Federal Communications Commission

Archive for September 2010

Rural Counties and Universal Service Reform

September 29th, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered these remarks to county commissioners and staff from rural California counties last week in Napa, CA.

Like each of you, I understand that the health of America as a nation is inextricably dependent on the health of rural America. My hometown was an agricultural, railroad town in the rural plains of Arkansas, where farmers made their living raising cotton, rice, and soybeans. Just as my hometown farmers realized in the 1920s and 1930s that electricity was essential for them to compete, Americans today realize that broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity to participate in the modern economy.
This recognition – that broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century – led Congress to mandate that the FCC put together our country’s first-ever National Broadband Plan. And I am pleased to share with you some of what we learned in putting together the Plan.
When drafting the plan, we identified several gaps in broadband. Specifically, 14-24 million Americans do not have broadband available to them, even if they wanted to subscribe to it. Despite rising mobile and wireless broadband usage through iPads, e-books, smart energy meters, and telemedicine, we have only 50 MHz of spectrum in the pipeline. One-third of Americans do not subscribe to broadband, even if it is available to them, because of cost, digital literacy, and their knowledge of its relevance.

Communications Technology and Health Care

September 28th, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Phoebe Yang, Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband, gave this speech about the intersection between communications technology and health care at a conference sponsored by the American Telemedicine Association on Monday, Sept. 27.

Over a century ago, Alexander Graham Bell met with the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, to demonstrate a new invention: the telephone. After Bell finished his demonstration, the President turned to him and said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”

As it turned out, the answer to the President’s question was simple: doctors.

As the eminent sociologist Dr. Paul Starr notes, the first recorded telephone exchange connected 21 Connecticut doctors with the Capital Avenue Drugstore in Hartford. The first phone line in Rochester, Minnesota, connected a doctor by the name of Mayo with his local drugstore. By 1923, use of the telephone was so widespread in the medical profession that a Philadelphia doctor’s manual on medical practice remarked that it had become as necessary to the physician as the stethoscope.

Our era is perhaps an even more transformative time for medicine. As all of you know firsthand, we’ve seen tremendous innovation and investment in telemedicine over the last decade.

Read More

Opening the Door to E-Rate in Our Communities

September 28th, 2010 by Julia Benincosa

Last week, the FCC created “School Spots” by allowing schools to authorize community use of Internet connections funded by the E-rate after school hours.  Earlier this year, the FCC granted a temporary waiver so that West Virginia and other states could move ahead immediately with community use projects, and our guest blogger Julia Benincosa, who is the West Virginia E-Rate and Instructional Technology Coordinator, writes about how the policy is already helping close the broadband gap in West Virginia.  We’re encouraging other schools who have experimented with this open-door policy to tell us about their experience, which they can do here.

For years, West Virginia was frustrated by restrictions in the E-rate program that kept school computer access cloistered for use solely by teachers, staff and students within the building.  Many opportunities for schools to partner with the community and collaborate with parents to enrich student learning could not be realized due to historical E-rate rules.  Under the previous rules, if "ineligible users" accessed the network, schools were required to allocate the cost to non- E-rate funding sources, which could be a difficult and confusing task. Since no one wanted to jeopardize precious funding during times when budgets were already shrinking, schools opted not to participate.
As more and more educators recognized the benefits that after-hours use of school Internet connections could provide, it became clear that changes were needed to eliminate barriers to broader parental and community involvement.  At the same time, the FCC was making a number of logical and positive improvements in the E-rate program. The supportive atmosphere of the FCC encouraged us make the case for a waiver that would allow more community use of E-rate-funded networks.   With the assistance of our E-rate contacts at the county level, we compiled a list of ways that a more flexible E-Rate program would better meet the educational needs of our communities and students.
Of course, student instruction is always our number one priority.  We made it clear that we were only asking for community use during times when school is not in session...evenings, weekends, holiday breaks and summers.  Since the Internet isn't turned off during those times, it was available and begging to be utilized to help close the broadband gap and meet the broader educational needs of the community.   The WV Department of Education shared its list of helpful community uses at the federal level and soon after, the Community Use Waiver became part of the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) that was released in the spring of 2010. 

