Federal Communications Commission

Archive for February 2010

The Seeds of Digital Health Care: Nourished by the National Broadband Plan

February 26th, 2010 by Mohit Kaushal - Digital Healthcare Director

Chairman Genachowski had it exactly right when he said: “we see the digital seeds sprouting—high-speed Internet beginning to produce medical miracles, and evidence of the potential to save hundreds of billions in health care costs.” I’ve had the good fortune of leading the Connected Health team here at the FCC to make sure the federal government can help those seeds become forests.

Next week, we are very excited to be participating at the HIMSS conference in Atlanta, the largest and most important health IT conference in the country. If you are there, please stop by our Tuesday (March 2nd) session to learn more about the Plan’s working recommendations for healthcare. We’re scheduled for 8:30-9:30 AM in Room C306 at the convention center

One message of the entire plan is that broadband is only valuable when it supports a vibrant eco-system of devices, software, and uses that make all our lives better. This couldn’t be more true for health IT; it will require a dramatic and coordinated approach across the federal government and private sector to realize this vision. To that end, I’m excited to be joined by many senior health IT officials on Tuesday, including:

  • Dr. Charles Friedman, Deputy National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the Office of the Secretary for Health and Human Services
  • Peter Levin, Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Mark Rives, Director of Information Technology Operations at the Indian Health Service, and
  • Erik Garr, General Manager of the National Broadband Plan

I hope I’ll see many of you there. And I’d love to hear what you think of our ideas. I discussed them at a high level last week at the Commission Meeting and we’ll be getting into a lot more detail Tuesday.  Hopefully this blog can be a great place to continue the conversation after the conference!

-Dr. Mo

How the National Broadband Plan Will Encourage Investment

February 24th, 2010 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

I'm speaking to a group of institutional investors about the Plan on  today.  It will be in a question and answer format, but I thought I would share how I will approach the conversation.

I hope to talk about how the Plan will affect the investment climate for what we think of the broadband ecosystem (suppliers of network services, devices and applications) both on the demand and supply sides. The Plan will increase demand and impact supply in every part of the ecosystem in the long-term in a few ways.

First, the plan will accelerate the move of certain sectors from processes designed and optimized for the technology of the past to more efficient processes enabled by broadband. 

As we discussed at the last Commission meeting, certain sectors of the economy-health care, education, public safety, energy, government services-have not utilized new, broadband-enabled processes nearly as effectively as they can.  We have identified barriers to that use that, if overcome, should spark an important increase in the demand for broadband across the board.

For an example of how such changes can positively affect the ecosystem, look at slide 101 from our September, 2009   meeting.  It reports on a study that demonstrated that using hosted electronic health records could save 18% over having such records on the doctors' own servers.  These savings are enjoyed even though for such hosting to work, the doctors have to spend twice as much on connectivity.  As noted in the slide, the dollar savings are only the beginning of the benefits of such services.

[Read the full speech here...]

Broadband and New Media Strategies for Minority Radio

February 24th, 2010 by Carolyn Williams

On January 26, 2010, the Office of Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO) hosted a roundtable on Broadband and New Media Strategies for Minority Radio.  The list of the roundtable participants and other details can be found here.  The roundtable boasted an aggressive agenda which included topics ranging from the current state of radio and its many challenges to possible collaboration with other media and what the future may hold in a technological environment that is ever-changing.
The participants discussed the shift in advertising revenue from traditional radio to the Internet citing statistics which indicated that, in 2007, for the first time in history, Internet ad revenue surpassed radio ad revenue and that that trend continues.  The point was made that the slow economy is something that cannot be overlooked as a challenge to all as ad spending is down across the board.  All of this impacts the ability of small businesses to gain access to capital.  However, even with the challenges faced by radio, weekly radio listenership still dominates across all forms of media. This led to an exploration of the unique value that radio offers to the public.  It is positioned to best serve local markets as well as national interests, e.g., Census 2010 and voter education.

