Federal Communications Commission

Archive for December 2009

The International Experience

December 21st, 2009 by blogband admin

 By Jordan Usdan, Attorney-Advisor, Broadband Task Force

 The FCC is making a determined effort to understand the global broadband ecosystem and to extract relevant lessons from the international broadband experience.  These efforts have included holding two workshops in partnership with the FCC’s International Bureau: International Lessons and Global Broadband Connects America and the World; visiting or teleconferencing with regulators, academics and companies in over a dozen countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America; and posting for comment the Berkman Center’s study of broadband throughout the world.  Today the FCC is releasing a companion video with this blog post of short snippets of our trip to Europe.

The task force’s international team recognizes that dozens of countries have already pursued national broadband strategies, with some countries already on their third or fourth effort.  These national efforts vary widely, from nationwide publicly funded fiber build-outs to explicit policies against government deployment subsidies.  A few things do hold true across borders: governments and companies see Internet connectivity as an essential infrastructure with great promise; the world still looks to the United States for policy and technology leadership; and broadband enables a global ecosystem where technologies, services and content can be accessed at high speeds anytime and anywhere.



Public Interest and the Media in the Digital Age

December 17th, 2009 by Steve Waldman - Senior Advisor to the Chairman

In its December 2 Public Notice requesting comment on the uses of spectrum, the FCC asked:

Broadcasting and the Public Interest: Broadcasters have historically played an important role in advancing public interests through free over-the-air broadcast TV. What are the benefits of free, over-the-air television broadcasting, in particular with respect to public awareness of emergency information, local news, political discourse, and education?”
These are good questions at a time when the media landscape is changing dramatically.  Some innovations -- from both traditional media companies and new players -- are not only just as good as the status quo, they’re considerable improvements, and universal broadband will clearly help facilitate further innovation.  In some ways, this is a very exciting time in the evolution of media as we are seeing new delivery systems and types of content come on-line almost every day.
At the same time, we must recognize that the business model challenges now faced by the traditional media may diminish its ability to provide one its most critical functions: full time, local, professional journalism. This function is crucially important for democracy. It enables citizens to hold leaders accountable and get the information they need. Chairman Genachowski brought me to the Commission to spearhead a broad-ranging effort to look at these issues through a recently launched project on the future of the media in a digital age.
We are charged with looking at these questions, and all relevant Commission proceedings, through this lens:  what policies are most likely to insure that communities get the information and news they need? We need to ask what current trends tell us about the likely direction of news and information gathering and dissemination, and what are the implications of these trends for broadband and spectrum policy? What role can/should/will all holders of spectrum – including wireless companies and commercial and public broadcasters – play in helping keep America’s citizens informed?
We hope a full range of players will weigh in on these questions in comments in response to the Public Notice, which are due by December 21. Or you can comment on this blog.


Recognition from TDI for Disabilities Access

December 14th, 2009 by blogband admin

By Sherrese Smith, Media Advisor to Chairman Genachowski, and David Goldman, Advisor to Chairman Genachowski on Wireless Issues

 The FCC has worked since its inception in 1934 to help the people with hearing disabilities gain equal access to telecommunications and media. To mark the Commission’s 75th anniversary, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI) honored the Commission on Friday with an award recognizing this vital work. When presenting the award, Dr. Roy Miller, the Board President of TDI, as well as other members of TDI, took the opportunity to note the FCC’s contributions towards access to communication for people with hearing, vision, and other disabilities. Chairman Genachowski accepted the award on behalf of the Commission and stressed the Commission’s commitment to these crucial issues and the importance of access to communications for all.


