Federal Communications Commission

Archive for September 2009


September 30th, 2009 by Matt Warner

Matt Warner OIAt the E-government Broadband Workshop, former Fort Wayne, Indiana Mayor Graham Richard showed how digital solutions can make city government more efficient and more accessible.  For instance, when the city was considering adding to its fleet of street sweepers, it first installed a wireless tracking device on existing sweepers to see if they were being used efficiently.  They weren't.  Using information from the wireless monitoring, the city was able to create routes that were much more efficient, saving the city the cost of purchasing another truck and the staff to run it.

A Public Notice (PN) we are releasing seeks more information about how government at all levels have used or could use broadband and digital solutions to provide more efficient and more transparent government.  As illustrated by the example from Fort Wayne, Indiana, we recognize that there are likely many useful ideas for more efficient and effective government.  We need to know about them generally (e.g., what are the primary needs that broadband and digital solutions can help address in federal, state, tribal and local government).  And we need to know about the specific programs that have been implemented by governments and where these initiatives have succeeded and failed.

The broadband and digital solutions implemented now are just the beginning.  This PN will hopefully help us make broadband and digital solutions more accessible to all levels of government.  After reading the Public Notice, you can file comments using the short comment form in our Electronic Comment Filing System.  Please title comments responsive to this Notice as "Comments - NBP Public Notice # 7.  Or you can use our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.  You can also comment on this blog post.  Your posts will be included in the record.

Live Blogging the Open Commission Meeting

September 29th, 2009 by George Krebs

[Today we are live blogging the September Open Commission Meeting. Related documents & information on the Commission Meeting can be found here.]

12:55PM EDT Each month the FCC holds an Open Commission Meeting to discuss the agenda facing the Commission. Today's meeting is special in that it will be devoted entirely to the Broadband Plan, given the momentous task before us. The Broadband Team will present their midterm review in a four hour presentation, featuring 20 presenters, and over 150 slides. In addition to live blogging here, we are also live streaming and live tweeting the meeting.

1:20PM EDT Chairman Genachowski introduces the grand scope of the meeting, acknowledges the less formal setting (Commissioners are sitting at a table in front of the grand bench from which they usually preside over the agenda),  and makes his requisite sports reference in introducing a staffer.

Erik Garr, Managing Director of the Broadband Taskforce, notes that "our ambition for today is large," in setting the stage for this afternoon's marathon review. Chairman Genachowski clarifies that "Everything that's coming in today,  online and otherwise, will be part of the full record." Genachowski introduces  Executive Director Blair Levin and the presentation begins.

1:48PM EDT This Omnibus Broadband Taskforce is focused on delivering broadband to those without access and achieving universality of broadband from sea to shining sea. This is unlike inquiries at other junctions which have focused on the more broad issues facing the internet use.

Peter Bowen, Applications Director, explains that applications similar to email  require little download speed. Once you move towards streaming television shows and downloading video files, the speed demands increase dramatically.

Chairman Genachowski, Commissioners McDowell and Copps have interjected to ask clarifying questions on speed and adoption.

1:59PM EDT Shawn Hoy, Applications Business Analyst, says that actual speed varies significantly from advertised speed. We should concentrate on actual speed, as it's a more useful metric to tell the story of broadband.  Applications designers will design applications that will require the maximum available broadband speeds. "The internet creates value to the extent that applications are adopted. Utility of the internet is in its usage. ...Internet use today will not look tomorrow as it looks today," says Hoy. The network that we design will have to be every bit as viable ten years from now.

2:12PM EDT The data available is not ideal for conducting the desired analysis, since the census question pertaining to internet availability did not address distribution across a given area of housing units. An interpretation  of the best data we have probably underestimates the number of unserved houses. However, when we we triangulate with other sources, we get significantly better data.

2:33PM EDT Rob Curtis looks at the total cost and total investment numbers. The incremental cost to universal availability varies significantly depending on the speeds required.  His chart shows ranges between $20 - 350 billion, depending on desired speeds and the number of housing units that need to be upgraded. Cost also "depends on the applications basket that needs to be supported," he says. "Those decisions will have a dramatic effect on the costs of universality."