This waiver allows for community members to utilize school networks, at the discretion of the school, without requiring burdensome cost-allocation and without jeopardizing E-rate funding.  While still in its infancy, this waiver has great promise, and the Internet utilization will definitely grow exponentially.  We have seen utilization by the public in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Suzie Martin, a Library Media-Technology Integration Specialist, has her library open after hours and during the summer and works with parents and students in a reading program that utilizes the Internet.  This change has also allowed parental training to occur for distance learning programs that allow students to be educated at home and other state initiatives.

For example, the Acuity and Compass Odyssey programs enables students to continue their instruction from home using the Internet. Without training on how to access these sites, parents would be less likely to participate in the education of their children.

A more visible example occurred during the Upper Big Branch mining disaster.  Since students were on spring break, Raleigh County's Marsh Fork Elementary School became an emergency site for the Governor and (MSHA) Mine Safety and Health Administration representatives.  They met for news conferences and state information was provided to media from around the world for updates and information to chronicle the desperate, 100-hour rescue effort.

Thanks to the FCC's Community Use Waiver, there are new opportunities emerging daily.  There is currently a pilot program developing that will train parents of Preschool students in the use of the World Wide Web for educational, personal and occupational use.

These opportunities highlight how the E-rate program can help to show families the importance of broadband Internet access in the home.  We have reached a time when having Internet access is as vital for families as having a telephone, and are glad the E-rate can now do a better job of helping West Virginia families to take advantage of this great 21st century educational resources.

These opportunities highlight how the E-rate program can help to show families the importance of broadband Internet access.  We have reached a time when having Internet access is as vital for families as having a telephone, and believe that these improvements in E-rate will help families in West Virginia – and across the nation -- take advantage of this great 21st century educational resource.

Next Steps on Nonvisual Cell Phone Access

September 27th, 2010 by Jamal Mazrui - Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

Let me encourage anyone interested to submit comments to the Commission regarding accessibility of cell and other phone technologies to people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision, in furtherance of Section 255 of the Communications Act. Such comments are due by the end of Thursday, September 30, 2010. Initial comments have already been filed, and currently, a reply comment period is underway.

The public notice is entitled "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-blind, or Have Low Vision." It may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document from the following web address:

Comments may be filed using the web form of the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), located at:

A web form on that page allows one to upload a word processor document, e.g., in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be typed or pasted into a simpler web form called ECFS Express, located at:

At the prompt for the docket, input:

CG Docket No. 10-145

Comments may be of any length and address any relevant issue. They will affect how the Commission handles government responsibilities in this area.

(Cross-posted on the FCC Blog)

Super Wi-Fi is Super for Energy Too

September 24th, 2010 by Nick Sinai - Energy and Environment Director

By Nick Sinai and Tom Brown

We at the FCC are very excited about yesterday’s order to free up the unused "white spaces" spectrum between television channels, intended to spur a wave of innovation in new devices and applications. Most commenters have focused on the possible use of this spectrum in "Super Wi-Fi" networks with wider range and better structural penetration than is available today.

But Super Wi-Fi isn’t just for consumers; it’s super for improving how we transmit and distribute energy in America too. The National Broadband Plan made several recommendations designed to integrate broadband into the emerging Smart Grid and enable improved Smart Grid communications; white spaces spectrum is yet another option for utilities to use for their communications networks. As we have seen in a recent trial in Plumas-Sierra County, California, white spaces spectrum can be used effectively and securely for grid automation applications, as well as retail broadband services. Opening white spaces spectrum is also likely to have a particular impact on utility operations in rural areas, which often have challenging terrain and fewer options for broadband service than urban areas.

The FCC remains committed to doing its part to usher in a new era of utility communications, and we look forward to seeing the innovations in all sorts of "national purpose" areas – health care, education, and yes, energy – that will result from yesterday’s action.

(Cross-posted at the Department of Energy Blog and The Official FCC Blog)

E-rate Reforms and Back to School Event (with Webcast)

September 20th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

Tomorrow at 12:00PM (9:00AM PT), FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will appear at a public forum in Silicon Valley to discuss E-rate modernization and innovation in education.  The Chairman will also announce the launch of the FCC’s Parents’ Place page.  The public forum is hosted by Common Sense Media, and is about creating digital opportunity for families through innovation in education and by empowering both parents and kids online.

The forum is open to the public and can also be watched live via webcast.  You can also send questions to ask the Chairman and co-panelists via email ( or through Twitter using the hashtag #kidstech.