In that vein, the roundtable participants turned to a lively exploration of creative strategies and innovative business models that could take advantage of the new technologies.  There was a demonstration of some of the capabilities and applications that currently exist today, such as online radio, and discussion of some of the collaborations that may result in a happy marriage between the traditional broadcast of radio and broadband.   The goal for all of us is to ensure that minority radio adapts new methods of delivering content, expands across a multimedia platform, and thrives in this digital age of communications.

We are looking forward to continuing what has proven to be a very productive conversation.


Making the Nation Ready for Broadband

February 23rd, 2010 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

At last week's open Commission meeting, I explained how writing a National Broadband Plan is like solving a mystery.

The mystery involves why some parts of the economy have embraced modern communications to greatly improve their performance while others lag far behind.

We see this in our daily lives.

Since I started using ATM machines and moved to online banking, I, like millions of others, don’t exchange information with a bank the way I did 10 or even 5 years ago.

Why is it that when I recently had the occasion to visit a great emergency room in Chicago, they collected data from me just like a hospital I visited while in college?

When I started as an equity analyst, my firm physically published notes but within a short time relied entirely on digital distribution.

Why is it that despite my having graduated high school almost forty years ago, my sophomore daughter’s back-pack, and its 25 pounds of books, looks just like mine did? 

Indeed, some of the books appear old enough that they might be the same.

Since 9/11, a day we all watched television news networks together, we’ve radically altered how we obtain news.

Why is it that the networks our first responders rely on, networks the 9/11 Commission told us we needed to upgrade, still offer technology that could only be considered modern by the standards of the last century.

A recent book--Wired for Innovation—offers some clues.  In researching why certain companies benefit from the use of information technology while others, similarly situated, do not, the authors found the benefits of the technology only come to life if the companies also change their fundamental processes and develop what the authors refer to as a digital culture.  Having technology is not enough.

Similar clues can be found in the 1990 paper, “The Dynamo and the Computer”, which explored why major innovations in microelectronics, fiber optic communications and computing had not yet shown up in productivity statistics.

Part of the answer turns out to be diffusion lag---it takes time for one technical system to replace another.  The author points out in the early 1900’s factories didn’t reach 50% electrification until four decades after the first central power station opened.

One cause of that diffusion lag was the unprofitability of replacing “production technologies adapted to the old regime of mechanical power derived from water and steam.”  

The problem was not just getting the electricity.

It was the cost of completely reengineering factories to benefit from electric power over the tried and embedded techniques of an earlier time.

So today, some sectors of our economy have a diffusion lag in adopting their processes to take advantage of the modern communications era.

But why?

Solving the mystery of today’s diffusion lag turns out to be critical to what Congress asked us to do in directing us to give our country a plan for utilizing broadband to advance national goals.

The world, the economy, the way we live our lives, are all moving from the analog to the digital.   Yet some sectors---particularly health care, education, energy, public safety and government generally---are not keeping up with the opportunities presented by information communications technology, and thereby keeping us from achieving a high-performing America.

The national  broadband plan will show how our country can act to utilize broadband to have these sectors perform at a higher level. 

While the challenges are different than those faced in transforming our industrial base to electrification, it is similar in that an old regime--in this case regulations, reimbursement policies, and other requirements--has created barriers to improvements. 

The plan will present ways we need to act to remove those barriers, overcome the diffusion lag and capture the opportunities that others are already seizing.


Support for the National Broadband Plan’s Working Recommendations

February 22nd, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

We’re getting positive comments as we roll out some of the working recommendations in the National Broadband Plan.  A number of statements of support came in response to our presentation to the Commission last week on the section of the plan that will address how broadband can help the nation address key priorities: job creation and economic development, healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government, public safety and homeland security.  Here is a sampling:

From Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, regarding a recommendation in the plan for E-Rate reform already adopted by the Commission:

“This is a win-win for the community and for our schools. The FCC’s ruling will increase broadband access in the community, building rapport between schools and community groups, and giving more people access to high-speed Internet. We have seen time and again that the Internet is a powerful engine for expanding opportunities for people. Some of our schools want the flexibility to allow the community to access the Internet, and this will deliver. If we want to invest in our future, enabling the E-rate program to serve more people is a good way to go.”

From Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming  and the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment:

“As the author of the requirement in the Recovery Act tasking the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan for our country, I am heartened by today’s preview.  The outline announced today suggests that the Commission is on track to fulfill the mandate that I wrote by producing a bold, future-focused, strategy for broadband deployment and adoption in our country.

“The Plan will also call on utilities, localities and states to voluntarily give consumers and consumer-authorized third parties access to real-time energy information in standardized formats. This will open up a whole new world of energy apps to help homeowners unlock the potential in their homes and electric cars to meet their energy needs. I intend to draft legislation that ensures that utilities in all states allow their customers to authorize third parties to get access to the data needed to support the development of these new smart grid applications, while ensuring that the appropriate privacy and security measures are in place.”

From Greg Brown, Co-CEO, Motorola, Inc.:

“Motorola is pleased that Chairman Genachowski has made public safety communications a high priority and is including the broadband needs of the public safety community in the National Broadband Plan. Public Safety must have the resources necessary to deploy and operate a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network capable of meeting the unique needs of first responders.  Motorola shares the Chairman’s commitment to ensuring that public safety has the advanced technologies it requires and an interoperable network that is vital for mission critical operations.”

From Todd Finnell, CEO, California K-12 High Speed Network:

“We believe strongly that the working recommendations provided in the National Broadband Plan will support our goals in bringing 21st century resources to students through broadband initiatives. The framework for these recommendations is in direct support of our vision and plan for California.”

From Douglas Levin, Executive Direction, SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association):

"We welcome the release of the forward-looking working recommendations of the National Broadband Plan, which highlight the growing demand for and use of broadband for education.  Ensuring high-speed broadband access for all students is a critical national issue and foundational to realizing our national education reform and improvement goals.  We know teachers and students need high-speed broadband access in their schools to take advantage of a wide range of new and rich educational tools and resources.  Teachers need high-speed broadband access for professional development, to engage in professional learning communities, and to access statewide education portals, digital instructional materials and open educational resources.  Administrators need high-speed broadband access to conduct online assessments and to access data for effective decision making.  And students need high-speed broadband to access learning anytime, anywhere and to overcome the lack of educational opportunity in rural and at-risk communities.  We look forward to working with the FCC, Congress and the Administration to moving from dialogue about these recommendations to concrete actions and programs to benefit all students.”

From Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO, NCTA (National Cable& Telecommunications Association):

“The FCC’s broadband team deserves enormous credit for their effort to identify key national priorities and achievable goals that will improve America’s economic welfare and enhance basic government and societal services that millions of citizens rely on.  The key challenges and opportunities outlined today all recognize how critical broadband is and will continue to be to ensure the U.S. remains competitive in key economic and societal sectors.  As the nation’s leading broadband provider, our industry will continue to do its part to provide an increasingly robust broadband network that will help accomplish many of the FCC’s stated goals.”

From Blackboard:

“Blackboard commends the FCC’s efforts to provide equal access to and continuity of education through ensuring universal access to broadband services. We support the framework presented by the National Purposes Team in the economic opportunity section of today’s presentation. The recognition of the clear benefits of an e-learning platform to deliver job services and job training is critical. Working adults and displaced workers have tremendous opportunities for employment advancement via online diplomas and degrees offered by Career College Association schools who serve their demographic.”

From Cameron Brooks, Senior Director, Market Development and Policy Strategy, Tendril:

"We are very encouraged by the leadership that the FCC is displaying with regard to the benefits that broadband can support with regard to energy.  Modernizing the electric grid will benefit all Americans by enabling greater energy efficiency, renewable energy and deployment of electric vehicles. As we described in testimony before the Commission, we believe that widespread broadband deployment with policies that encourage open access to information will serve as a powerful foundation for innovation and entrepreneurship."

