Posted February 26th, 2010 by Alexander Roytblat
The World Radiocommunication Conference (or WRC) is an international treaty-level forum held by the International Telecommunication Union (or ITU) (a United Nations agency) about every four years. At the WRC countries decide on the sharing of frequency spectrum to allow the deployment or growth of all types of radiocommunication services such as wireless, broadcasting, satellite, aeronautical and other services. Because WRC decisions have such wide-reaching effects on U.S. and international radiocommunication industries, the preparations for this conference begin several years in advance. During the WRC preparatory phase, long term goals and positions that would benefit the U.S. government and commercial industry are developed.
To identify the public interest for various items to be addressed by WRC, the FCC established a forum, WRC-12 Advisory Committee (WAC), in which the public can provide its views and recommendations to the agency. The WAC is established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The WAC is chaired by private sector representatives and has an open membership structure. The FCC takes WAC recommendations in to account as it develops positions for the WRC based on the public interest standard. In parallel, NTIA works with the Executive Branch agencies to identify their priorities for the conference. Subsequently, the FCC and NTIA reconcile any differences and formulate joint recommendations to State Department which has overall responsibility for U.S. preparations and participation in the WRC. This approach increases the opportunity for information exchange, and benefits everyone involved.
Posted February 23rd, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
I'm pleased to announce that the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is conducting a Photo Project and Contest so that we can collect and feature public safety pictures on the PSHSB website. We have put a lot of effort into making our Bureau's section of FCC.gov useful for the public safety community, and believe it would be an even more effective tool if we featured live action photos of first responders performing their duties. We are hoping for an enthusiastic response to this initiative.
While I'm on the subject of our website, I'd also like to highlight our Clearinghouse, which has been a key component of our outreach to the public safety community. The Clearinghouse provides a centralized resource for information about emergency preparation, response and recovery, and is a searchable online repository of over 270 documents from federal, state and local sources. These documents relate to our target groups of First Responders, Public Safety Answering Points, the Health Care Sector, and Persons with Disabilities and include best practices, grant information, sample emergency plans, as well as original content developed by PSHSB staff. I encourage you to visit our website and Clearinghouse. We are always looking for new materials, as well, so if you wish to submit documents to be posted, please email us at: PSHSBinfo at FCC dot gov.
Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Posted February 19th, 2010 by Richard Welch
As we progress through the first quarter of calendar year 2010, we in the Office of General Counsel thought it might be of interest to summarize briefly the pending appellate litigation matters of significance in which the FCC is a party.
First, on January 13th in New York City, the Second Circuit held oral argument in Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. FCC. The case presents a First Amendment attack on the FCC’s decisions finding violations of the broadcast indecency statute and regulations for Fox’s broadcast of expletives by celebrities Cher and Nicole Richie on separate live television awards shows. That case is on remand from the Supreme Court, which overturned the Second Circuit’s earlier judgment that the FCC had not adequately explained a change in its indecency enforcement policy. It likely will be several months before the court issues its opinion – but, whatever the outcome, the case is a potential candidate to head back to the Supreme Court before final resolution.
Similarly, on February 23rd (just a few weeks after this year’s Super Bowl), the Third Circuit will hear oral argument in Philadelphia in CBS Corp. v. FCC, another broadcast indecency case. At issue is CBS’s broadcast of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show in which Janet Jackson, performing with Justin Timberlake, suffered what some have described as a “wardrobe malfunction.” CBS is challenging the $550,000 forfeiture that the FCC assessed against certain CBS-owned affiliates for broadcasting Jackson’s fleeting nudity. The Third Circuit previously found that the FCC had changed its policy without adequately explaining why, but this case also is on remand from the Supreme Court in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Fox Television Stations, described above.
And we continue to await a decision in the case of ABC, Inc. v. FCC, a challenge to the FCC’s enforcement action for broadcast of nudity during an episode of the television show NYPD Blue. That case was argued before the Second Circuit almost exactly one year ago in February 2009.