TITLE:           Back to School: Learning and Growing in a Digital Age

HOSTS:          Hosted by Common Sense Media; co-hosted by PBS, The Children’s Partnership, and the USC Annenberg Center for Communication Leadership & Policy

WHAT:           A public forum for leaders from Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., to discuss the best strategies for bringing technology innovations to our schools -- and other learning settings -- and bringing the benefits of the digital revolution to parents and kids while addressing online risks.

WHEN:           Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010

8:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m (Pacific Time)

WHERE:        Computer History Museum

1401 N. Shoreline Blvd.

Mountain View, CA

AGENDA:      8:15 – 9 a.m.  (Pacific Time)

Interactive Technology Showcase and continental breakfast

9 – 9:20 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Introductory Remarks by James P. Steyer, CEO and Founder, Common Sense Media

Opening Remarks by Julius Genachowski, Chairman, FCC

9:20 – 10:30 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Panel 1: Innovation in Education

Julius Genachowski, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
Karen Cator, Director of Education Technology, U.S. Dept of Education
Shawn Covell, Vice President, Government Affairs, Qualcomm
Patrick Gaston, President, Verizon Foundation

Murugan Pal, Co-Founder & President, CK-12 Foundation

Moderator: Geoffrey Cowan, Dean Emeritus, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

10:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Pacific Time)

Panel 2: Empowering Parents and Kids with Technology

Sara DeWitt, Vice President, PBS KIDS Interactive,
Mandeep Dhillon, CEO and Co-founder, Togetherville
Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer, Facebook

Catherine Teitelbaum, Director of Child Safety and Product Policy, Yahoo!
Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate, Symantec

Moderator: Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President, The Children’s Partnership

Universal Service Reform Act of 2010

September 17th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Wireline Competition Bureau Deputy Chief Carol Mattey testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet Thursday regarding H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010.  Here are her written remarks.

Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the important subject of universal service and H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010.

Following the introduction of H.R. 5828, Representative Terry stated that the bill’s goal is to ensure “everyone in America is connected into the 21st century telecommunications world.”  That objective is broadly shared by the FCC as we undertake the process of considering the recommendations included in the National Broadband Plan submitted to Congress in March.

The National Broadband Plan recognized the important role that the private sector has played and must continue to play in investing in broadband facilities as well as promoting investment and innovation in broadband technologies and services.  But, as Chairman Boucher and Representative Terry noted when introducing H.R. 5828, some Americans live in areas for which there simply is not an economic case for any provider to build, upgrade and maintain vital communications infrastructure.  That is why we have what is known as the high cost program in the Universal Service Fund.

Universal service historically has been a significant success story in the United States.  In addition to incenting the private sector to bring affordable voice service to virtually all reaches of the country, the existing high cost program has played an important role in strengthening communities and our economy by supporting modern networks capable of delivering broadband as well as voice services to millions of rural Americans who would not otherwise have such access.  For example, the National Exchange Carriers’ Association reported that a sampling of small telephone companies made approximately $5 billion of gross investments, mostly to modernize their networks, between 2006 and 2009.

But, as I’m sure many of your constituents tell you, the current system, which wasn’t designed to explicitly support broadband, is not working for everyone.

[Read more]

Empowering Small Businesses with Broadband

September 15th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

This morning I attended a forum on empowering small businesses with broadband hosted by John Donahoe, eBay CEO, and featuring remarks by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.  The event highlighted “eBay top sellers” who are owners of small businesses on eBay from around the country that all rely on broadband as a critical technology to run their business.

We at the FCC are aware of the statistics proving the importance of entrepreneurs, empowered by broadband, to our economy.  Together they create jobs and wealth and drive the country forward through innovation and ingenuity.  And we know that supporting these businesses with cutting edge connectivity is not just a good idea, but a vital national purpose.

However, no statistic or policy paper on small businesses could illustrate broadband’s power to spur job creation better than the remarkable stories I heard today from eBay sellers.  These entrepreneurs are creating jobs, boosting exports, and greening the economy through the use of broadband.  Here are just a few of their stories:

·         Using broadband and eBay, a Cleveland area seller of gaming equipment has added 37 jobs in the past year alone and recently expanded into a 200K Sq Ft closed auto plant.

·         A South Dakota seller of recycled electronics hired 30% more workers in the past year and says broadband is the only way he can run his businesses from a rural area.

·         A seller of recycled laptops, a green small business in Nevada, has 50 employees, adding 25 within the past year.

