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9-1-1's Next Frontier

Posted November 23rd, 2010 by George Krebs

This morning Chairman Genachowski, Public Safety Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett and a collection of FCC staff visited a state-of-the-art response facility at the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center in Arlington, Virginia. Following the vision laid out in the National Broadband Plan, the event marks the announcement of steps to revolutionize America’s 9-1-1 system by harnessing the potential of text, photo, and video in emergencies.

Our communications needs are increasingly reliant on mobile devices. In fact, 70% of 9-1-1 calls originate from mobile phones and users rely regularly on texts and multimedia messages. While a subsequent evolution of our 9-1-1 system seems a natural -- and obvious -- step for digitally aware citizen, our current 9-1-1 system doesn’t utilize the superb, possibly life-saving potential within our existing mobile devices. With videos, pictures, texts -- and other untold mobile innovations surely on the horrizon -- next-generation 9-1-1 will position public safety officials a step ahead with critical real-time, on-the-ground information.

After a tour of the high-tech operations room, Chairman Genachowski and Admiral Barnett spoke to the promise of next-generation 9-1-1. Here's an excerpt from Chairman Genachowski's speech.

"Even though mobile phones are the device of choice for most 9-1-1 callers, and we primarily use our phones to text, right now, you can’t text 9-1-1. Let me reiterate that point. If you find yourself in an emergency situation and want to send a text for help, you can pretty much text anyone EXCEPT a 9-1-1 call center.

"...It’s time to bring 9-1-1 into the digital age."

Read the rest of the Chairmans’s speech, view more photos and see the benefits of Next Generation 9-1-1 after the jump.

(This is cross-posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Events Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau National Broadband Plan Office Of Chairman

Strengthening Accessibility through Global Coordination

Posted November 23rd, 2010 by Jamal Mazrui - Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

In 2006, the United Nations agreed on the language of a treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  The treaty is going through a process of signing and ratification among many countries.  In 2009, President Obama signed it in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A related endeavor is called G3ict, a public-private partnership encouraging policies to ensure that information and communication technologies (ICT) are accessible to people with disabilities.  Such ICT can equalize opportunities for independent living, social inclusion, higher education, and gainful employment -- empowering people everywhere, and especially in developing countries.

As part of a collaboration with G3ict, George Washington University hosted a policy forum last week.  Leaders in ICT policy from around the world convened with partners from the U.S. government, industry, and consumer groups.  Karen Peltz Strauss, Elizabeth Lyle, and I were able to participate on behalf of the FCC.  This is an exciting time period in which unprecedented coordination is occurring among ICT-related proceedings to set accessibility standards and policy, such as those related to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.  We all shared perspectives, identified problems, and brainstormed solutions.

The ideas and connections were invigorating.  Let me highlight some common themes as follows:

  • Market and technology trends are  integrating life globally.
  • Harmonizing accessibility standards at that level is mutually beneficial among nations.
  • Technology products and services may be designed with unified specifications  that prepare them for all markets.
  • Industries and consumers benefit from economies of scale that lower cost and broaden reach.
  • Consistent policies reduce government administration.
  • Universal design of 21st century technologies increases productivity of workers in economies, and participation by citizens in democracies.

So, do you recall what CRPD and ICT stand for?  They are certainly not household abbreviations at present, but many of us hope their meaning will become part of everyday life in the future!



Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Accessibility
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Popular Science’s “100 Best Innovations of the Year”

Posted November 19th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

Geek Alert! Popular Science is out with its annual 100 Best Innovations of the Year. Reliability cool any year, this year’s list is also notable for a number of innovations that stand to make technology more accessible and lives easier for the disabled.

A few of my personal favorites:

  • Prosthetic hands, by ProDigits, developed by roboticists that moved the electronics from the palm and put them into the fingers—such a leap forward that people can eventually type with their new hand.
  • Siri, a personal assistant app that uses natural-language speech recognition to carry out complex demands— “Make a reservation for four at Chef Geoff’s at 7pm Saturday night,” for example.
  • Google Goggles, an app that enables Web searches based on images captured by your smartphone.
  • The GE VSCAN, a mobile ultrasound machine about the size of a cell phone. Particularly interesting given that an estimated 500 million people will use mobile health apps by 2015.
  • The iPad (of course).
  • The ecoATM cell phone recycler, which lets you turn in your used handset and get paid for its value.
  • A wireless phone charging station — just place your phone on a pad!
  • Wikitude, an augmented reality browser that uses geo-location data to identify places, sites and buildings.
  • A telescope eye implant that can restore a “severe vision impairment” to a “moderate vision impairment.”
  • User-friendly crutches . Developed by Jeff Webber (who was on the team that designed Herman Millers Aeron chair), these fundamentally changing the shape of the crutch from a “T” to an “A” frame.
  • A Google search engine for television, which gathers metadata with keywords. It was developed on an open platform allowing developers to make more accessible television guides or even translate closed captioning, .
  • A crime-busting hardware attachment for the iPhone, which uses biometrics such as iris recognition, fingerprints, etc. Now police can take a photo of a suspect and use facial recognition software to match to those awful “WANTED” posters.
  • A wireless system for IPTV called WiDi, for wireless display.
  • A new diagnostic technology that allows Kenmore washer and dryers to send data to a technician over a phone line, and depending on the problem, the technician can talk you through the fix, or just send a repair person.
  • And finally, a new web language, HTML 5 that allows browsers to display video on a computer, phone, iPad, without having to install software such as Flash.

Alan Gregerman, author of Surrounded by Geniuses once said, “Like Benjamin Franklin, we have to stand in a storm to be truly inspired (or electrified)”. He could have been talking about just such a list. Onward and upward!

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Accessibility

The Gold Rush in Kansas

Posted November 19th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

They’re going for the gold in Kansas, with plans to make broadband available to everyone in the Sunflower State.

I recently was fortunate enough to witness this gold rush first-hand by attending the Kansas Broadband Summit, where current state of broadband deployment was discussed, as well as the plans for future deployment of broadband services. Stanley Adams, the broadband planning manager for the state’s Department of Commerce reported that Kansas received over $250 million in broadband deployment grants and loans from the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration (NTIA), which is part of the Department of Commerce and the Rural Utility Service (RUS), which is part of the Department of Agriculture. That’s a lot of amount of money for a smaller state, but Kansas has a significant rural population, and its leaders are aiming to make broadband available to all.

I learned a lot from the Kansan stakeholders who attended the conference. Their plan is comprehensive, covering everything from detailed mapping, to provider validation, and even adoption plans. And like any time you get a room of stakeholders engaged, new ideas were sparked on how to improve the plan. As an FCC staff person, it was a thrill for me to see and feel the excitement of a state actually implementing its broadband plan. And as with the beginnings of California’s gold rush in 1879, the new broadband gold rush in Kansas promises great benefits to the state citizenry . ,“From a business standpoint, it [broadband] means increased opportunities for entrepreneurship and new small-business development,” Kansas Lt. Governor Findley said. “How many entrepreneurs out there have the next big-idea, but have no way to share it?” Kansans know that broadband is just as valuable as gold, and know the wealth it can bring.

Stanley Adams and Duncan Friend, both Kansas employees leading their state’s broadband initiative, invited me to speak on a panel about disability access. They said that they wanted Kansas’ broadband to be accessible and usable to all of its citizens, especially Kansans with disabilities. The audience’s questions on accessible deployment were universally thoughtful and insightful—they all saw the importance of an accessible broadband plan and knew such a plan would collaterally help other populations, such as seniors, non-native English speakers, educational and medical institutions, and the business community. The panel was so popular that we gave a repeat presentation later that same day.

To implement its plan, Kansas has partnered with Connected Nation, a 501(c)(3) organization. Tom Feree, the chief operations officer of Connected Nation said, “We exist because we believe that states, communities, families and individuals can realize great economic and social advantages when we accelerate broadband availability in unserved areas and increase broadband use in all areas, rural and urban, alike.” His statement again reminded me of the promise of 1849 gold rush, which lead to the building of our nation’s railway system, which in some ways is being replaced by fiber optics today.

Kansas has prioritized Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) such as K-12 schools, libraries, healthcare centers, public safety entities, colleges and universities and other government and non-governmental organizations. I can’t help but wonder how many of those “other” organizations are entities that serve people with disabilities. The chief technology officer of the Kansas School for the Deaf, Joe Oborny, attended knowing how much is at stake in Kansas’ broadband plan. The ability for students to use video for calls, video conferences with excellent teachers of the deaf, and to connect with the state and nation are critical to a successful educational institution.