From Rick Counihan, Vice President Regulatory Affairs-Western Region, EnerNOC, Inc.:

“Access to consumption data in near-real time provides the raw material that entrepreneurs and developers can build applications around, both those we can conceive of now and others we have not thought of.  If all data has to go back to the utility, be scrubbed and then becomes available hours later it will stifle innovation and competition.”

From Richard Mirgon, President, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International:

“APCO International applauds the Commission’s public safety focus and also supports the creation of an entity such as an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) as was briefly discussed at the FCC’s meeting, though many important issues must still be resolved.  APCO International looks forward to participating in ERIC and working with the Commission to enhance public safety communications capabilities. We also continue to urge Congress to reallocate the D Block to public safety, as we believe this would be the most effective way to develop a national public safety interoperable broadband network.”

From George Heinrichs, President, Intrado:

 “The Commission’s action to include next generation 9-1-1 in the National Broadband Plan brings this country one step closer to getting a 9-1-1 system that meets the needs of all citizens - a step that will certainly save more lives.”

From Brian Fontes, CEO, National Emergency Number Association:

 “NENA applauds the FCC for its commitment to addressing 9-1-1 and public safety communications in the National Broadband Plan. It is clear from today’s presentation that the recommendations in the Plan will appropriately emphasize the critically important role that broadband will play in the next generation of 9-1-1 and emergency communications systems. Chief Barnett and the dedicated staff of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau are to be commended for their efforts.

As NENA has consistently said in our comments to the Commission, it is essential that the National Broadband Plan include recommendations designed to facilitate the transition of our nation’s 9-1-1 and emergency communications systems to broadband-enabled, IP-based platforms. It appears that the Plan will do just that. In particular, we strongly support the focus on Next Generation 9-1-1 and the establishment of a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network (including an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC)). We also appreciate the explicit recognition of the critical need for funding to meet all of public safety’s broadband needs. We look forward to working with the Commission, Congress and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the Plan’s important recommendations.”

From Christopher Libertelli, Senior Director of Government & Regulatory Affairs, Americas, Skype:

“The FCC's National Broadband Plan is a historic opportunity to rethink what kind of communications and innovation policy will best serve American consumers. While this is no small task, the Omnibus Broadband Initiative team at the FCC, led by Blair Levin, is more than equal to it. The recommendations presented today demonstrate how innovative applications and robust broadband networks will enable the delivery of high-quality healthcare, world-class education, more opportunities for civic engagement and a better quality of life to consumers. Plus, these recommendations remain grounded in Congress' key goal of creating a policy environment that fosters innovation and investment to preserve America's competitive advantage in these strategic areas.”

From Thom Ruhe, Director of Entrepreneurship, Kauffman Foundation:

“A national broadband policy that recognizes the tremendous societal benefit that can be served by focusing on increased access and less barriers to entry is welcome. Broadband and communications technology can only help in the birthing and growth of new ventures, which are the sole source of all net job gains today. Increasing access to educational resources, mentoring, and funding, are likewise helping launch new firms. A cogent national broadband policy can accelerate these activities at this critical time in our economic recovery.”

From Dan Delurey, President, Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSG):

“Key to getting the benefits of the smart grid investments that federal and state policymakers are approving is to put the smart grid into action.  One of the best ways to do that is to use smart grid technology to get consumers information about electricity usage – information that they have never had before -- in a timely easy-to-understand manner.  Evidence shows that when customers get such information they will react to it, take action, and become more energy efficient overall.  The Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition believes that this will not only help optimize the grid, but will also help address climate change.  We are pleased to see the FCC trying to help make this happen.”

From Blackford Middleton, MD, MPH, MSc, Director, Clinical Informatics R&D, and Chairman – Center for IT Leadership, Partners Healthcare System, Harvard Medical School:

“The FCC team has performed a terrific analysis on the adoption of broadband to support healthcare, and health IT. To achieve connected, continuous, and capable care we need to fully wire this country down to the last mile wherever healthcare, and healthcare decision-making, is happening — that it is, everywhere.”

