Federal Communications Commission

Archive for May 2010

Ongoing Workshops, Field Events, and Facilitated Dialogues

May 27th, 2010 by Gregory Hlibok

This is the fourth and final (at least for now!) in a series of blog posts seeking public input on the establishment of an Accessibility and Innovation Forum ("A&I Forum" or "Forum").  The first post sought input on clearinghouses and the second one sought input on the Chairman's Award. The third one sought input on a new accessibility blog.

The Accessibility and Innovation Forum will have ongoing workshops and field events.  In this post, we seek your input on what kinds of workshops, field events, and facilitated dialogues would best promote innovative accessibility solutions.  We seek your comment on how often the Commission should sponsor these events.  Should the Commission co-host the workshops and field hearings with other public and private entities, and if so, which ones?

To what extent should the workshops and field events focus on "big picture" technology issues?  For example, should we sponsor a session on the potential of cloud computing and other emerging platforms to address accessibility barriers and promote accessible technologies? 

To what extent should workshops and field events focus on best practices in the public and private sector or in academia? Which best practices should we highlight? Should our field events take place in centers of innovation? Could these events be an opportunity to engage innovators with diverse backgrounds and training in accessibility problem-solving?

To what extent should our workshops and field events focus on key issues discussed in the National Broadband Plan, including digital literacy for people with disabilities, telemedicine, distance learning, employment, civic participation, and public safety? 

To what extent should our workshops be used to support and build upon our rulemaking efforts?  For example, should we have sessions on the captioning of internet programming or on a standard for the use of real time text anytime VoIP is supported?  Should the Forum sponsor a series of facilitated dialogues to work through key issues?

We welcome any suggestions or models that you may recommend. You can respond directly to this post, file a comment in docket CG10-100, or e-mail comments and suggestions to AND  We would appreciate feedback as soon as possible but ask that you file any comments no later than Thursday, June 10. 

You can also sign up to receive periodic e-mails about the Forum's activities and other Commission accessibility issues by sending an e-mail to  We look forward to hearing from you!

A Billion Broadband Speed Test Records Made Public

May 26th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

Over a billion broadband speed test records from across the world have been made publicly available this week by two of the largest broadband measurement platforms: Measurement Lab (M-Lab) and Ookla, Inc. (of

M-Lab released their entire data set via Google's BigQuery, which allows academics, researchers and others to access and run queries against the entire 60TB dataset.  Read more about it here.  M-Lab had previously made their dataset available via another service, but the BigQuery partnership enables real-time analysis without having to download the entire 60TB dataset.

Ookla also announced they will make their data set of over 1.5 billion speed test records available over the internet, and launched a website that ranks countries and regions based upon broadband speed using this data.

The FCC’s Fixed and Mobile Consumer Broadband Tests allow users to test their internet connection and add their anonymous speed tests results to the M-Lab and Ookla databases.

We applaud these efforts as making more broadband data available serves the public interest.  As Ookla states on their website: “This valuable information can be used to shape broadband policy, help carriers and ISPs make informed business decisions, and even allow individuals to compare and contrast their results with those near them or others around the world.”

Benefits of Broadband in a Digital Society

May 26th, 2010 by Elise Kohn

Why should people care about broadband? Quite simply, the world is undergoing a digital transformation—of the way we learn, get jobs, interact with our government, interact with each other, take care of our health and keep our communities safe.

There are benefits to broadband use and there are consequences for individuals that are left offline. Economists disagree about the size (in dollars) of potential benefits, but broadband access and use has some obvious advantages:

1.    Finding a job: In August of this year, there were 2.2 million job postings across top online job sites. According to a recent iLogos study, 94% of Fortune 500 companies—including Wal-Mart and McDonalds—hire employees online.
2.    Health care: By 2020, this country is expected to have a shortage of 49,000 to 185,000 physicians and vast swaths of this country already face a shortage of specialists. Broadband-enabled video medical consultation can provide critical care to people in need.
3.    Education: Salem-Keizer School District in Oregon re-enrolls more than 50% of dropouts and at-risk students through its online Bridge Program annually. Students who cannot be in school for health, child care, work or other reasons, can continue to learn online.

Further, as a society, we will all bear the costs of 100 million Americans left offline. Broadband adoption—and use—can remove barriers to equal opportunity. We all benefit from potential increases in productivity and fuller employment, more efficient government services enabled through online transactions, and a better-educated citizenry.