First Amendment challenges seem to abound in the New Year and are not confined to the broadcast indecency context. A carriage dispute between a broadcast television station and certain cable systems may give the Supreme Court an opportunity to address a constitutional challenge to the “must carry” statute in Cablevision Systems Corp. v. FCC. Most recently, the FCC ruled that a broadcast station north of New York City should be included in that city’s television market area, thereby making the station eligible for mandatory carriage on Cablevision’s cable television systems on Long Island. On review, the Second Circuit rebuffed Cablevision’s challenges and affirmed the FCC’s order in its entirety. Cablevision has now asked the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s judgment, chiefly on the ground that the must carry statute violates the First Amendment. As the schedule currently stands, the Solicitor General will file the government’s response on February 26th. The Supreme Court should announce whether it will accept the case on its docket later in the spring.
Heading down the Eastern Seaboard, the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. – in yet another case captioned Cablevision Systems Corp. v. FCC – is considering a challenge to the Commission’s decision to extend the effective date of its program access rules. Those rules ban exclusive contracts between cable operators and cable-affiliated programming suppliers. Oral argument was held in September 2009; we may see an opinion from the court in the near future.
On January 8, 2010, the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in Comcast Corp. v. FCC before a packed house. In that case, Comcast challenges an FCC order declaring that Comcast could not lawfully block its Internet access subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent. It likely will be several months before we see a decision in that high-profile case.
We also await a decision from the Third Circuit in Council Tree Communications, Inc. v. FCC. Council Tree challenges the FCC’s revised designated entity rules, which apply to persons seeking to bid at auction for spectrum licenses. The case was argued on December 1st of last year.
And finally, for those of you who have recently struggled with the winter weather here on the East Coast, let me try to ease your pain by reference to baseball – after all, this space is entitled “On Deck.” Spring training is nigh! It’s time for pitchers and catchers to report! And Opening Day – when the spirit is lifted and life begins anew – is less than six weeks away!
Posted February 19th, 2010 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau
At the FCC, we continue to be very busy on a number of fronts to continue to help Haiti regarding its communications services.
Within the U.S. Government, our work is in coordination with USAID as you know. But it really derives directly from our regulatory counterpart in Haiti – Conatel. The importance and necessity of our work at the FCC is underscored by the requests of the Director General (DG), Mr. Montaigne Marcelin, which continue to come in.
When the communications asssessment team was in Haiti in late January, we were fortunate to be able to spend a great deal of time with the DG and the staff of Conatel. We discussed the status of the communications sector in Haiti, and several key regulatory issues like spectrum management. In addition, on behalf of our two agencies, Mr. Marcelin and I signed an “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Regarding Communications Regulatory Cooperation” between Conatel and the FCC, as requested by the Conatel DG. The MOU states that the FCC will provide assistance to Conatel in several areas, including: ongoing assessment of the needs of the communications sector in Haiti, spectrum management, licensing policies and procedures, human resource capacity building, as well as other regulatory issues as needed. The cooperation between Conatel and the FCC is envisioned to be telephone and email consultation, in-country assessments and technical assistance by FCC staff, and Conatel staff fellowships at the FCC.
In this spirit of cooperation, earlier this week, FCC Chairman Genachowski and Mr. Marcelin talked directly on the telephone. The Conatel DG expressed his continuing gratitude for, and interest in, the FCC’s assistance, which the DG also indicated in a letter that he sent to the Chairman on Wednesday. And Chairman Genachowski assured the DG that we would continue to help Haiti regarding its communications services. Many such efforts are underway. For example, at yesterday's Open Commission Meeting, the Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and I gave a presentation to the full Commission regarding the FCC’s key efforts since the earthquake. (We had given an initial presentation on January 20, but so much more has been done since then.) The support from the FCC Chairman and all of the Commissioners for the FCC’s work regarding Haiti continues to be as strong as the Haitian people are resilient.
Thanks for checking in. I will keep posting updates on this blog.
