Federal Communications Commission

Archive for March 2010

Promoting Wireless Investment and Innovation

March 29th, 2010 by Paul deSa

Last week the FCC's International Bureau approved a license transfer application, originally filed in March 2009, involving Harbinger Capital Partners and SkyTerra Communications.

This approval sets the stage for billions of dollars of investment -- and corresponding job creation -- to construct and operate a new, national, broadband network integrating satellite and ground-based facilities. Consistent with the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, we hope that Harbinger's investment will increase the spectrum used for broadband, enhance wireless competition, and spur innovation and entrepreneurship in the broadband ecosystem -- particularly as the proposed network will be both open and offer wholesale 4G services.

Although the specifics of their business model are obviously highly confidential due to their competitive sensitivity, we were gratified that Harbinger volunteered commitments that were both consistent with their plans and assured the FCC that the promised public interest benefits of the transaction would indeed materialize. These commitments -- building out the network to 260 million Americans by 2015 and allowing the FCC prior review of potential leases of spectrum or capacity to the two largest incumbent carriers -- do not prohibit any specific transactions. But they do provide some reassurance that the approval will ignite new broadband competition while protecting the public from any potential harms.

Harbinger’s commitments are, of course, specific to this transaction involving mobile satellite service spectrum and do not affect any of our other spectrum policies (any changes to the Commission's general spectrum policies would involve a notice and comment rulemaking process).

Broadband in Libraries: Reducing Barriers to Access; Providing Access to Jobs

March 26th, 2010 by John Horrigan - Consumer Research Director, Ombnibus Broadband Initiative.

Today’s news has several nuggets on the importance of libraries in the broadband access ecosystem. The University of Washington released a study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that found that 77 million people – or one-third of Americans over the age of 14 – have used public library computer or wireless network to go online at some point. Some 40% of library computer users sought help with career needs and 37% looked for information about health issues.

Another news item underscored the importance of Internet access at libraries in the current economic climate. The Baltimore Sun has a story on proposed budget cuts for the City of Baltimore since, like many cities around the country, the recession is forcing Baltimore to tighten its belt. However, the city’s libraries are “largely untouched” from proposed cutbacks because library use has increased by 20% in the past year. Much of this increase is attributed to unemployed people using library to look for and apply for jobs. As FCC research shows, 60% of broadband users have gone online to apply or look for a job – and 73% of those not currently employed have done this.

All of this is very consistent with research the FCC commissioned from the Social Science Research Council to better understand adoption barriers among low-income Americans. A key finding of that research is that library resources have come under stress during the recession as people come there to apply for jobs or carry out other important tasks.

The National Broadband Plan recognizes the important role libraries play in access. The Plan recommends that Congress consider providing additional funds to the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences to improve connectivity, enhance hardware, and train personnel of libraries and other community based organizations. Libraries serve not only as a crucial resource for access, but they also provide an environment where new broadband users can acquire the skills to take advantage of the range of online resources.

FCC Discusses National Broadband Plan in First-Ever Online Global Policy Meeting

March 26th, 2010 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau

 As Chief of the FCC’s International Bureau, I know how important it is for policymakers worldwide to stay in touch so we can share our diverse experiences and learn of new, innovative ideas.

That’s why I was so pleased that today, the FCC hosted the first-ever online global policy meeting with over 140 international participants from telecommunications agencies, ministries, and organizations around the world, representing over 25 countries. It is especially fitting that our first online global meeting was to discuss the National Broadband Plan.

Chairman Genachowski said it best today when he introduced today’s conference, and I quote:
 “At the FCC, we are committed to greater international engagement and cooperation in our interconnected world. Together, we can work to ensure that communications and information technology advances our collective goals of peace and prosperity. Broadband is indispensable infrastructure for the 21st century and the foundation for economic growth and democracy in the digital age. It provides a platform for opportunity -- for innovation -- and for solutions.”
Chairman Genachowski highlighted some of the plan’s guiding principles:
·        Processes should be open, participatory, fact-based, and analytically rigorous.
·        Private investment has an essential role in extending broadband networks across the  nation.
·        Vibrant competition is profoundly important in bringing consumers the best services at the best prices, and in spurring world-leading innovation and ongoing investment.
·        It is necessary to tackle the vital challenge of inclusion and to promote universal digital literacy, so that everyone, everywhere can enjoy the benefits of a broadband internet that is open, safe, and trusted.
·        It is necessary to reorient 20th century policies toward the 21st century.
·        Government has a crucial, but restrained, role to play, focusing with laser-like precision on efficient and effective solutions.


Blair Levin, executive director of the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative, and members of the broadband team discussed the key goals of the plan:  to increase innovation and investment; provide more spectrum for increasingly popular mobile wireless services; ensure broadband availability everywhere so that all are included in the broadband era; put broadband to work to improve education, healthcare and public safety, and more.  They also discussed how the plan will be implemented to meet these goals.