The National Broadband Plan sets forth recommendations to help this country achieve universal broadband access, adoption and use. The Plan suggests measures to improve the economics of deploying and upgrading broadband networks, considers specific programs to pull people online, and makes recommendations that will help transform sectors vital to our national purposes. We cannot precisely predict our digital future, but we know it leads to more.

Expanding our Blog Coverage to Promote Accessibility

May 24th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

This is the third in a series of blog posts seeking public input on the establishment of an Accessibility and Innovation Forum ("A&I Forum" or "Forum").  The first post sought input on clearinghouses and the second one sought input on the Chairman's Award.

This post seeks input on expanding our blog coverage to promote accessibility. Beginning in July, we plan to expand our blog coverage to highlight best practices, accessibility announcements, and ongoing efforts in industry; standards groups; international fora; government; academia; the disability community; and in other fora and venues.  We tentatively think that we should solicit "guest bloggers" from outside the FCC to blog about these efforts. 

We would like to have posts which announce accessibility breakthroughs, such as the introduction of innovative new products, the finalization of new standards, or the establishment of new practices in the private or public sectors which promote accessibility. We would like to learn about models of accessibility at the international, federal, tribal, state, and local levels.  We also would like to learn about progress in ongoing public-private collaborative partnerships and efforts in the disability community and by students and academics.

What current efforts or upcoming announcements or events do you think our blog should highlight? Should we set up a mechanism which would allow individuals or entities from outside the FCC to sign up to do "guest" blog posts? We seek your input on what guidelines we should have for these posts.  We also seek your comment on other new media tools that we should consider using or expanding to promote accessibility.

We welcome any suggestions or models that you may recommend. You can respond directly to this post, file a comment in docket CG10-100, or e-mail comments and suggestions to AND  We would appreciate feedback as soon as possible but ask that you file any comments no later than Thursday, June 10. 

You can also sign up to receive periodic e-mails about the Forum's activities and other Commission accessibility issues by sending an e-mail to  We look forward to hearing from you!

Telephone Poles

May 21st, 2010 by Marcus Maher

Whoops.  The title of this blog post is wrong. It should be “utility poles,” which points to one of the many ironies in the hidden life of the ubiquitous utility pole.  Most of what are commonly known as telephone poles are actually owned by the electric utility –70% of them, in fact.  But whether a telephone company or other utility owns the poles, every other kind of company that hangs anything on these poles pays the utility company for the privilege, and under current federal rules a cable company and a telephone company pay different rates for attaching their lines to a pole.  But now that broadband and IP communications are merging voice, data and video, charging different rates for different types of communications services seems to make less and less sense.

Make no mistake about it: the humble telephone, er, utility pole, is hot real estate.  Companies pay, on average, anywhere between $7 per foot and $20 per foot for a pole attachment.  Multiplied by hundreds of thousand of poles, that can have an impact on whether services are delivered to a community or not.  Utility poles are essential infrastructure, and infrastructure costs can affect the price or availability of service, the National Broadband Plan found.  In rural areas, where there may be more poles per mile than people, the cost of pole attachments could deter broadband deployment.  Or in other instances, a cable company planning to bundle voice, data and video in the coaxial cable might be deterred if the voice service would subject the company to a higher pole attachment rate.

Also, it can take new companies many months or even years to get their facilities on the poles.  Adding a new attacher often means that existing attachers must all move their wires, which they have little incentive to do quickly.  Frustrated attachers may be tempted to take matters into their own hands and put up their wires in secret, which can be unsafe as well as unfair to the pole owner.  Access can become even more complicated when wireless carriers want to put their antennas on pole tops to fill in cellular coverage.  

So following up on the National Broadband Plan, the Commission is taking a look at ways to reduce costs and speed access to poles in an Order and FNPRM released in yesterday's Open Commission Meeting.  The item will also look at whether rates can be made as low and as close to uniform as possible.  So next time you walk down the street, don’t take that humble stick of creosoted dead tree for granted.  It’s as important a part of delivering you 21st century communications as that slick iPad is – though maybe not as pretty to look at.

