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Digital Learning in the 21st Century

Posted March 8th, 2011 by George Krebs

From Des Moines to Charlottesville school districts across the country are making sure there is a laptop in the hands of every high school student. California’s e-textbook initiative augurs the nationwide rise of digital course materials. Teachers now use web videos to reinforce the quadratic formula or impart a civics lesson. Technology is moving forward. Our classrooms and our curriculum need to catch up.

We’re joining with the New York City Department of Education tomorrow morning for an event on digital learning in the 21st century. We’ll speak on the promise of wireless and present a roundtable on the future of K – 12 education, as America begins to employ digital learning solutions. This includes the adoption of digital textbooks and the possibilities of wireless technology to enhance learning in the classroom. Wednesday’s event will explore both the benefits and the obstacles to this shift. The event will take place tomorrow, March 9 from 10:30am to 12:15pm at the NYC iSchool at 131 6th Avenue, at Dominick Street.

Sharing the stage with Chairman Genachowski at the roundtable is a handful of the nation’s standouts in education, from both the public and private sectors. This includes Sharon Greenberger, COO of the NYC Department of Education; Alisa Berger, Principal of NYC iSchool, our host; Matthew Small, Chief Business Officer at Blackbord; and other luminaries.

There’s no better school to debut this initiative and hold this roundtable than the NYC iSchool. The iSchool, which introduced its first class in September 2008, looks to set the bar for 21st century learning. The innovative high school incorporates cutting edge technology into students’ everyday learning and both its teachers and students make it a central part of their mission to harness these tools. To learn more about the NYC iSchool, check out this video.

Join us. If you’re in the New York City area tomorrow, the event is free and open to the public – though we’d appreciate your pre-registration. Send an email with your name, organization name (if applicable) and phone number to diglearning [at] fcc [dot] gov.

Posted in Events National Broadband Plan Parents

The National Broadband Map

Posted February 17th, 2011 by Anne Neville - Director, State Broadband Initiative – NTIA

Welcome to the first-ever public, searchable nationwide map of broadband access. 

The National Broadband Map is an unprecedented project created by NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with each state, territory and the District of Columbia. We created the map at the direction of Congress, which recognized that economic opportunities are driven by access to 21st Century infrastructure.

With funding from NTIA’s State Broadband Data & Development Program, our state partners have gathered and worked to validate broadband data from thousands of providers across the country. Together, we developed a dataset and website that includes more than 25 million searchable records displaying where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used to provide the service, the maximum advertised speeds of the service, and the names of the broadband providers. Whether you are a consumer seeking more information on the broadband options available to you, a researcher or policymaker working to spur greater broadband deployment, a local official aiming to attract investment in your community, or an application developer with innovative ideas, the National Broadband Map can help.  And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for on the map itself, you can download the entire dataset.

While the launch of this map is a huge accomplishment, today is just the beginning. Our partners in the states are working to expand and update this important dataset, and we will update the map with new data every six months. In the meantime, you can help. Each time you search the map, you have the opportunity to tell us about the data you’re seeing. This crowdsourced feedback will be an important tool to improve and refine the data.

We invite you to explore the many features and functionalities the National Broadband Map offers. To start, search for broadband by address. Or go straight to our analysis tools and compare one area to others, and make sure you spend some time with our maps.  Want more? Download the dataset, use our APIs and please tell us how you’re using the data.

We expect the map will be a valuable tool as we work to bridge the technological divide, expand economic opportunities, and leverage the power of broadband to address many of the nation’s most pressing challenges.  We hope you will make full use of its capabilities and let us know what you think and how we can improve.

Posted in Wireless Open Government National Broadband Plan Data Developer Api Maps
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Demand for mobile broadband

Posted February 10th, 2011 by John Leibovitz

By John Leibovitz & Robert Alderfer

Cisco recently released an update to its Visual Networking Index: Mobile Data Traffic Forecast report, which contains projections of data usage on mobile wireless networks over the next five years. The report is widely followed because Cisco’s role as a network equipment supplier throughout the network ecosystem –  including wireline networks, cellular networks, and consumer WiFi networks – gives them some unique insights into where network trends are heading. Last year’s VNI report, which projected surging demand on wireless networks, was an input into the spectrum demand analysis we released this past fall. We were therefore interested to see how Cisco’s report changed since the prior edition.

The bottom line is that Cisco continues to foresee an enormous surge in wireless demand.  Let’s take a look at their North American regional breakout. Cisco estimates that in 2010, North Americans transmitted 49 Petabytes (PB) per month over mobile networks. That’s about 4,900 times the amount of information in the printed collection of the Library of Congress. By 2015, Cisco expects this number will grow to 986 Petabytes – nearly one Exabyte, equivalent to almost 100,000 Libraries of Congress.