From Rick Miller, Deputy Superintendent for California Department of Education:

"The FCC's recommendations will help improve students’ access to technology."

From Katherine Hamilton, President, GridWise Alliance:

"The GridWise Alliance has been pleased by the FCC’s efforts to reach out to a broad array of stakeholders to inform the development of their plan. The Alliance agrees that any smart grid communications policy should be open and allow all technologies to participate in the market. The Alliance recognizes that with increased digital data on the electric grid, the industry may need to develop best practices around data privacy and grid security. The FCC and GridWise Alliance both see smart grid as a digital overlay of the electric grid that allows for a variety of technology applications depending on the needs of the system and its consumers. We are hopeful that when the final plan is released it will recognize the ability for all technologies, all stakeholders, and all regions to fully participate in the innovation opportunities of a smarter grid.”

Connecting Marlee and Mickey

February 22nd, 2010 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Nobody who was at the FCC’s broadband field hearing at Gallaudet University in November will forget the passion of Marlee Matlin

Her dedicated efforts led to captioning laws being passed nearly a generation ago.

But now, she told us, her work was being “erased.”  Closed captions were being taken out of broadcast content being shown on the Internet.  Among her many examples:  her own performance on “Dancing with the Stars!”  Her distress was palpable.

We posted a video clip of Marlee’s statement on our blog, and her passion was seen over the blogosphere.  Someone forwarded the clip to Disney.  And Disney got to work.

As a result, Disney has announced that is expanding its captioning efforts. Instead of just captioning scripted dramas and comedies, it has committed to captioning all of its long form programs that it puts on its online player at, including reality and live shows like “Dancing With The Stars.” 

Way to go, Marlee. Way to go, Disney. And way to go to the person in the blogosphere who thought to connect the two.

Live Blogging the February Open Commission Meeting

February 18th, 2010 by George Krebs

Welcome to our live blog. The meeting will begin at 3PM EDT. In the meantime, check out our Open Meetings page where you will be able to see a live stream of the meeting and the slides used in today's presentation. We will also be live tweeting the meeting here. If you're on Twitter yourself, you can join the conversation by using #FCCopen.

3:11pm EDT
By any standard, we are on countdown. There are only twenty-seven days to go until the Broadband Plan is to be submitted. This is the last Open Commission meeting before that big day. This is the last time the Broadband Team will present in front of the Chairman and all four commissioners. The National Purposes Team will present today. They cover portions of the plan relating to the impact of broadband on healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government and civic engagement, public safety, and economic opportunity. They will identify the gaps that exist in these areas and they will provide a framework for their coming recommendations. Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn, and Baker, representing the FCC’s top brass, will give them insight and suggestions. 

Before their presentation, we will have an update on the Commission’s continuing work in Haiti. (For more information on this front, see International Bureau Chief Mindel de la Torre’s superb, on-the-ground updates on our Reboot Blog.) We will also hear a presentation on FCC reform.