The Chairman is excited about this recognition of the hard and significant work done by the Commission staff. Nonetheless, he does not see this award as a reason for the Commission to rest on it laurels, but rather as a challenge to continue to develop smart policy in this vital area.
While people with hearing disabilities still face considerable obstacles, new technologies offer opportunities to overcome these barriers. For instance, as we learned in our broadband workshops recent developments have given this community of users greater access to 911 and other emergency services. In addition, advances in communications technology have helped other communities, such as providing people with vision disabilities increased access to books and periodicals, and people with mobility disabilities better opportunities for jobs and civic engagement. Hence, the Chairman believes the Commission should embrace a role that fosters investment and innovation in accessibility technologies and helps the industry develop best practices. The Commission should also work to ensure all communications consumers are able to take advantage of all of the latest advancements.
On behalf of the Commission, we thank TDI for the recognition and we look forward to working with them to tackle the ongoing accessibility challenges. We also join the Chairman in congratulating the Commission for its work in earning this award. Finally, we say “thank you” to the Commission staff for the continuing efforts to improve accessibility for everyone.

Finding a Creative Spectrum Solution

December 8th, 2009 by Rebecca Hanson - Spectrum Director, National Broadband Taskforce

Last Wednesday, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on a variety of aspects and uses of the TV broadcast spectrum.
Until now, the discussion has been somewhat binary and predictable. Many broadcasters want to simply maintain the status quo, and many wireless broadband proponents (licensed and unlicensed) would like most or all of that spectrum to become available to them. 
In order to explore potential solutions, however, the discourse needs to become more constructive and more creative. The National Broadband Task Force has been charged with identifying and exploring ways to deliver robust broadband to everyone, and mobile broadband is an essential part of the solution. But mobile broadband won’t advance unless we can find spectrum to avoid crippling network congestion in the future. For better or for worse, broadcasters occupy one of the most attractive bands for mobile broadband applications, and we have an obligation to Congress, and to the needs of the country, to explore that spectrum’s evolutionary potential.
Thus, the real question that broadcasters should be asking themselves is “How can we best become part of a mobile broadband solution?” 
For some broadcasters, the answer may well be to return their spectrum to the FCC via a market mechanism that we are trying earnestly to design. For others, the answer may well be to find an innovative way to do what broadcasters do best – deliver video wirelessly to receivers – to solve one of the biggest challenges facing mobile broadband today – delivering video wirelessly to receivers. 
Hence our call for creative solutions. We seek ideas for market mechanisms for broadcasters who want to return some or all of the spectrum they currently use (or don’t use), and we seek innovative operational solutions from broadcasters who want to secure a place in the next evolution of our communications ecosystem.
Change is hard, but necessary, and often creates opportunities for visionary thought leadership. This is what we hope to see in the Public Notice responses, and look forward to working with the broadcast industry and others in the process of forging the most sustainable path to our wireless future.
Please respond with your ideas to this blog post, or 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.

Guest Blog: The Department of Labor’s “Tools for America’s Jobseekers” Challenge

December 8th, 2009 by Jane Oates

By Jane Oates

Assistant Secretary

Employment and Training Administration

U.S. Department of Labor




In today’s labor market, more and more people search and apply for jobs online. The National Broadband Taskforce at the FCC is developing a plan to ensure that all Americans will have access to broadband so they can take advantage of these online job training and placement resources. The U.S. Department of Labor is also taking steps to get more online job search and career advancement tools into the hands of job seekers. To that end, the Department’s Employment and Training Administration is hosting the Tools for America’s Job Seekers Challenge. The Challenge makes use of an innovative crowdsourcing platform to inventory online job search and career advancement tools, and allow workforce system professionals and jobseekers to explore, comment on, and recommend those tools.   The goal of the Challenge is to help the workforce investment system identify the most compelling on-line tools to set job seekers on the shortest path to success.
FromNovember 30, 2009 to December 18, 2009, ETA encourages entrepreneurs and organizations to help develop an inventory of on-line job search and career advancement tools by submitting information on their tools at Technology vendors, platform providers, businesses, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, state and local workforce agencies, and others with job search tools in the marketplace are invited to participate.   DOL is seeking online job tools in the following categories: 
  • General job boards, listing sites, and aggregators
  • Niche job boards
  • Career tools such as ladders, transition tools, etc.
  • Web based career exploration sites
  • Web 2.0/social media sites specializing in job searches or job postings
  • Other job matching and career advancement tools
Although DOL is primarily interested in identifying tools that are free for the use of America’s jobseekers, tools with a fee may be submitted as long as the submitting company provides a short-term demo site or other platform that allows the tools to be used free of charge during the Challenge. After the Challenge has been completed, the workforce development system and job seekers can pursue a procurement or an agreement to license such tools. If your enterprise has a free “basic” website, and a subscription-only “premium” site, the free site may be entered in the Challenge. This may provide more exposure of your subscription service to the market.
From January 4 to January 15, 2010, workforce development professionals and job seekers are invited to test-drive the tools and recommend those they find useful. Beginning at the end of January, DOL and ETA will publish the top tools in each category, allowing workforce system decision-makers to easily access the recommendations of their peers and customers, and use this feedback to inform their decisions about which tools to make available through One Stop Career Centers, state job banks, and other Internet-based resources. For more information about the national network of One Stop Career Centers, please visit