In relative terms, Cisco’s projects 20X growth in the next five years. This is lower than the 47X growth forecast in the previous Cisco report, but only because this year’s forecast starts from a higher “base” compared to the previous year. Overall, Cisco predicts that data growth begins to slow down in out years, but that the growth still continues at an impressive rate. The forecast consumption is 58X larger in 2015 compared to the 2009 estimate reported in last year’s report. Any way you look at it, that’s enormous growth.

Importantly, the report accounts for some offsetting effects, most notably the use of WiFi and femtocell networks to “offload” capacity from the mobile network to a fixed broadband connection. Cisco estimates that about 21% of traffic from smartphones and tablets was offloaded to WiFi or femtocells in 2010 and that this proportion will increase to 30% by 2015. This finding demonstrates the vital importance of unlicensed spectrum in helping address our nation’s wireless capacity needs. Still, overall traffic growth is likely to outpace offloading, according to Cisco’s forecast.

Consider what this astounding growth means to American families, to our economy, and to our future. All of those bits and bytes represent new ways of communicating, informing, and transacting with one another. They are video messages sent to grandparents, invoices sent to customers, and research findings sent to universities. And countless other uses, as diverse as the Internet itself. Our obligation at the FCC is to ensure that our wireless rules are flexible enough so that the supply of spectrum will meet this inexorable demand. That’s what keeps us busy every day.

Posted in Wireless National Broadband Plan Mobile
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Chairman Genachowski and FCC Staff Take In CES 2011

Posted January 10th, 2011 by George Krebs

Tablets and TVs; gadgets and tech-integrated vehicles; tech-enhanced musical instruments and heavily promoted headphones; innovative toys, energy efficient designs and wireless enabled products of all sorts. Sunday concluded a busy span of stunning technology pageantry in Las Vegas. Thousands of booths were set up and over 100,00 interested device enthusiasts arrived from all over the world for the Consumer Electronics Show , known more commonly as CES (or in this ever expanding, 140-character world, #CES).

Chairman Genachowski, all four Commissioners, and a retinue of FCC staff converged on the convention floor. They got a look at technology – from a wide range of companies – on the horizon and a sense of what’s upcoming in the innovation space. Many of the exhibits in sight shouted wireless and they shouted mobile.

On Friday, day two, the Chairman gave a speech on the need for expanded spectrum offerings and then sat down to chat with the host of the event, CEA CEO Gary Shapiro. This is what the Chairman said:

"As evidenced by the trade show floor, the consumer electronics industry is going wireless, and the future success of this industry and our innovation future depends on whether our government acts quickly to unleash more spectrum -- the oxygen that sustains our mobile devices. 

We’re in the early stages of a mobile revolution that is sparking an explosion in wireless traffic.  Without action, demand for spectrum will soon outstrip supply. 

To seize the opportunities of our mobile future, we need to tackle the threats to our invisible infrastructure.  We need to free up more spectrum."

Read the Chairman’s full speech.

As our team makes their way back to Washington, we’ll bring you their takes and some collected insights. For now, enjoy this video from the Washington Post, showing the Chairman touring the CES floor, speaking to the unbounded potential for job growth on display, and managing to get in a quick game of ping-pong using Microsoft’s Kinect.

(Cross posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Events FCC Staff Wireless National Broadband Plan Consumers Mobile
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9-1-1's Next Frontier

Posted November 23rd, 2010 by George Krebs

This morning Chairman Genachowski, Public Safety Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett and a collection of FCC staff visited a state-of-the-art response facility at the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center in Arlington, Virginia. Following the vision laid out in the National Broadband Plan, the event marks the announcement of steps to revolutionize America’s 9-1-1 system by harnessing the potential of text, photo, and video in emergencies.

Our communications needs are increasingly reliant on mobile devices. In fact, 70% of 9-1-1 calls originate from mobile phones and users rely regularly on texts and multimedia messages. While a subsequent evolution of our 9-1-1 system seems a natural -- and obvious -- step for digitally aware citizen, our current 9-1-1 system doesn’t utilize the superb, possibly life-saving potential within our existing mobile devices. With videos, pictures, texts -- and other untold mobile innovations surely on the horrizon -- next-generation 9-1-1 will position public safety officials a step ahead with critical real-time, on-the-ground information.

After a tour of the high-tech operations room, Chairman Genachowski and Admiral Barnett spoke to the promise of next-generation 9-1-1. Here's an excerpt from Chairman Genachowski's speech.

"Even though mobile phones are the device of choice for most 9-1-1 callers, and we primarily use our phones to text, right now, you can’t text 9-1-1. Let me reiterate that point. If you find yourself in an emergency situation and want to send a text for help, you can pretty much text anyone EXCEPT a 9-1-1 call center.

"...It’s time to bring 9-1-1 into the digital age."

Read the rest of the Chairmans’s speech, view more photos and see the benefits of Next Generation 9-1-1 after the jump.