3:48pm EDT
Haiti update
Mindel de la Torre gives an idea of what it was like on the ground. It’s difficult for someone living here to imagine what the conditions are like in Haiti right now, she says. The pictures included on their slides provide a sense of how entirely destructive the earthquake was. Ms. de la Torre thanks the team from the Commission who went down to help out. Jamie Barnett, Chief of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, discusses the team’s accomplishments in Haiti, including assisting in teleconferences and many of the communications in connecting back and forth to the U.S. (with organizations such as USAID). In concluding, Mr. Barnett says, “It’s going to be a long process in restoring their communications.”
Ms. de la Torre gives a report on “key findings” from the team. Rebuilding efforts of wireless cell sites and wireline infrastructure are ongoing. She shows a collage of images – “a television station that collapsed completely.” A yellow, electronic news gathering car, saved the life of the station owner. Behind the building site, they set up a mobile radio station where the station owner gives radio commentary on Manchester United soccer games and shows movies on his small television viewed by a small gathering in his community. “Anything to make the people feel better,” she says. The Commission has issued 83 wavers representing 716 TV / radio stations to do fundraising for Haiti.
4:35pm EDT
Mary-Beth Richards, Special Counsel for FCC Reform, gives a rundown of reform efforts at the FCC. The Commission will vote on two items suggested by the group Ms. Richards leads. One area she highlights is public safety. The faults in communication around the public safety community is well known.  To address this, Ms. Richards unveils the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC), to reside here at the FCC. ERIC will facilitate public safety communications throughout the country in part by setting standards and giving this crucial public safety need, a centralized hub. Among other areas, she notes that we will bring in a Chief Data Officer to make the Commission more data driven. Also, a rule the Commission will vote on will make Ex-Parte notices available more quickly to the public and to the staff, and will require these notices be submitted online.
The Chairman and the commissioners all assent to the recommended reform measures on e-filing procedure and ex parte.
5:03pm EEDT
E-rate motion
In the last item to be considered before the broadband update, the Commission will consider improvements to the hugely successful E-rate program. In fact, the E-rate is related to broadband as it provides subsidized high speed Internet access for schools and libraries as a recognition of the vital role Internet access plays in the public sphere.
Regina Brown, attorney advisor in the Wireline Competition Bureau, explains the vote. “This waver will allow schools the option to open their facilities to the general public to utilize services and facilities, supported by E-rate, during non-operating hours such as afterschool hours, on the weekends, on school holidays, or during the summer months when school is not in session.”
The motion is widely lauded by the Commission. “In times of economic crisis, having broad community access to broadband is vital,” Chairman Genachowski says. “Broadband connectivity is lagging in rural, minority and tribal communities.” He notes the wide people who will benefit greatly: “The unemployed searching for work, seniors looking for health information and citizens using government services,” among others.
5:12pm EDT
In opening this section of the meeting the Chairman acknowledges the hard work of the team. They came into the office during the massive snowstorm, underscoring their dedication. “You’re out of jeans & snow boots,” he quips.
Executive Director Blair Levin frames their task as solving a mystery. Why have some embraced broadband but others, similarly situated, have not. Some sectors have a “diffusion lag” in adopting broadband. Why? “The team,” he says, will “present ways we need to act to remove the barriers, overcome the diffusion lag, and capture the opportunities others are already seizing.”
With that, Mr. Levin cedes the stage to National Purposes lead Kristen Kane. The goal of National purposes is to “offer a plan for how our country can utilize broadband to have these sectors perform at a higher level.” She says, “What you’ll hear today is the opportunities that broadband presents, secondly the major gaps preventing our realizing these opportunities, and then finally the working recommendations to address those gaps.”
To begin, the team lays out a vision for “high performance America.”  This includes:
  • Making government more effective, efficient, and transparent
  • Ensuring that investments are aligned and forward thinking
  • Creating the conditions for innovation and America’s competitive advantage in key strategic areas
She stresses that integrating broadband into the country’s priorities “can actually change things… Not just the way we do things, but the results we get. New solutions to previously intractable problems.” But, she says, we must act with urgency. “We don’t have that much time.”
We will now hear presentations from each area which falls under the umbrella of National Purposes. They will give context for how broadband impacts their field and provide some framework for their upcoming recommendations.
Health care