Today’s interactive on-line video conferencing platform allowed participants to see the streaming video presentation from the FCC, ask the host questions online, converse with each other and with the host, and view documents used during the presentation. Participants only needed an Internet connection and a computer to join the online conference. Representatives from around the world asked a range of questions focusing on Internet speed, standards, accessibility of broadband, and spectrum issues.   

In the International Bureau, we view the release of the National Broadband Plan as a beginning. It is the beginning of an exchange of ideas with people around the world -- so we not only learn, but can avoid past experiences that may not have worked, and take advantage of those that did, for the benefit of others. This international dialogue on ways to encourage broadband deployment and adoption will continue. We at the FCC very much look forward to it.
A recording of today’s on-line meeting is available at You may read the National Broadband Plan at; and learn more about it at

Chairman Genachowski Sits Down for an Interview with CNET

March 24th, 2010 by George Krebs

“We need to focus on multiple strategies,” Chairman Genachowski told CNET’s Molly Wood, explaining the approach of the National Broadband Plan in an interview this week. The chairman expounded on the various routes the plan recommends to achieve greater affordability, higher speed broadband service, and to keep pace with other advanced nations. (Click on the image below to watch the video)

Both the chairman and Ms. Wood agreed that competition crucial. One of the ways we can foster competition is through greater consumer knowledge, Chairman Genachowski noted:
We can make sure consumers have the information they need to make the market work. And so an important initiative of the plan is a consumer transparency initiative where consumers will have access to much better information about the speeds that they’re getting, the nature of the services that they’re getting. Right now we hear endless reports about consumer confusion over broadband.
The interview also touched upon the foresight of The Plan in freeing mobile spectrum that will be in great demand a few short years from now. “Mobile broadband has extraordinary opportunity for our country. A smart phone uses almost thirty times the capacity of an old phone,” the chairman said. Our projections show that our mobile spectrum needs will grow thirty fold in a few short years. We need to release spectrum and “we have to tackle it now.”
Ultimately Chairman Genachowski strongly asserted that much of our society now relies on the Internet as its foundation. We need to regain our footing as the global pace setter. “We need to be the world’s leader in innovation in the twenty-first century,” he said. “We’re not going to be that if we stand still…We’re going to be at risk with our global leadership if our broadband infrastructure isn’t first class.”
What will The Broadband Plan mean for you? In the end Ms. Wood asks, What can the FCC, the White House and Congress do? Participate in the discussion either in her post or in our comments below.

A Plan of Firsts

March 23rd, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Omnibus Broadband Initiative Executive Director Blair Levin gave a speech entitled “A Plan of Firsts” as part of a panel convened by the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy at the National Press Club to discuss early reactions to the National Broadband Plan.

Ours is a plan of firsts.

Our Plan marks the first time the federal government did an in-depth survey of non-adopters of broadband, to understand what influences that choice, a prerequisite to increasing adoption rates.

Our Plan marks the first time the federal government did a cost model to determine the net present value private investment gap for communities not served by broadband, a pre-requisite for moving universal service to support broadband.

[Read the full speech here.]

Is there an app for that?

March 19th, 2010 by Elana Berkowitz - Director, Economic Opportunity - Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Recent years have seen an explosion in content creation for handheld and desktop devices. Both at home and abroad, we have seen significant innovation in applications having social impact ranging from text message donations for Haiti  to online civic engagement tools to mobile medical data collection.

But there is still much room to innovate when it comes to social-purpose apps. That’s why the FCC and the Knight Foundation are partnering to sponsor an “Apps for Inclusion” competition to develop apps specifically supporting people at the edge of the digital divide – i.e., those who traditionally have lower adoption rates and are often geographically and economically isolated.

With $100,000 in prize money from the Knight Foundation, “Apps for Inclusion” encourages technology innovators and tinkerers to collaborate with local organizations and individuals currently underserved by the digital revolution to rethink government and community services and create tools making it easier for citizens to receive those services through mobile and online applications.

We want to leverage your talent and the ideas of Americans across the country to foster the creation of a new suite of social-purpose apps manifesting the core goals of the National Broadband Plan - the utilization of technology to improve Americans access to health, education, public safety, key government services and more.

All entries will be public and will be seen by a judging panel of experts as well as policy makers and citizens from across the country. Winners will be named in several categories, including “people’s choice awards.”

The competition is set to launch soon. Sign up now to learn official contest details as they are released.  