2:46PM EDT Rob Curtis says that up to 3/4 of total fiber costs can be eliminated by finding out where the gas lines are and having the trench dug already. For example, if a trench for telephone lines has been dug already, it is fairly easy to simply lay down fiber next to that line.  "The cost to make broadband universally available depends on the type and amount of broadband required, and probably falls within the --narrow-- $20-350 billion range," he says.

2:57PM EDT The Taskforce visited several countries and met with their respective internet regulatory agencies to take lessons from countries that have implemented broadband plans. Anurag Lal, International Director says, "We're trying to leverage the learnings from international examples. We certainly don't want to reinvent the wheel, so we're trying to use these learnings as best as possible." Most recently, they visited South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. "[In Korea] they believe that broadband adoption leads to their national competitiveness" and strengthens their human resources. In Korea, both PC and broadband adoption have risen enormously, and they lead the ranking on a global basis.

3:11PM EDT There is a significant need for more spectrum, with band-width hungry devices exploding on the market. All the major telecom players have expressed a need to allocate more spectrum, but it will take years for new spectrum to reach the market. We use 17 petabytes a month now on our mobile devices and will likely use 397 petabytes a month in 2013 (a petabyte is equivalent to 20,000 Libaries of Congresses). "AT&T has seen their network usage increase 5000% in the last three years, which is an incredible number." He explains, "In the best case it takes 6-7 years to bring spectrum to market. So we have to look 10, 15 years down the road" when deciding on marketing spectrum.

3:15PM EDT The Broadband Taskforce has completed the first half of their presentation. We'll break for ten minutes now. Just enough time to digest the first two hours of material. Click here to see all 168 slides being used by the Task Force.

3:38PM EDT We're back. Chairman Genachowski announces Brian David's marriage last Saturday and presents him with a piece of spectrum -- non-exclusive use of the white space on channel 13 in Devil's Lake, South Dakota. The Chairman congratulates the newly weds and remarks that he appreciates their spending their honey moon at today's Commission Meeting. "Nothing is more romantic than Broadband," notes Blair Levin.

3:45PM EDT Adoption and Usage Director (and newly married) Brian David provides data that shows approximately two thirds of Americans have adopted broadband. Consequently, one third has not. He explains that adoption will naturally grow over time, but by writing specific suggestions into the Broadband plan, we can greatly increase this number.

3:57PM EDT Jon Horrigan provides a plethora of fascinating statistics surrounding internet use. Sixty-one percent of adults have searched for health care online, 71% of teens have cited the internet as their primary source for information in completing a school project, numerous Fortune 500 companies now require candidates to pursue jobs online. The cost of digital exclusion is large and growing. To tackle this issue, we're going to focus on "non-adopters" of broadband.

4:06PM EDT Jessica Strott, Consumer Adoption Analyst, discusses the issues of non-adopters who are inclined to use the technology but skill challenged. She emphasizes the importance of programmatic efforts. A video, "Tech Goes Home," will show two Boston women facing these challenges. Ironically, there is momentary difficulty loading the video and the decision is made to make the video available later.

4:16PM EDT Elise Kohn, Adoption Director, highlights the currently fragmented nature of adoption program efforts. While many different programs exist and many different groups are involved, Elise discusses five key program elements that emerged at a Commission workshop.  She also highlights the early signs of success that one training program has had.

4:21PM EDT Having completed the Adoption section, our last policy area is National Purposes. Kristen Kane, National Purposes Director, talks about "unlocking a lot of value" for each of these national purposes: health care, energy / environment, education, government operations, economic opportunity, and public safety.

4:32PM EDT Health care: The benefits of telemedicine are tremendous. The aim is "understanding the value of connectivity to health care and the gaps in telehealth to analyze the measures that need to be taken."

4:41PM EDT Energy: Nick Sinai begins by asking the audience to recall the "Blackout of the Northeast in 2003. It cost us between $6 - 10 billion and plunged 55 million people into darkness." What is the smart grid? There are many definitions, but most include a "two-way flow of electricity and information to create an automated, widely distributed energy delivery network." The smart grid will ensure that the kind of blackout that occurred in 2003 never occurs again. Deployment of smart meters are accelerating rapidly in the home. Smart meters will realize your family's preferences and will adjust to them as you use your appliances, while simultaneously saving you money.  The smart meter, heavily reliant on networks and spectrum, will facilitate great efficiencies across the country.

