seeking additional comment in a Public Notice released last week relating to various aspects of universal service and intercarrier compensation We aren’t looking for more general advocacy about the need to reform universal service or intercarrier compensation; we want solid factual analyses and data to help shape the path forward.  For instance, we want to know how changes in the universal service fund contribution methodology will impact consumers, how high-cost funding can be targeted to unserved areas, and what specific steps the Commission could take to make broadband more affordable for low income consumers.  Please file comments using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.   You should note in your comments that you are responding to Public Notice #19.  You can also post comments on Blogband, and they will be included in the record for the National Broadband Plan.

Live Blogging the Open Commission Meeting

November 18th, 2009 by George Krebs

For more information and a host of resources pertaining to today's meeting click here.

10:03 AM EDT
Welcome to the November Open Commission meeting. Today the commissioners will review the state of the National Broadband Plan and consider a draft ruling on the wireless tower siting time frame petition (an explanation will follow). For a better sense of the gaps the team will be looking at in the Broadband Plan, Executive Director Blair Levin provides brilliant analysis here.

First, the commissioners will vote on the "draft declaratory ruling" on setting a timeframe for processing wireless tower siting applications. With little fanfare, Chairman Genachowski launches into the agenda. The stage is set for Ruth Milkman, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief, and she begins.

10:18 AM EDT
While the docket file with the draft of the rule seems quite dense and involved (at 44 pages in the pdf), the Wireless Bureau presentation is fairly straight forward. Angela Kroneberg, Special Counsel in the Wireless Bureau explains that "The act requires that state and local governments act on wireless facility siting applications within a reasonable period of time." The rule concerns a request for state and local jurisdictions to act on tower citing requests -- mostly made by wireless carriers.

Some applications have laid fallow for three years while providers have been anxious to build their network for consumers. This rule would require applications to be processed within 90 days for co-locations (sites where two or more providers are sharing a tower or sharing a zoned plot of land for more than one tower) and 150 days for all other tower siting applications (say, if a carrier wanted to build a new tower). This rule adopts a fair time frame for all parties involved. Without a fair timeframe for decision making, the providers cannot adequately assess their position in constructing their infrastructure.

10:37 AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski notes that is was an "Excellent and clear presentation." Commissioner Copps exlpains that this rule will provide easier access for broadband and mobile services and says, "This sounds like a win, win, win to me." Commissioner McDowell notes that this ruling adheres to his philosophy of helping businesses. Streamling this process for carriers will pass along cost savings to their consumers and will spur business. Commissioner Clyburn concurs, emphasizing that the ruling will facilitate infrastructure buildup for carriers and ultimately, and most importantly, will benefit consumers. Commissioner Baker says that the rule will provide certainty for wireless carriers. The Chairman takes a vote and with it says, "We have a unanimous approval of this item."

10:50 AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski describes the importance of universal broadband and gives the floor to Blair Levin, Executive Director of the National Broadband Plan. Mr. Levin lays out the agenda for today’s presentation which includes providing a description of the most important broadband gaps, ensuring public awareness of areas of inquiry, beginning a focused discussion of solutions, and setting the agenda for the next 91 days.
 
The plan is about an ecosystem involving devices, adoption and utilization, applications and content, and devices. These elements are interdependent. The success of one element can bolster the success of the others and in the same way a bottleneck facing one element, say in network services, affects the other spheres of the ecosystem.
 
11:02 AM EDT
Ruth Milkman, again from the Wireless Bureau, speaks to the need for spectrum. She explains that the demand for mobile data will grow dramatically. A chart on the PowerPoint presentation (which you will be able to find here following the meeting) shows that in 2009 mobile users are consuming 17 petabytes of data a month. A study from Cisco VNI predicts that users will consume 397 petabytes per month in 2013. This will require the commission to free up large swaths of spectrum that is currently unavailable. From our experience we know that it takes years to free up spectrum for use. Milkman says, “We know there’s a spectrum gap and we need to act quickly.”
 
11: 17 AM EDT
Brian David, Adoption and Usage Director for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative (the Broadband Team), sounds a clarion call. He warns that “the cost of digital exclusion is large and growing.” Education, health care, public safety, small business functionality, and job searches are increasingly dependant on the universality internet. FCC Managing Director Steve VanRoekel adds to Mr. David’s presentations and states that “increasingly job training is only online.”
 