Mohit Kaushal begins with the transformative pairing of broadband and medical care. “[There is an] ever growing array of broadband enabled devices and applications that are improving the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare,” he says. Providing an anecdote, Dr. Kaushal explains that enabling e-care can result in great savings: $700 billion in potential net savings over the next fifteen to twenty-five years. Cost savings could be even greater in the future.
Healthcare recommendations framework:
  • Creating the incentives for broader health IT adoption and innovation
    Modernizing regulations to increase access to care and enable health IT adoption
  • Driving innovative applications and advanced analytics
  • Ensuring all providers have access to affordable broadband
Steve Midgely, head of the Education Team, presents a number of anecdotes that showcase the power of broadband in education. Broadband creates “more opportunities for students to learn independently, with teachers acting as their guides,” he says. Online learning is highly effective. New research has shown hybrid learning – combining online learning with in person support – can be significantly more effective than traditional instruction. One of Midgely’s slides reports that only 16% of public community college campuses have high speed broadband compared to 91% of research universities.
Education recommendations framework:
  • Upgrading E-rate
  • Supporting and promoting online learning
  • Unlocking the power of data to personalize learning and improve decision-making
Energy and the environment
A former energy investor, Nick Sinai leads a team best known around the commission for extolling the virtues of the smart grid for America. “Imagine if consumers and businesses could not only access their energy bill online but could adjust their lights, heating and cooling from their smartphones or a netbook,” he says, eliciting a sense of wonder in the room. He points to the extraordinary potential for new jobs in Internet-based companies that monitor, store and manage energy. “Making our homes, buildings, and vehicles smart will help us meet our national energy goals,” he says. An interesting stat from their slides – providing consumers energy information could reduce consumption by 5 – 15 % (a $60-$180 annual savings per home).
Energy and the environment recommendations framework:
  • Integrating broadband into the smart grid
  • Expanding consumer access to energy information
  • Seeking opportunities to lead in data center efficiency
  • Making transportation safer, smarter, and cleaner
Government Performance
In government, broadband facilitates transparency, efficiency, and clarity. A connected government enables enhanced access to services and streamlines online interactions between the citizen and their government.
Team lead Eugene Huang has a number of anecdotes that he cites. “One example of how universal broadband can increase performance in the filing of taxes. Individual paper tax returns cost eight times more to process than electronic returns [$2.87 per paper return, $0.35 per electronic return], but nearly 43% of returns are still filed by paper. If all Americans processed their taxes online, the government would save over $300 million over five years.”
Government performance recommendation framework:
  • Transforming government service delivery (through cloud computing, competitions for ideas, and greater use of social media)
  • Increasing the quantity and quality of civic engagement
  • Using government assets to improve broadband deployment
Public Safety
A familiar face, Admiral Barnett, is back. Barnett assisted in the initial Haiti update and appears with Jennifer Manner to represent public safety. “I can explain what broadband can do for public safety very briefly,” he says. First, we must protect against cyber threats; second, we can improve the methods and effectiveness of alerting people to danger and provide information for their safety; third, we can improve the effectiveness of people who need to ask for help, by alerting public safety; lastly, broadband can help first responders exchange critical, information rich data through a nationwide, interoperable wireless network. “We get one at bat and one swing,” he cautions. We need to get this right.
The microphone is ceded to Jennifer Manner to present the more substantive public safety recommendations.
Public safety recommendation framework:
  • Creating a nationwide interoperable broadband wireless public safety network
  • Transitioning to a next-generation 9-1-1 system
  • Developing a comprehensive next-generation alerting system
  • Enhancing security measures to safeguard networks and core infrastructure
Economic Opportunity
Broadband plays a crucial and pressing role in increasing economic opportunity nationwide. On behalf of the team, Elana Berkowitz explains the compelling case. “Americans use broadband to support a universe of online job search, job applications, job training that can be used anywhere at any time with lower cost and with increased effectiveness. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can use online tools, reach new markets, develop new business models… Broadband can enable regional communities to compete globally or farm communities trying to compete nationwide.”
Economic opportunity recommendation framework
  • Creating a robust national employment assistance platform
  • Promoting telework through federal policy
  • Expanding efforts to trains and equip SMEs with broadband applications
  • Utilizing broadband to enhance economic development tools and planning