4:58PM EDT Education: Broadband can support education in a variety of ways, particularly through digital content and learning, teacher capacity, data, infrastructure and standards, and 21st century innovations. As with other populations, the cost of digital exclusion for students is growing. Eighty percent of parents say the internet helps children with their school work, 78% of students regularly use the internet for classroom assignments, 41% of students use email and messaging to contact teachers or classmates about school work. In the interest of ending on an up note, data shows that individualized instruction benefits students greatly and their grades reflect this. Online instruction mixed with classroom learning yields significantly improved results.

5:03PM EDT Government and Civic Engagement: There are notable efficiencies to maximize in government, says Eugene Huang. The IRS spends 8 times as much money processing paper tax returns as they do those submitted online.  Citizen engagement trial projects have created a number of successes from Maine to DC.

5:15PM EDT Disabilities: Broadband has the opportunity to open up a whole new world for people with disabilities. Several ideas are raised, including closed captioning videos on the web, making menus accessible, and broadening the availability of telework to allow those with disabilities to work from a place that is convenient.

5:41PM EDT Over the last few hours the Commissioners and the interested public were given an exhaustive overview of the work the Taskforce has completed thus far. They have produced some impressive results, and they're only halfway there. As well as today's meeting went, Blair Levin cautioned, "We recognize, we're really only graded by our final." The final plan is due to congress February 17, 2010.

They raced against the clock to finish the review before 5:30 and came up a few minutes short. The last few presenters breezed through their slides and gave brief overviews of their assigned area. If you missed a slide, or would like to revisit any of the information presented, we have posted all the materials here. We have 141 days left and no doubt the latter half will be as productive as this first stretch. In his concluding words, Chairman Genachowski told the presenters, "You raised the bar for yourselves and for what happens next."

Slide Show

September 29th, 2009 by Andrew Nesi - Special Assistant

Andrew Nesi BBI trust that people will respect the content of our Commission meeting update today, but if nothing else, they'll have to respect our pretty slides.

My name is Andrew Nesi, and I'm a recent graduate of Notre Dame and Special Assistant on the National Broadband team. I think I have the best entry-level job in Washington. Sometimes, my work is administrative-I'm now the world's leading expert on ordering Chinese food for 50, including Atkins-dieters, vegetarians, and a lovable Brazilian named Carlos. Other times, my work is more substantive; helping others work through their analysis for the plan.

This weekend, though, my job had a singular focus: the 150+ slides we'll be using during today's Commission meeting run through my computer, and those of a few other junior team members. With the exception of about four hours worth of way-too-nervewracking Notre Dame football on Saturday night, I've spent most of my waking hours over the last week with this presentation. It's like a young child--it's both my pride and joy, and the bane of my existence.

Now, I haven't been to many FCC Commission Meetings--they don't do so well in that coveted males, age 18-34 Nielsen demographic--but I've heard repeatedly that we're about to attempt something very different than the Commission has seen in recent memory.

The meeting will be four hours long. We'll have more than 20 presenters, with presentations ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. We'll cover each component of our current work-updating the Commissioners on the work we've been doing for the past few months.

We'll discuss the data we've collected--and the data we've tried to collect, but haven't. We'll provide our best evaluation, albeit incomplete, of the current state broadband deployment and adoption. And we'll report our preliminary insights into the potential implications of universal broadband on a wide variety of National Purposes. You can see the whole agenda here.

Excited yet? We are. We hope it will be unlike anything the Commission has ever seen. And not just because the slides are pretty.

Eugene Huang: 9/29 FCC Open Commission Meeting

September 28th, 2009 by Eugene Huang - Government Operations Director

Eugene Huang discusses the upcoming FCC Open Commission Meeting and the report being presented by the National Broadband Task Force.

Mid-Term Review

September 28th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Blair LevinIt's mid-term review time for the broadband team:  on Tuesday, with 141 days left to go before the deadline to deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress, we're providing the Commission with a major status report on the plan.