As I look back on the conference, I am confident that the leadership will follow through with its commitment for an accessible broadband plan. The stakes are too high not to. Soon after my return to Washington, Kansas contacted me asking how to develop more partnerships with the disability community, which demonstrates to me that they mean what they say in Kansas: All Kansans will be able to access broadband. For that, I give them a gold medal.

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Accessibility
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Highlights of the Spectrum Summit

Posted November 18th, 2010 by Anousone Muongpack - New Media

In late October, the FCC held a spectrum summit, bringing together creative thinkers to solve the looming spectrum crunch and ensure enough airwaves are available for Americans’ growing appetite for mobile broadband.  Key players in industry, government, academia, and the investment community offered their take on the spectrum crunch and how to solve it.  While the summit in its entirety has been available online for some time, we also put together some highlights from the event in a brief trailer, which we are making available today. Enjoy!


Posted in Events
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Spectrum Dashboard Gets An Upgrade

Posted November 18th, 2010 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

On Wednesday, November 17, the first in a series of enhancements to the Spectrum Dashboard were released.  Along with this release, we are excited to announce that the Dashboard is no longer in beta.

The response we’ve received about the Dashboard has been remarkably positive and in the eight short months since its initial release, almost 200,000 searches have been conducted.  To crunch those numbers further – the Dashboard is being searched about 25,000 times a month or in other words, 800 times a day.  Wow!  What’s more impressive is the volume of activity has been pretty consistent month-to-month.

While this week’s release may not be the biggest or the flashiest, it is however, the starting point for bigger and better things to come.  For example, in the next few months, the Dashboard will include additional releases to track leased spectrum, search for licenses across tribal lands, customize maps, and use Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to access data from the Dashboard.  We don’t plan to stop there.  We will continue to evaluate potential candidates for future enhancements.

Here are some of the changes to the Dashboard released this week.

Advanced Search. The Advanced Search replaces the “License Categories” search and includes several different search criteria located at the same place, including the ability to search for licenses by channel block.  For example, a user can search for all of the licenses in the 700 MHz band or can tailor a search by only searching for A-block licenses in the 700 MHz band.

Auto Complete for Name Search. The auto complete function allows a user to search by a name and the Spectrum Dashboard will display all names that include the string of letters/characters entered.  For example, by entering “Wire,” a list of all names that include “Wireless” will be displayed.

Changes to Filters. The filters have been enhanced to allow a user to open and close filters, as they deem appropriate and to include an additional filter for channel blocks.

• Downloading Results.  When a user downloads results by clicking on the “Export Results” link, the results will download automatically if the results are 65,000 rows or less.  If the results are more than 65,000 rows a user will receive an e-mail when the results are available.

We are looking forward to improving the Dashboard even more and encourage you to continue providing feedback.

Posted in Wireless Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Data Developer Api
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Faces of Distracted Driving: The Stories Behind the Statistics

Posted November 17th, 2010 by Ray LaHood

We’re honored to have this guest blog post from Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. This week DOT debuted Faces of Distracted Driving, a web video series that tells the stories behind the statistics.

Believe it or not, I wasn't always so outspoken about the dangers of distracted driving. Like a lot of folks, I just didn't give a lot of thought to it.

But that all changed as I met people from coast to coast who told me about the loved ones they lost in senseless crashes caused by texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. And it was their stories--of dreams shattered and lives cut short--that turned the fight to end distracted driving into my personal crusade.

These people have had a profound effect on me. And I think their stories will have a profound effect on you.

I'm proud to announce "Faces of Distracted Driving," a new online video series featuring people from across the country who have been injured or lost loved ones to distracted driving.  We're launching this today with three videos, and we'll add a new one every few weeks.

We also invite others who would like to share their stories to post their own videos on YouTube and email a link to faces [at] distraction [dot] gov.

Just last year, nearly 5,500 people were killed and 500,000 more were injured in distracted driving-related crashes.  But, these aren't statistics. They're children and parents, neighbors and friends.

There's 13-year-old Margay Schee, who boarded her school bus and never made it back home.

There's 58-year-old Julie Davis, who never got to meet her 14th grandchild.

And there's 16-year-old Ashley Johnson, whose dream of becoming a psychiatrist will never come true.

From left to right, Margay Schee, Ashley Johnson, and Julie Davis

These lives, and too many others like them, were cut short--not because of malice, but because of carelessness.  And the families they left behind understand the tragic consequences of distracted driving better than anyone.  They will all tell you the same thing: no text or phone call is worth the risk.