Posted February 18th, 2010 by Patrick Carney
Among the missions of the Administrative Law Division of the FCC’s Office of General Counsel are the prevention of conflicts of interest on the part of the Commission’s employees, and the prompt resolution of any such conflicts that may occur. On his first full day in office President Obama signed an ethics Executive Order establishing some of the strongest ethics guidelines ever set for Federal employees, including those working at the FCC. The FCC is fully committed to ensuring that these ethics rules are faithfully followed, and has a team in place that is dedicated full-time to assisting its employees in interpreting and complying with the Federal ethical standards.
Our goal in promoting these high ethical standards for all of our employees is to assure the American people that the decisions made and that actions take by its dedicated civil servants are motivated solely by the interests of the public and are free of any inappropriate outside influences. In an earlier blog, my colleague, Larry Schecker has described some of the steps that the FCC has taken and continues to take, under the authority of the Freedom of Information Act, to foster openness in government and to further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the actions taken by the Commission. Apart from the FCC-wide approaches that Larry describes, there are several additional vehicles for promoting openness in government that are under the oversight of the FCC’s ethics advisors.
For example, any gift that has been made to the FCC is listed in a semi-annual report to Congress and the record of all such gifts is available for public review upon request. Similarly, the financial disclosure reports filed by senior FCC officials are available to the public upon request, as is a list of those FCC officials who are covered by the Lobbying Disclosure Act. For more information on the ethics program in place at the FCC, please contact the Administrative Law Division in our Office of General Counsel. We’re available at 202-418-1720, and would be pleased to talk with you about the steps we’re taking to ensure your confidence in the actions taken by your public servants here at the FCC.
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:
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:
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.
Posted February 17th, 2010 by Richard Lee - Associate Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
In January 2005, I volunteered with World Harvest Indonesia to work in a refugee camp in Banda Aceh, Indonesia helping survivors of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. It was a humbling experience that I hoped would never be repeated. But in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States and once again I became a part of a major response effort. I spent almost three months in the New Orleans area as the FCC’s on-scene team leader working to restore vital communications. Since then many other staff in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau (EB) and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) have joined me in volunteering as a Federal Emergency Communications first responder. Since Katrina, more than 40 FCC personnel have trained and participated in disaster preparedness and response exercises related to communications restoration. This group operates as part of the Federal Response Framework’s Emergency Support Function #2 – Communications (ESF #2), and deploys to a disaster area to assist with the communications restoration effort. In 2008, ESF #2 trained staff from EB deployed to South Dakota and Iowa to help with communications during the Spring flooding events in those areas. Later as the 2008 Hurricane Season got underway, FCC staff from EB and PSHSB deployed to Louisiana and Texas after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike ravaged the Gulf Coast.
The FCC also deploys technology to help with communications restoration. Called Project Roll Call - it was developed in 2007, in partnership with FEMA. Equipment and software used by EB for spectrum observations were modified to support the Federal disaster response by identifying the operational status of wireless communications systems following major disasters. Over a four-hour period, Project Roll Call scans the spectrum (each scan covers a 30-mile radius) and provides operational status reports within three hours of data collection on Public Safety Land Mobile Radio (LMR); State and Local Government emergency command and control; Commercial Wireless (cellular); and, Broadcast. These reports assist in organizing and targeting the Federal emergency communications response. In 2008, PSHSB expanded the Roll Call capability by including equipment and software to provide street-level cellular coverage maps for areas within the disaster zone.
At 1653 (EST) on Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles SW of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The United States and countries around the globe began organizing a massive relief effort. On Thursday afternoon, the FCC was asked by FEMA to deploy a Roll Call team to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to support FEMA’s Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) team and search and rescue efforts. PSHSB and EB quickly assembled a three person Roll Call team comprised of myself, Joe Husnay (EB Norfolk office), and Juan Silva (PSHSB). Our small team deployed to Homestead Air Reserve Base on Saturday afternoon to meet up with the MERS team and await military air transportation to Haiti.