We still have a lot of work to do.  But with all of the data we've gathered in our workshops and hearings, in the record, and in our own research, we think we have a pretty good handle on the status of broadband in the U.S.  We'll be laying out some specifics of what we have found out about broadband speeds, spectrum and fiber resources, the increasing cost of digital exclusion, and the benefits to the economy and to individual citizens that broadband can provide.  We'll look at the adequacy of the tools available to promote robust, universal broadband -- tools such as universal service.  We'll be fielding questions about all of this and seeking guidance from the commissioners about whether we're on the right track in our examination as we proceed toward developing recommendations for the plan.  We also want the public to weigh on the facts and analysis we will present so we can make adjustments now, while we are still at a relatively early point in the process, rather than later, after decisions have been made.

We're eager to build upon the work we've done thus far and establish policy recommendations that can result in a high-performance America, fueled by broadband.  Join us in the Commission room Tuesday or online to help us take stock of where we are in our plan to reach that vision.

Is broadband a general purpose technology?

September 28th, 2009 by Scott Wallsten - Economics Director

Scott Wallsten BBTruly transformational innovations are few and far between.  Economists call them "general purpose technologies," or GPTs, and they can affect nearly every aspect of the economy and the way people live.

One of the leading scholars on GPTs, Professor Timothy Bresnahan, wrote in 1996 that

"GPTs are characterized by pervasiveness (they are used as inputs by many downstream sectors), inherent potential for technical improvements, and innovational complementarities', meaning that the productivity of R&D in downstream sectors increases as a consequence of innovation in the GPT.  Thus, as GPTs improve they spread throughout the economy, bringing about generalized productivity gains."

Scholars generally agree that the list in modern history includes electricity, the steam engine, and perhaps the semiconductor.

What about broadband? Some have argued that information technology in general is a GPT, in which case broadband might be just an important component of a GPT.

But perhaps a better analogy would be the story of the steam engine.  Professor Manuel Trajtenberg argued in a 2001 paper that it was not the steam engine, per se, that revolutionized manufacturing.  Instead, it was the Corliss design, "with its vast improvements both in fuel efficiency and in key performance characteristics…[that] greatly contributed to tipping the balance in favor of steam" and away from waterpower (p.3)

In this analogy, then, broadband would be to information technology as the Corliss was to the steam engine.  It is the technology that makes IT a breakaway success.

Why does any of this matter?  For at least two reasons.

First, a GPT may have very large effects throughout the economy, but those effects can be exceedingly difficult to measure.  Thus, in addition to measuring the direct value of broadband, we may need to develop mechanisms to understand and measure the effects in other markets.  Those effects might be big or small, but we should try to measure them, especially to the extent that they would not be captured in a straight measure of willingness to pay for broadband.

Second, adoption of GPTs makes us much better off as a society, but we have to recognize that some groups lose out.  For example, local merchants might be hurt as more of their customers shop online.  Some merchants will be able to adjust and profit in the broadband world, but some won't.

Thus, if broadband is a GPT then we should expect continued radical change in our economy and in the way we live. The transition won't be comfortable for everyone, but among our tasks as we develop the national broadband plan is to understand how broadband affects the economy and society and how the country can take advantage of the opportunities it presents and make the transformation a positive one for sectors like health care, education, and energy.


September 28th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Blair LevinWhen our Staff Workshops started, some critics immediately concluded that the nature of the participants demonstrated that the FCC just listens to communications industry giants. If we're going to be criticized now (which we undoubtedly will be) the numbers suggest we may be in danger of the critique that we haven't heard from enough industry giants.  So far, academics have comprised over 13 percent of all participants at the workshops, followed by consumer and public interest groups (9.3%).  The largest industry group was equipment makers, comprising a little over 8% of the participants, followed by alternative wireless services at nearly 6 %.

This past week, we had our first field hearings, with more coming.  They will certainly tip the scales again - toward the public.