(This is cross-posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Events Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau National Broadband Plan Office Of Chairman

Our Innovation Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges

Posted November 15th, 2010 by George Krebs

Earlier today, Chairman Genachowski spoke at the annaul meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Atlanta. In concert with the conference's "Keeping the Focus" theme, the Chairman spoke to the primary focus of the FCC: the economy and jobs. We're serving this mission through harnessing the opportunities of communications technology and putting an emphasis on innovation.

Read Chairman Genachowski's full speech.

(This is cross-posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Events National Broadband Plan Office Of Chairman
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Crunching the Numbers Behind the Spectrum Crunch

Posted 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 Blogband)

Posted in Wireless National Broadband Plan
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Super Wi-Fi is Super for Energy Too

Posted 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 on the Department of Energy Blog and Blogband)

Posted in National Broadband Plan
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A Third-Way Legal Framework For Addressing The Comcast Dilemma

Posted May 6th, 2010 by Austin Schlick - General Counsel

When the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in the Comcast/BitTorrent case, it was clear the decision could affect a significant number of important recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, the Commission’s Open Internet proceeding, and other policy initiatives related to broadband.  In light of the uncertainty created by the decision, the Chairman asked me to investigate all of the options available to the Commission.  Other FCC staff and I have developed a proposal that we believe resolves the doubt created by the D.C. Circuit’s opinion while providing a firm legal basis for the Commission’s limited, but vital role with respect to broadband.  Whether, all things considered, the legal response to Comcast sketched out in our proposal is the best one for the Commission to adopt would be for the five FCC Commissioners to answer after public comment and private study.  In my judgment, it’s a question worth asking.

Read more about the proposal here.

Read Chairman Genachowski’s statement discussing his reasons for seeking comment on the proposal here.

[Cross-posted from Blogband]

Posted in Office of General Counsel National Broadband Plan
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America’s 2020 Broadband Vision

Posted February 17th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

In a month, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver a National Broadband Plan, as it was asked to do by Congress and the President in the Recovery Act. 

This will be a meaningful plan for U.S. global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy. 

I believe this plan is vitally important to America’s future. 

Studies from the Brookings Institute, MIT, the World Bank, and others all tell us the same thing -- that even modest increases in broadband adoption can yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Broadband empowers small businesses to compete and grow and will ensure that the jobs and industries of tomorrow are created in the United States. 

The economic benefits of broadband go hand-in-hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life for all Americans. 

The National Broadband Plan will describe concrete ways in which broadband can be a part of 21st century solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, including:

  • Extending the availability and lowering the costs of quality care by putting digital health tools in the hands of doctors and hospitals across the country and removing geographic barriers for patient treatment.  
  • Providing our kids with a world class, 21st century education, connecting them to the global library and giving them the digital skills they need for the future.
  • Making our electric grid smart and efficient and providing Americans with the information they need to make their homes and buildings smarter.  
  • Ensuring that law enforcement officers and first responders across the country have cutting-edge, reliable communications technologies to respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively. 

These are real benefits for real people -- like the unemployed forty-seven-year-old I met in the Bronx who got job training over the Internet to become a telecom technician. And the employees of Blue Valley Meats, in the small town of Diller, Nebraska, which doubled its workforce and saw 40 percent growth by setting up a website and selling its beef online -- once Diller got broadband. 

But right now, we are at a crossroads. For while the United States invented the Internet, when it comes to broadband we are lagging behind where we should be.

Roughly 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband, and more than 100 million Americans who could and should have broadband don’t. That’s an adoption rate of roughly 65 percent of U.S. households, compared with 88 percent adoption in Singapore, and 95 percent adoption in South Korea. The U.S. adoption rate is even lower among low-income, minority, rural, tribal, and disabled households.

This country can and must do better.  In today’s global economy, leading the world in broadband is leading the world. 

This is where the National Broadband Plan comes in.  By setting ambitious goals and laying out proposals to connect all Americans to a world-class broadband infrastructure, we will help secure our country’s global competitiveness for generations to come.

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan will include the following key recommendations:

  • 100 Squared Initiative: 100 million households at a minimum of 100 megabits per second (Mbs) -- the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users -- to ensure that new businesses are created in America and stay in America.
  • Broadband Testbeds: Encourage the creation of ultra high-speed broadband testbeds as fast, or faster, than any Internet service in the world, so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow’s ideas and industries.
  • Digital Opportunities: Expand digital opportunities by moving our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and making sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school. 

The quantitative and qualitative benefits of these proposals -- and the many others that the FCC’s plan will contain -- are vast.  Connecting the country to higher speeds means more jobs, more innovation, and more economic growth.

The National Broadband Plan will chart a clear path forward -- ensuring that broadband is our enduring engine for creating jobs and growing our economy, for spreading knowledge and enhancing civic engagement, for advancing a healthier, sustainable way of life.

Pursuing the opportunity of universal broadband is, I believe, a universal goal. Our technology future is one that we can -- and must -- create together.

[Cross-posted on the White House Blog and Blogband.]

Posted in From The Chairman National Broadband Plan