Connecting America's Stories: Smart Grid Innovation

May 20th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

A lot of analogies have been made between electricity and broadband as resources that should be accessible by all Americans.  But one of the things that is so exciting about the National Broadband Plan, is that it shows how we can use broadband to modernize that very electrical network – creating a Smart Grid.  Add to that clean energy technology innovations – all connected by broadband and other advanced communications – and the plan will help Americans live greener, cheaper and more efficiently.

Nick Sinai led the team that put together the Energy and Environment section of the plan.

The Department of Energy released a very interesting study showing just how important the Smart Grid is.  In fact, it showed that we could reduce the carbon emissions from the electricity sector by up to 12 percent directly, and 17 percent indirectly, with greater use of Smart Grid communications technologies.

That would be like taking 65 million cars off the road.

Right now, due to a lack of communications technology, energy providers often don’t know a neighborhood has lost power until their customers call them.  Smart Grid technology would add greater intelligence to the infrastructure that is already in place to make our system more reliable, responsive and efficient.

In this video, Nick talks about the potential that broadband communications technology holds for America’s energy future.

If we automate the grid better, we can deliver energy more efficiently and reduce the amount of coal and natural gas that we have to burn that create carbon emissions.

And then the more that we get consumers involved in understanding their energy use, and seeing prices that reflect the cost of providing that power, the more they will shift their usage, or make smarter energy decisions.

Knowledge can truly mean more power.  Giving consumers information about how they are using energy is one of the most exciting innovations in the proposal.  Nick talks about how simple changes could change the way we look at our electric bill.

It’s pretty opaque to the customer.  They don’t know what’s the most efficient, and how much energy they’re really using for an appliance or a flat screen TV.  They just get a bill at the end of the month and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to them.

New technologies, like thermostats that you can adjust from your smart phone, or refrigerators that only make ice at night, will take energy efficiency to another level.  A future powered by smarter grids, homes, and vehicles could change much of the way we live our lives, and could potentially help Americans save on their utility bills. 

Please share your stories of how broadband communications are helping your family conserve energy and save money.  Stay tuned for more in the Connecting America’s Stories blog series, where we will continue connect you with the people who wrote the National Broadband Plan and discuss how it will affect your life.


The Chairman’s Award and An Online Problem-Solving Commons

May 20th, 2010 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

This is the second in a series of posts seeking public input on the new Accessibility and Innovation Forum (“A&I Forum” or “Forum”) that we will be launching in July. The first post sought public comment on a clearinghouse and can be found here.

One recommendation in the National Broadband Plan is to establish a Chairman’s Award for Accessibility and Innovation to recognize innovations “that have made the greatest contribution to advancing broadband accessibility.” We seek your input on the best way to structure such an award.
One possibility is to set up the award so that the first part of the awards cycle is focused on identifying and prioritizing problems to be solved. For this part of the cycle (perhaps with a deadline of December 1, 2010), the Commission would solicit submissions from people with disabilities, students (including those work in legal clinics and technology programs, as well as college and high school students), grassroots advocates, researchers, and others to identify barriers to technology faced by people with disabilities. We would encourage presentations through on-line videos, blog posts, or other means and would be particularly interested in presentations that would help educate and inspire those who have not been widely exposed to accessibility issues. We would expect such presentations to highlight technology barriers faced by people with disabilities and applications needed to make technology more usable or relevant. 
For the second part of the cycle (perhaps starting in January 2011), we would recognize and post the most compelling submissions from the first part of the cycle and challenge industry, academia, developers, researchers, students, and others to address these problems. 
We seek comment on the best way to promote the widespread participation of problem identifiers and problem solvers. In particular, we seek ideas on how to reach out to potential participants who have not taken part in Commission activities previously. Should we have eligibility requirements for the problem identifiers and/or the problem solvers?
We would like to use the mechanisms that we establish to implement the Chairman’s awards to build an online “problem-solving commons” in which problems are presented and solved on an ongoing basis, apart from the award cycle. We seek input on how this can be done and what the time frame for doing so should be. 
Should we consider using the Chairman’s Award as a one-time award to spur the development of an ongoing online problem-solving commons? Would it be more effective to have an annual award or awards? Should we commit to making an award or awards in July 2011 or should we determine the length of the “problem solving” cycle after we determine the nature of the challenge or challenges that we will present?
 What sort of recognition would encourage participation in the awards process and in the problem-solving commons on an ongoing basis?    To the extent that we are able to do so without raising legal concerns, should we partner with foundations or private industry to award monetary prizes? How much would a monetary award spur participation by both the problem identifiers and the problem solvers? If a monetary prize is part of the award, what should the amount be?
In the alternative, should the Commission seek nominations from outside parties to recognize private and/or public sector innovations that have made a significant contribution to advancing access to broadband or other technologies for people with disabilities? If so, what should be the eligible time frame for the innovation? What should the criteria be for such an award? What entities or individuals would be eligible to win? Should an accessibility advancement related to any mainstream or assistive technology be eligible for the Chairman’s Award? How should we structure the nomination process? How should the winner be selected? Should the Commission partner with other public or private entities to choose the winner? In the event that the Commission uses a nomination process, should it partner with foundations, companies, or other entities to establish a cash award for the winner? If so, what should the amount be?
We welcome any suggestions or models that you may recommend. You can respond directly to this post, file a comment in docket CG10-100, or e-mail comments and suggestions to AND We would appreciate feedback as soon as possible but ask that you file any comments no later than Thursday, June 10
You can also sign up to receive periodic e-mails about the Forum’s activities and other Commission accessibility issues by sending an e-mail to We look forward to hearing from you!