Networking the Television: Set-top Box Innovation

December 7th, 2009 by Alison Neplokh

We’re taking a fresh look at how you access video – the full “5-W” analysis – who, what, where, when, why? Who controls how you access video? What video sources are you watching? Where do you watch it? When do you watch it? Why are there so many boxes and remote controls?  Oh, and how should we fix it?

We’ve been working on fostering innovation in the set-top box market since Congress directed us to just about 13 years ago. For a while, we thought CableCARD was the key, but it’s time to take a step back and ask if we’re doing this the right way. Since video is such a big part of why people want broadband, it’s especially worth asking the questions in the context of the broadband plan. 
We think that if you can use the same device to get video and other content from the Internet as you do to get video from your cable or satellite operator, then your experience with both will be so much better. But how do we resolve the conflict between allowing video providers to continue to provide innovative video services and giving TV manufacturers a standard to build something that will work for more than a few years? Who decides what security system to use, and how to distribute the keys? Even harder, does everyone have to use the same thing? Where does guide data come from, who pays for it, and who decides how it is used and displayed? How can we get different video providers to find enough common ground to build a system that works for satellite, cable, IPTV, and Internet video?
As an engineer and a lawyer, this problem has fascinated me for years. Your computer, wireless router, network printer, gaming consoles, and many other devices all work no matter what broadband connection you have – cable, DSL, fiber-to-the-home, satellite, or a dorm/office network connection. This works because the market has settled on Ethernet as the way to connect devices on a data network, and you have a device that converts from whatever platform you use to Ethernet.   But of course, you also need dozens of protocols to really experience the Internet. Does a home multimedia network standard provide the foundation for a competitive set-top box market? Or is there some other way to allow all of your sources of video to work with all of your televisions, computers, and DVRs?  
The first question is how you want to use your video sources. Then, how do we get there?
For more details, background and context on these issues, please see the Public Notice. You can respond directly to this blog or file comments in our Electronic Filing Comment System, using either 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 # 27.”


MIT Field Hearing on Broadband’s Role in Green Energy and the Environment

December 4th, 2009 by Nick Sinai - Energy and Environment Director

This past Monday the FCC held a field hearing at MIT to discuss how broadband can facilitate the smart grid and the energy information economy. The house was packed, the discussion lively, and there was an impressive set of technology demonstrations afterwards. We were honored to have in attendance U.S. Congressman Ed Markey, Secretary Ian Bowles of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, FCC Chairman Genachowski, and FCC Commissioners Copps, Clyburn, and Baker.

The first panel provided context for understanding the role that the smart grid, and other smart technologies, can play in the U.S. achieving its energy goals. Dr Grochow of the MIT Energy Initiative shared how MIT has been able to achieve a significant reduction in its energy consumption through building energy audits and addressing the large energy requirements of IT through fairly simple measures like turning computers off rather than having their screen saver come on.

Thanks to all the members of the first panel: Peter Brandien of New England ISO, Commissioner Phil Guidice of Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources, Dr. Jerrold Grochow of the MIT Energy Initiative, and Bruce Walker of National Grid.

During the second panel the discussion shifted to provide some examples of how vendors are using energy information to increase the reliability and efficiency of our electricity grid. CEO Adrian Tuck of Tendril, which provides an energy management system for residential users, highlighted that a standard clothes dryer is preset to dry a load in 58 minutes. Simply by adding twenty minutes to the drying time, however, the dryer will consume 50% less energy. Informed customers could decide if they needed the convenience of faster cycle or might prefer to set a longer cycle in exchange for a lower energy bill.