Sunshine Week (And not just with the weather)

March 19th, 2010 by Vishal Doshi - Government Performance Analyst, National Broadband Task Force

[By Vishal Doshi and Kevin Bennett]
It’s Sunshine Week and we’re not just talking about the beautiful weather in Washington, DC (70 degrees and sunny).
Sunshine Week, which is wrapping up, is an initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government. We should point out that not only did we release the National Broadband Plan during Sunshine Week, we released it a day ahead of schedule, on James Madison’s Birthday, which is also National Freedom of Information Day. Coincidence? I think not.
In that spirit, we’d like to highlight a few of the National Broadband Plan’s recommendations that promote the creation of a more open and transparent government. These recommendations all come from the Civic Engagement Chapter (Chapter 15). I hope that they feel as good as the 70 degree weather, also brought to you by the broadband team at the FCC.
The primary legal documents of the federal government should be free and accessible to the public on digital platforms.  For Executive Branch agencies, this means publishing all executive orders and other public documents on the Internet and in easily accessible, machine-readable format. The Executive Branch has taken important steps towards this goal with State and local governments are already taking steps to implement their own versions of But more can be done. Even contains only a small amount of the government’s data. For the Legislative Branch, this means that Congress should publish all votes, as well as proposed and enacted legislation, in a timely manner, online and in a machine-readable and otherwise accessible format. Finally, all federal judicial decisions should be accessible for free and made publicly available to the people of the United States.
The federal government should create and fund to publish its digital video archival materials and facilitate the creation of a federated national digital archive to house public interest digital content. The federal government, as well as public and commercial media, sits on a treasure in the form of hours of video content from government video footage to decades of nightly news broadcasts. The federal government can play a critical role in unlocking this tremendous content for the American people. would be a great start. By releasing much of its video content into a national digital archive, the government can create an important tool for students, teachers, parents and all citizens. C-SPAN just announced that it would be putting its video library, covering more than 23 years of history and American life, providing more than 160,000 hours of footage online for free. (See it here.) We applaud this important step and hope that this is the first of many important steps towards providing public interest video content online for the American people.
All responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by Executive Branch and independent agencies should be made available online at www.[agency].gov/foiaFOIA is one of the single most important government transparency tools that exists, and it can be expanded to increase transparency even more over the Web.
The Executive Branch should establish as a mechanism that allows citizens to request their personal data held by government agencies. The federal government holds data related to many citizens and the Privacy Act contains provisions for giving these individuals access to their personal data. The federal government should enable citizens to access to this data online thought
For more about the sunshine recommendations, check out Chapter 15 of the National Broadband Plan. Thank you, and enjoy the sunshine.

Free Data

March 18th, 2010 by John Horrigan - Consumer Research Director, Ombnibus Broadband Initiative.

Today, the FCC is releasing the raw data files that were the basis for “Broadband Adoption and Use in America” working paper. The Broadband Data Improvement Act directed the Commission to “conduct and make public periodic surveys of consumers” as part of the FCC’s efforts to understand who uses broadband, who does not, and, if not, why people do not subscribe. We released the results of the survey on February 23rd, and today we make available to the public the underlying data for the survey. The data (downloadable here) comes in several files:

  1. Raw data: Delivered in SPSS format, which is a popular program for statistical analysis of data. It is a format most other popular statistical programs can read.
  2. Codebook: This file explains in great detail the structure of the SPSS file, and will be of interest mainly to those wishing to do their own analysis of the data.
  3. Cross-tabulations: These files show how different categories of respondents (e.g., those in certain age cohorts, or those with different educational levels) answered survey questions.

If you’d like to see the “topline” survey results, they are already online here.

The FCC has a commitment to transparency in conducting the analysis that helps shape the National Broadband Plan. We hope interested members of the public benefit from having access to the data, and the ability to ask questions of the data that the FCC working paper did not pursue. Enjoy!

Former 9/11 Commission Chair Declares Support for Broadband Plan's Public Safety Recommendations

March 18th, 2010 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

Statement of Former 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas H. Kean and Former 9/11 Commission Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton
on the Federal Communication Commission's Approach to
Interoperable Communications Capabilities for Public Safety
The 9/11 Commission on which we served concluded that the absence of interoperable communications capabilities among public safety organizations at the local, state, and federal levels was a problem of the highest order.  Unfortunately, we have made little progress in solving this problem until now.  As our former colleagues Jamie Gorelick and Slade Gorton recently stated, the Federal Communications Commission's proposed plan offers a clear roadmap for finally reaching that goal.  It will provide public safety users throughout the country with access to wireless broadband capabilities that will enable them to communicate effectively across departments and jurisdictions, while encouraging public safety to partner with commercial providers and leverage the investments they already have made.  It also calls for the public funding that is needed to help build, operate, and maintain the public safety network.  The FCC's plan offers a realistic framework to move forward, and we hope that all stakeholders will work with the Commission to refine the plan as needed and make it a reality. 

Your Questions (and Answers) about the National Broadband Plan

March 17th, 2010 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

Immediately following the release of the National Broadband Plan, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski sat down for a YouTube Interview to answer questions from the American people about the future of the Internet.

The interview was lead by Steve Grove, Director of News & Politics at YouTube, and was the second interview of its kind following the session with President Obama last month.

The questions were interesting and insightful, and drove discussion to the core issues facing the future of the Internet in America.

Thanks to all of you who submitted questions, and I encourage everyone to watch the important conversation below. 


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