Our goal for these workshops and hearings was to gather new data and fresh insights so we could break out of Beltway policy stalemates.  I think we are doing that.  But we recognize that all the workshops, field hearings and other efforts to gather input will only pay off if we can put together a coherent, comprehensive program to address the concerns Congress discussed in the authorizing legislation.  That is not easy, as it requires doing more on limited resources; always difficult math.  So while the numbers from our workshops suggest the way we are approaching things, the numbers that we really have to stay focused on are those about broadband deployment and adoption.

Participant Type

Number Represented

Percentage Represented






Consumer & Public Interest
















Alt wireless




Government - Federal




Government - Local




Think Tanks
















Government - State




























Government - International








Total Represented



*Other - Consists of multiple, publishing, other, retail, legal & health care categories

Cyber Security Workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

September 25th, 2009 by Rear Adm. (ret.) James A. Barnett Jr. - Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief, FCC

How much of your daily communications, as well as business, personal, entertainment and informational sources, depend on the Internet?  My best guess is that it is a primary way for you to obtain and share information. The use of the Internet by the public has grown exponentially in the past five years. And, with the growth of the Internet come new communications challenges and threats.  This potential threat is why you should attend and participate in our Cyber Security Workshop on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.   I will be one of the moderators and I hope you will be able to attend - either in person or via the web. The workshop panel is represented by a great combination of government, industry and education subject matter experts.  The panelists will explore with you how broadband technologies can help prevent and detect cyber attacks and expedite restoration of networks and services after an attack.  I encourage your input during the workshop - questions and comments can be submitted in-person or to the online coordinator for consideration during the workshop.   I look forward to seeing you there or hearing your questions and comments!

Spectrum Public Notice

September 25th, 2009 by Phil Bellaria - Director, Scenario Planning, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Phil Bellaria BBQuick follow-up to my previous post:

This week, we also released a Public Notice asking for comments on spectrum for wireless broadband.  Essentially, we'd love data, analysis, and focused comments in the following areas for mobile wireless broadband, fixed wireless broadband, and wireless backhaul:

  • How does the capacity of existing spectrum allocations compare to current and future expected demand for wireless broadband & backhaul services?
  • How should we calculate the relative value of different uses of spectrum?  (e.g., wireless broadband, broadcast TV, mobile and fixed satellite services, military, federal government, other industrial uses)?  How should we calculate the relative value of unlicensed vs. licensed spectrum?
  • Which other spectrum bands might be appropriate to repurpose for wireless broadband?
  • What mechanisms could facilitate the transition from incumbents to new users in these bands?
  • What other spectrum management practices should we consider to ensure spectrum is being used most productively?

The basic "who, what, where, when, why, how" questions about spectrum.  For more details, background and context, see the Public Notice.  You can respond directly to this blog or file comments through ECFS Express (or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file). Please title comments and reply comments responsive to this Notice as "Comments (or Reply Comments)-NBP Public Notice # 6."



Federal, State, Local, and Tribal Resources to Make Broadband Accessible and Affordable to People with Disabilities

September 25th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBWe have tentatively planned for a panel at our October 20 workshop to discuss funding and other resources at the federal, state, local, and tribal level that promote or could promote broadband accessibility and affordability for people with disabilities.

Please give us your feedback on workshop planning issues (e.g., how to structure this panel, suggested questions and speakers, and helpful background reading material) and policy issues.

  • What federal resources are available or could be available to fund broadband access and equipment for people with disabilities?
  • What are the potential sources for federal research funding that could promote broadband accessibility and affordability?
  • What resources are available to help better coordinate federal data collection relating to broadband usage by people with disabilities?
  • What lessons can we learn from programs that currently serve to promote broadband accessibility and affordability for people with disabilities?
  • What state, local and tribal resources are available to fund broadband access for people with disabilities?
  • What state equipment distribution programs provide equipment that can be used by people with disabilities to access broadband? Are there model programs that could be replicated elsewhere?
  • Are there potential state, local, and tribal resources that promote research or provide other support to promote broadband accessibility?
  • What other information, including information responsive to the more specific questions in the Public Notice do you think would help us better understand the federal, state, local, and tribal resources available to make broadband accessible and affordable to people with disabilities?

Please file your comments using our Electronic Filing Comment System, using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.

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