After a few days of waiting at Homestead, we finally boarded a C-130 aircraft for the 2 ½ hour trip to Haiti. We arrived in Port-au-Prince at 6 pm on Monday, January 18. The airport scene reminded me of Banda Aceh airport in Indonesia. Massive amounts of relief cargo had been off-loaded and scattered about. People were standing, sitting, and walking around hoping for a seat on the first available outbound plane. And it was hot and humid. We quickly met our FEMA hosts and the driver helped us locate our bags and equipment amongst the tons of relief supplies. We were then told to wait for transportation to the US Embassy which would be our home for the next two weeks.
We finally arrived at the US Embassy at 10 pm after spending a few hours waiting at the airport for a security escort. Our new home was an army cot in the Embassy parking lot – but we couldn’t complain about the view because each night we fell asleep under a sky filled with a million stars – and I should add – a million mosquitoes. Room service was great, too, as our first wakeup call was a 6.1 aftershock. And the food? Well, just let me say that we were introduced to a new food brand – known to the military as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), but I don’t recommend it for long term use. Things did get better as we finally received a tent and mosquito nets after a week of camping in the open and the only Domino’s Pizza outlet in Haiti reopened.
Our workdays started around 6 am and Joe and Juan worked late each night calibrating equipment, updating software, and making repairs to broken instruments. Over the next ten days, we conducted two Roll Call spectrum scans from different locations around the city of Port-au-Prince. The overlapping scans were used to build an inventory of active frequency use in the disaster area and assisted us and the Government of Haiti with spectrum management and interference resolution. We also conducted drives around the city to develop cellular coverage maps and visited damaged broadcast stations and public safety radio sites.
Within two days of our arrival we had success in locating and meeting with the Director General of Conatel (the FCC and NTIA equivalent in Haiti). We provided the Director General with an Iridium satellite phone which enabled him to stay in contact with FCC staff at headquarters. We also arranged for the Director General to come to the Embassy to meet with USAID staff regarding assistance needed to maintain or restore vital communications.
During the last few days of our stay we were joined by an FCC Assessment Team which we helped by arranging transportation and security for their site visits and meetings.
We returned home safely from Haiti on Sunday, January 31, 2010, with a profound respect for the people of Haiti. Read my next blog to learn more about the people of Haiti and how you can help them recover from this catastrophic event.
Posted February 5th, 2010 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau
Posted February 5th, 2010 by Jennifer Manner - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
There’s a lot of excitement around the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau this week about our upcoming public forum on mobile broadband for first responders. On Wednesday, February 10th at 2:00 p.m., we’ll be hosting first responders, network operators, and policy makers for a two-hour discussion about how we can solve a problem that has plagued the public safety community for far too long.
Posted in Events , Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Posted February 3rd, 2010 by Larry Schecker - Special Counsel, Administrative Law Division, OGC
The FCC’s FOIA Annual Report for FY 2009 has just been posted as required by the FOIA. This year our report shows improvement in many areas. And new this year, in addition to a PDF of the report, all of the statistics are available in spreadsheets (CSV format) for the public to examine and use.
One interesting point from the report – 94% of the FOIA requests where we had responsive records were granted in whole or in part; only 6% were denied in full pursuant to one or more of the FOIA exemptions.
The FY 2009 report shows that we have dramatically reduced the backlog of FOIA appeals. At the start of FY 2009 we had 30 pending appeals, and we received 14 new appeals during the fiscal year. The Commission disposed of 37 appeals (either by decision or by informally resolving the appeal), leaving only 7 pending appeals at the start of FY 2010.
As we move forward, we aim to do even better. We are trying to process FOIA requests even faster. We are working to process appeals as quickly as possible, either resolving them informally or submitting the appeal to the Commission for decision. And under the President’s Open Government Directive, we are making more and more information available on the FCC’s website.
So, let me ask – what helpful information about the FOIA could we post that is is not on our website? Our Chief FOIA Officer, General Counsel Austin Schlick, wants to know!