Mr. VanRoekel continues the panel with a discussion on the importance of protecting the privacy of consumer information. He then transitions to the FCC’s own relationship to the issues the Broadband Team is reviewing. “Around the FCC we’re working on closing a significant gap,” he says, “the gap of data.” To be data driven agency it’s crucial that we utilize existing internal data.

11:38 AM EDT
Erik Garr, Managing Director of the Broadband Plan, wraps up the presentation. The way to do this right is to look at the whole ecosystem. He details the road ahead with a list that includes resolving workshop responses, accessibility for people with disabilities, spectrum for broadband, telework, and public safety and homeland security issues. He says, “The important thing for you [the Commissioners] and the public is if there’s anything not on this list, please let us know. It is important we get all the public input we can.” He concludes by saying that the “February date,” February 17 when the plan is due, “is the one that keeps us up at night.” The team has scheduled a handful of future hearings and workshops and set up a schedule for the next three months. In December the team will report on their policy framework, in January on opportunities to drive national purposes, and February will see the completed plan. With that the presentation concludes and the panel opens for questions.

11:59 AM EDT
Following brief questions from the Commissioners, Chairman Genachowski wraps up. The broadband plan will provide the country with infrastructure that it “needs and deserves,” he says. Speaking to Executive Director Blair Levin and the collected panelists, he says, “We deeply appreciate and acknowledge the ‘round-the-clock work and willingness to engage in spirited public dialogue. It all makes it a lot harder; we note it and appreciate it.” With that, the commission secretary announces the date of the next commission meeting and the November Open Commission Meeting is adjourned. Until next time.

12:15 PM EDT
The press conference, which always follows the meeting, has commenced and the Chairman is giving answers to the questions of the press corps. You can watch the livestream of the press conference here. Key commission staff members have remained in the Commission Meeting Room and will also answering questions on the topics that were discussed this morning.

Marlee's Remarks

November 16th, 2009 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

The FCC held a field hearing at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 2009 as part of its effort to gather information from experts and consumers for the development of a National Broadband Plan. Among those on the first panel was Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is the spokesperson for the National Association of the Deaf for accessible broadband services and Internet media.

 

The Return on Our Investment of Spectrum

November 5th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

When you’ve been a Wall Street analyst for the past 8 years, as I have, you think a lot about how to get the best return on invested assets.  In my return to the FCC, I’ve found that the same question is relevant, particularly as to our nation’s spectrum.  Of course, our “return” is different—we don’t just think about maximizing profit, we think about providing important public benefits.  But still, it’s the question the broadband team asks each day: how can we maximize the return on our most valuable assets to their owners—all of the American people? 

Recently, I’ve seen a lot in the press about our efforts to consider the best way to maximize the benefits on spectrum.  Much of this chatter was triggered by a recent study submitted through the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  The study suggested that broadcasters own licenses to approximately $62 billion worth of spectrum, but only extract $12 billion of value from that spectrum.  In different hands, the study argues, that spectrum could be worth an extra $50 billion which in turn would drive an extra $500 billion to $1.2 trillion dollars of economic activity. Not everybody agrees with the study, though, and Communications Daily reports that some broadcasters and broadcasting trade groups, including the NAB and MSTV, are preparing to commission their own research that takes into account a different range of factors than did the CEA study. 
We welcome this as great news.  As the record indicates, spectrum is a key input for broadband, but we know that it also has other uses of great economic and social importance.  So we welcome a robust debate about how we can best allocate spectrum—both to maximize economic growth, but also to maximize the public good.  We look forward to the NAB findings. 
Beyond the study, there have been reports about conversations I’ve had with broadcasters about spectrum.  I’m not in the practice of publicly discussing details of private discussions—I want to ensure that every party is as candid as possible in helping us determine the best strategy to move America forward— but I do want to clear up a few details.   
These conversations originated from a few broadcasters, who recognized that they had more spectrum than they needed to deliver an economically efficient bitstream.  We started discussing whether there could be a market-clearing solution that allowed them to monetize their extra spectrum, while allowing us to maximize the public good.  This is the driver behind our discussions: we want the country to use most effectively one of its most valuable resources, while increasing optionality of those broadcasters who recognize that they’re not maximizing returns for their shareholders.  We recognize that not all broadcasters would make the same choice but our goal is to determine if there is a mechanism that will attract the interest of a critical mass. 
I don’t know if we will succeed in our efforts to allow broadcasters that option, but I do know that if we didn’t try, it would be a disservice to citizens and stakeholders on all sides of the equation.

 



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