So, I hope you'll watch these videos. I hope you'll share them with the people you love. And I hope you'll think of these faces--of Margay, and Ashley, and Julie--when you get into your car and put your cell phone in the glove compartment.

(This is cross-posted from the Department of Transportation's Fastlane Blog.)

Posted in Mobile Guest Post
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Our Innovation Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges

Posted November 15th, 2010 by George Krebs

Earlier today, Chairman Genachowski spoke at the annaul meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Atlanta. In concert with the conference's "Keeping the Focus" theme, the Chairman spoke to the primary focus of the FCC: the economy and jobs. We're serving this mission through harnessing the opportunities of communications technology and putting an emphasis on innovation.

Read Chairman Genachowski's full speech.

(This is cross-posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Events National Broadband Plan Office Of Chairman
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Wrapping up Open Developer Day

Posted November 12th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

On Monday, November 11, the FCC successfully held (we think) a first-of-its-kind event in the U.S. federal government! 

FCC Open Developer Day attracted about 100 web developers and other technology professionals to our headquarters building in Washington. We spent a day learning about open data sets and APIs, brainstorming together about how they could be combined to benefit citizens with new apps, and starting coding projects toward those goals.

One focus of FCC Open Developer Day was accessible technology. By facilitating the use of fully-accessible technologies - in line with the FCC’s support for our Accessibility and Innovation Initiative - the FCC is promoting innovation and collaborative problem-solving in the field. One exciting fact: FCC Open Developer Day marked the first time many developers in attendance sat and chatted as a group with others using assistive technologies.

The most valuable take-away from this first foray was the opportunity to build the FCC developer community. The momentum from this event will hopefully help bring the popular activity of Developer Day and "hack-a-thons" to the a federal agency. We were grateful, and a bit surprised, at the number of people who came in from out of town to this event.  It was incredibly exciting to the see the Commission Meeting Room, usually set up for formal hearings and presentations, organized in tables for eight people and laptops plugged into power strips.

Here are some cool things we got from having the event:

One day is too short to get much hacking done, so we are planning to do more developer days to make them a regular activity at the FCC.

P.S. Eager to participate in a gov-related developer day? December 4 is International Open Data Hackathon. FCC will be there. Will you?

(This is cross-posted on Blogband. Please leave your comments there.)

Posted in Reform - Redesign Events Open Government Data Developer Api Accessibility
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Houston, We Have A Solution: HP E-rate Fraud Case Settled

Posted November 12th, 2010 by Sharon Gillett

This week the FCC notched another win for America’s taxpayers, and especially for America’s students.  Working with the Department of Justice, and acting on tips from whistleblowers, the FCC investigated allegations that a group of companies that included Hewlett Packard Company (HP) lavished gifts on Houston and Dallas Independent School District personnel to lure contracts that included some $17 million in HP equipment. These improper actions constitute E-rate fraud, threatening the integrity of a crucial educational program, and have resulted in a settlement. Since 1996 the E-rate program has brought Internet connectivity to millions of students and virtually every classroom across the nation.

The charges are as eye-opening as they are disappointing. Yachting trips and pricey meals; tickets to see Tom Brady and the Patriots as Houston hosted the 2004 Super Bowl; and other varied and alluring entertainment packages. These contractors pulled out all the stops. All to sway officials to skirt a competitive bidding process that is vital to ensure that government funds provided to schools and libraries for our kids’ education stretch as far as possible.

In the settlement ironed out between the Department of Justice, FCC and HP, HP agreed to pay the government $16.25 million, most of which will be returned to the E-rate program. Further, the FCC will oversee a compliance agreement to prevent future foul play. HP will undergo audits of its E-rate business and has agreed to train its employees thoroughly on FCC gift and E-rate rules.

Collaborating with other agencies and alert citizens, we’re keeping our eyes open for instances of waste, fraud and abuse in the E-rate program. Just this September we took  more steps toward ensuring a fair and competitive bidding process. These steps include more specific E-Rate Program gift rules that send a clear message that conduct like that found in the Dallas and Houston cases will not be tolerated. We’ll do all we can to ensure that E-rate funds continue to increase educational opportunities and are not misused. As Chairman Genachowski noted in the press release issued earlier this week, E-rate resources should “work to benefit schools and libraries.” We’ll continue to hold the line.

Visit the Department of Justice to learn more about the settlement.

Posted in Office of General Counsel Wireline Competition Bureau
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