The panel also discussed how innovative companies use broadband to 1) carry energy information at frequent, regular intervals from end user devices to their systems or devices, 2) present energy information on in-home displays or web portals, and 3) directly control loads to lower energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Following the panel, the commissioners and audience experienced first-hand some of the new products and services of the energy information economy. Control4, iControl, EnergyHub, Opto22, Tendril and Verisae showcased a suite of products aimed at helping residential and commercial customers better manage their energy use.

Thanks to all the members of the second panel: Rick Counihan of EnerNOC, Chuck McDermott of Rockport Capital, Adrian Tuck of Tendril, and Dan Johnson of Verisae. Thanks also to the vendors who participated in the showcase.

A number of common themes emerged across both panels, focusing on the key issues and barriers to an accelerated adoption of the smart grid.

First, a number of panelists stressed a need for universal broadband coverage to allow better access to energy information, especially for low-income families that lack access to the Internet.

Second, several panelists noted that a significant part of the value of the smart grid is derived from providing end users (whether building operators or individuals) more granular, real-time energy consumption data. We heard that many smart meters that have been deployed today have this customer-facing functionality built in, but are not “turned on” to provide data to customers.

Third, there was general agreement that cyber security was a critical issue for the smart grid. Dr. Grochow provided an analogy to the Internet. Security was not seriously considered during the Internet’s infancy, and we are still trying to patch the holes decades later. He argued that a secure smart grid needs to encrypt energy data at the source.

Fourth, Chuck McDermott, a general partner at Rockport Capital, highlighted the importance of developing open standards for the smart grid. Working closely with NIST and other standards bodies, the U.S. needs to achieve an interoperable, “plug-and-play” smart grid that avoids vendor lock-in.

Fifth, Bruce Walker of National Grid discussed the growing importance of the data traversing the Smart Grid network. A ubiquitous wireless data network that reliably provides low-latency data communications during emergencies will be required. To meet these need, and to encourage standardization of networking approaches, he requested that the FCC identify broadband spectrum suitable for critical infrastructure use.

Lastly, Dan Johnson of Verisae reminded us that in the end the adoption of smart grid technologies is heavily dependent upon their business case. End users will need to see a compelling ROI to take action.

I want to personally thank Congressman Markey, Secretary Bowles, the chairman, the commissioners, the panelists, and the technology vendors for providing such an engaging and informative discussion. A number of the issues raised lent further support to what we have seen through our public notice.

As we begin to formalize our recommendations for Congress, I encourage you to view the recorded webcast and add to our discussion by leaving your comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

Future Broadband Deployment: Columbia Institute for Teleinformation Report

December 3rd, 2009 by Tom Koutsky

One of the most exciting parts of the national broadband plan project has been the opportunity, through our workshops and research projects, to hear and learn from the preeminent experts in the field.  This summer, we asked the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (“CITI”) based at Columbia Business School in New York to review and assess the projected deployment of broadband networks throughout the United States.  Robert C. Atkinson and Ivy E. Schultz of CITI have recently written and released their report, called Broadband in America:  Where It Is and where It Is Going (According to Broadband Service Providers).  
We want to take a closer look at three key conclusions in the report.  CITI says  that providers expect to be able to serve about 95% of U.S. homes with at least low-speed wired broadband service by 2013-14, and expect to serve about 90% of homes with advertised speeds of 50 mbps.  But the forecasts analyzed by CITI also indicate that perhaps five to ten million households will have “significantly inferior choices in broadband,” such as slower speeds or lack of terrestrial choices.  And CITI provides evidence that adoption of broadband will continue to lag availability for the foreseeable future.
            Assuming the study’s findings are correct, are they good news or bad news, and what would they mean for the National Broadband Plan?  A Dec. 10 workshop with the study’s authors might provide some answers.  We’ve also issued a Public Notice asking for comment on the report.  Please read the report and give us your thoughts by commenting on this blog or through the 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