Given the late afternoon start time the meeting has predictably run into the evening. Managing Director Erik Garr, wraps up expeditiously. “If we can do a lot of these things for the country it will make a material difference for how we find jobs, how we’re trained for jobs, how we’re educated, and how we care for each other when we’re sick,” he says. “This is important stuff. We look forward to taking this to final recommendations from working recommendations.”
Chairman Genachowski and the assembled commissioners agree that this was an “impressive and very important presentation.”
6:35pm EDT
After a brief presentation from Steve Waldman on Future of Media the Chairman adjourns the meeting. The Broadband Team retires to their secluded lair to continue writing. Interested onlookers, filled with national purpose, disperse into the night.

America’s 2020 Broadband Vision

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 82 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 the FCC Blog.]

Broadband Plan Countdown

February 17th, 2010 by Eric Garr - General Manager, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

In less than a month, the FCC will send the National Broadband Plan to Congress.  Earlier this week, Chairman Genachowski kicked off a countdown to that day by outlining some of the plan’s highlights.  Over the next 27 days, Chairman Genachowski, other Commissioners, and the broadband team members will continue to talk about how the plan is shaping up and the direction it’s heading.  Why start talking about it now? One reason is that the plan is so sweeping and so comprehensive that it makes sense to begin to familiarize the public with some of the concepts behind it. How are we thinking about the plan? What are some of the tools it will use to help make broadband universal and affordable? How can the plan make broadband an integral tool for addressing the nation’s priorities? We’ll keep you up to date on this blog, on twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube and on the web as we prepare to culminate our year-long dialogue on broadband with the release of a plan.


Tracking broadband data…

February 15th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

By Sharon Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau and Paul de Sa, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis

Something that's become increasingly clear as we've been drafting the National Broadband Plan is the need for good data on broadband:  Where is it available? From how many providers? At what speeds?  How many people subscribe?  How robust is the competition? 

We've tried to gather and analyze all the data we can get our hands on, which has made us increasingly aware of the shortcomings of the data historically collected by the Commission. As a result, the Plan will include recommendations on improving FCC data collection, analysis, and reporting going forward. Good data practices will help policymakers meet the Plan's goal of robust broadband access for everyone, as well as giving researchers and consumers more of the information they want.

This brings us to the FCC’s latest report on broadband service, known as the High-Speed Report.  The FCC has published this report twice annually for the past decade, based on data that carriers must submit using Form 477. Released on Friday, the report uses much better data now than in the past, reflecting improvements made by the Commission in 2008.  For example, the Commission now has data on the number of broadband subscribers at a census-tract level (in the past, we only collected state and national numbers). The data also includes a total of 72 different upload and download speed categories, as well as improved information about mobile and residential connections.  

However we recognize that the Form 477 data could still be improved.  To take one example, the current report does not provide sufficient information to assess competition.  The FCC collects its data with a promise of confidentiality for provider-specific data, which requires that the data be aggregated for reporting purposes.  Therefore today, in some of the maps in the Report, a provider is depicted as serving a census tract even if it has only a single customer there or serves only a small portion of a geographically large census tract.  Because of this aggregation, the reported counts of "number of providers" cannot be interpreted as the number of competitors among which consumers can choose their broadband service.  And even if they are available to the same customers, some of the offerings may not effectively compete – consumers may not view 768kbps DSL service as a close substitute for 6 Mbps cable modem service.

Furthermore, in some places in the report, high-speed connections are defined for historical reasons as 200 kbps - not really broadband by any current standard.  Although this threshold has been chosen to be consistent with past reporting practices, it makes some of the report's maps showing ubiquitous coverage overly optimistic.  

Finally, although we will be sharing as much data as we can with state regulators and mapping entities, as well as posting information online for researchers and the public, we recognize that the confidentiality requirements necessary for comprehensive data collection to some extent limit the analyses that third parties may be able to conduct. 

In short, last week’s improved report is a good start, but we look forward to helping the Commission implement the Plan’s recommendations regarding steps the FCC should take to collect, analyze, and disseminate the information necessary to ensure the nation is making progress toward our broadband goals.

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