·         An auto parts seller from Massachusetts started his businesses from his garage in 1999 and now uses broadband for over 1,000 sales a day and has hired 40% more workers this year alone.

·         A Michigan seller of recycled cell phones has hired 20 people in the past 18 months and prides himself on running a green business.

·         A Massachusetts golf ball and sports equipment recycler with 75 employees, including 25 added in the past year, uses broadband to reach its customers and green the economy.

These incredible stories are just a few examples of how broadband and the Internet enable anyone with an idea to start a business from their garage and reach global markets.  Rebuilding our economy with the best broadband infrastructure and the right policies in place will allow American creativity and ingenuity to lead our country to a revitalized economy.

Educate to Innovate

September 13th, 2010 by Jordan Usdan - Acting Director, Public-Private Initiatives

President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign aims to improve the performance of America’s students in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The FCC, building on the President’s call to action, has proposed a series of recommendations in the National Broadband Plan that recognize broadband as an important tool to help educators, parents and students meet major challenges in education, including those in the STEM fields.  The Broadband Plan recognizes that investment in broadband and STEM education will help us lead the world in 21st century educational innovation.

Discovery Communications, as part of the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, has launched a new, commercial-free science education programming block that is airing Monday-Friday (4:00 to 5:00 PM ET/PT) and Saturdays (7:00-9:00 AM ET/PT) on Science Channel.  In place of commercial advertising, Science Channel is running PSAs highlighting notable “cool jobs” in the STEM fields.

Today, the PSA featuring Chairman Julius Genachowski, promoting broadband and STEM education, will premier during the Science Channel’s education block.  View the PSA here:

To further promote the importance of educational innovation, Chairman Genachowski will be the featured speaker and panelist at Back to School Learning and Growing in the Digital Age, a public forum for policymakers and technology industry leaders sponsored by Common Sense Media, PBS, The Children’s Partnership and The Annenberg School of Communication at USC.  The event will also feature an interactive technology showcase of innovative digital learning and parental empowerment tools.  The event is open to the public.

Event details:

Back to School Learning and Growing in the Digital Age 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard

Mountain View, CA  94043 

8:15 - 9:00 a.m.
Continental breakfast and Tech Showcase
 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Panels and Discussion

Tech Showcase continues until 1:00 pm.

Other confirmed participants include:

·         Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education
·         James P. Steyer, CEO, Common Sense Media
·         Scott McNealy, Founder,, Co-founder, Sun Microsystems
·         Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer, Facebook
·         Catherine Teitelbaum, Director of Child Safety, Communities and Content Policies, Yahoo!
·         Geoffrey Cowan, Dean Emeritus, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
·         Mandeep Dhillon, Co-founder and CEO, Togetherville
To RSVP, Click Here
For more information, contact
For exhibitor information, contact

Prepared Text: Japanese American National Museum

September 10th, 2010 by Phoebe Yang - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered this speech to an array of community groups last week at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

It’s very fitting that we should come together today at the Japanese American National Museum to talk about how Asian Americans must be empowered to benefit from the communications network of the 21st century – broadband.

Today, being back in California, I am reminded of the immense sacrifices early Asian Americans made for this country – in the pursuit of the vital goal of connecting people across this vast land to one another.

Today, America has 306 million people to connect – and like in previous centuries with the railroads, telephones, and highways – including voices like those in this room is critical to our nation’s economy, security, and future.

When I shared with some individuals that I was planning on coming here today, their response was that Asian Americans represent such a small minority of the American population – why not focus on other groups? My reply was simple – while all Americans should benefit from all that broadband has to offer, and other groups are also critical to our goals of inclusion, you can’t ignore the role of Asian Americans in building the technology and communications networks of the past, and we would be foolish to underestimate the innovative creativity and spirit of Asian Americans in shaping the communications networks of the future.

Over 20 years ago, when I was a student at the University of Virginia, I founded the Asian Student Union and the Asian Leaders’ Council, to bring together the diverse interests and experiences of different Asian American communities. Due to the limitations of technology at the time – think photocopiers and 25 cents/minute long-distance phone service – it was a struggle for our voice to carry far beyond Charlottesville, Virginia. But within a few years, when I was studying in Singapore, the start of mass Internet communications – e-mail – allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family back in the U.S. and elsewhere.

[Read the full speech here.]

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