A View from the Clean Technology Showcase

May 19th, 2010 by Jenny Hou

Yesterday we hosted our first ever Clean Technology Showcase. More than twenty companies, from Microsoft to General Electric to Tendril, exhibited their clean energy solutions for the future. These applications will harness the smart grid, empowering consumers to save money and energy by using cutting edge tools and appliances. Speakers at the event included Chairman Genachowski, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. If you were unable to join us at the showcase, watch our video below to see some highlights.


[Note: The display of any companies in the above video does not imply an FCC endorsement.]

Broadband and a Clean Energy Economy

May 19th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

I was pleased to host the FCC’s first Clean Technology Summit at our headquarters yesterday, with the much-appreciated assistance of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.

I believe their visits were unprecedented – the first time that a FERC Chairman or Energy Secretary had ever stepped foot in the FCC building.  Our promising new collaborative efforts reflect the critical role that communications networks will play in the transition to a clean-energy economy – evidence that we collected and analyzed in our National Broadband Plan and submitted to Congress and the President last month.

Broadband will play a major role in realizing a sustainable environmental future.  Yesterday, we were able to witness first-hand the enormous potential that advanced communications unleash.  Secretary Chu, Chairman Wellinghoff and I observed broadband-based technologies that will help build a smarter grid, smarter homes and buildings, and help empower consumers to make smarter and greener decisions with their energy consumption. A recent DOE study found that that Smart Grid can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by as much as 12% by 2030, the equivalent of removing 65 million cars off of roads today.  When consumers are empowered to interact with their own energy data, studies have found reductions in consumption as high as 15% - annual savings opportunities in hundreds of dollars for households across America. Though it often feels like the technology and possibility of tomorrow, yesterday’s summit showed that tomorrow is arriving right now.

The private sector will unleash green-tech innovation upon the country if we achieve more ubiquitous broadband deployment and empower consumers with their energy data. I applaud the Obama Administration and leaders in Congress for their commitment to the importance of the National Broadband Plan recommendations and know that together, we can build a 21st Century broadband economy.

FCC Grants in Part, Denies in Part NARUC Petition on State Broadband Data Collection

May 18th, 2010 by Steve Klitzman

I joined IGA as a Special Counsel in July 2009 after working as an Attorney, FCC Office of General Counsel, Associate Director,  Office of Legislative Affairs, Chief Counsel and Staff Director, Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, and Staff Attorney, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure. Since 1985, I’ve also been an Adjunct Professor, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, teaching media law and First Amendment law.

In an action that should be of interest to followers of state broadband deployment and mapping initiatives, the FCC on April 26, 2010, granted in part and denied in part a Petition for Declaratory Ruling filed by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). The petition concerned state authority to collect data from broadband infrastructure and service providers.

 The Commission clarified, as NARUC requested in its petition, that the FCC “has not preempted or otherwise precluded the States from mandating that broadband providers file data or other information regarding broadband infrastructure or services within the States.”  Citing the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA), the FCC Order on the NARUC petition notes that “Congress recognized in the BDIA that State broadband data gathering can be ‘complementary’ to federal efforts.”

 The Commission, however, declined to rule on the question of whether or not the States have or should have the authority to collect broadband-related data.

 Click here for more information on the NARUC petition.

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