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Making Universal Service and Intercarrier Compensation Reform Happen

Posted March 15th, 2011 by FCC Commissioners

By Julius Genachowski, Michael Copps, Robert McDowell, Mignon Clyburn, Meredith Baker – FCC Commissioners

When we voted unanimously to approve the USF/ICC Transformation NPRM last month, each of us made clear that we are committed to reforming the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) system, and to doing so as soon as possible.   We must eliminate waste and inefficiency and modernize USF and ICC to bring the benefits of broadband to all Americans.  We can’t afford to delay.

As part of our process, today we’re announcing the first of a small number of open, public workshops to identify solutions to key issues in the USF/ICC proceeding.  This first workshop at the FCC on April 6th will focus on ICC issues.  At least one of the others will be held outside of Washington, DC, and all of them will be live-streamed on the Internet and will enable online participation.  More details on the workshops will be released soon.

At these workshops, we’re looking forward to robust discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders.  And we’re expecting participants to come prepared with responses to our reform proposals—and/or proposals of their own—that recognize that reform will entail compromise and shared sacrifice, as well as shared opportunity.

In addition to the workshops, we of course encourage parties to file comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).  As a reminder, the first comments on certain issues are due on April 1, and the last reply comments are due on May 23.  While the NPRM included many reform ideas, there may be others that merit consideration as well.  We remain open to considering all ideas put forth in the workshops and comments.

Once the record is complete in late May, we look forward to moving to an Order within a few months—it’s going to be a busy spring and summer.

The time is right to make reform happen, and to do so through an open, public, and participatory process.

(Cross posted on Blogband.)

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New Rules for an Open Internet

Posted December 21st, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Julius GenachowskiAlmost everyone seems to agree that the openness of the Internet is essential -- it has unleashed an enormous wave of innovation, economic growth, job creation, small business generation, and vibrant free expression.

But for too long, the freedom and openness of the Internet has been unprotected. No rules on the books to protect basic Internet values. No process for monitoring Internet openness as technology and business models evolve.

No recourse for innovators, consumers, or speakers harmed by improper practices. And no predictability for Internet service providers, so that they can effectively manage and invest in broadband networks.

Earlier today, that all changed.

As a result of a vote, which was just taken by the FCC, we have -- for the first time -- enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness.

The rules we have adopted are straightforward, and they enshrine a set of key principles.

First, consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed. We have adopted a transparency rule that will give consumers and innovators the clear and simple information they need to make informed choices in choosing networks or designing the next killer app.

Second, consumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful traffic -- to go where they want, say what they want, experiment with ideas -- commercial and social, and use the devices of their choice. Our new rules thus prohibit the blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of devices to the network.

Third, consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. No central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet; that’s the role of the commercial market and the marketplace of ideas.

That is why we adopted a ban on unreasonable discrimination. And we are making clear that so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others are unlikely to be allowed.

The rules also recognize that broadband providers need meaningful flexibility to manage their networks to deal with congestion, security, and other issues. And we recognize the importance and value of business-model experimentation, such as tiered pricing.

These rules fulfill many promises, including a promise to the future – a promise to the companies that don’t yet exist, and the entrepreneurs who haven’t yet started work in their dorm rooms or garages.

Today, the FCC did the right thing for the future of Internet freedom, and I look forward to building on today’s roles as the FCC continues its work to promote innovation, investment, and job creation, and to improve the lives of the American people through communications technology.

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Preserving Openness to Protect Jobs

Posted December 7th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

The impact that Internet entrepreneurs have made on the world is unquestioned.

These businesses push the limits of innovation and move America's economy forward, bound only by their imagination as they grow and expand their reach. This free spirit of creativity doesn’t just make new tech, it also helps create new jobs.

Small businesses and start-ups have accounted for more than 22 million new American jobs over the last 15 years. And broadband has played a central part, enabling small business to lower their costs and reach new customers in new markets around the country and, indeed, the globe.

As these businesses grow stronger, they make room for new jobs that help America compete in the global technology marketplace. Take eBay, for example, which in its short history has been a force multiplier for economic production, facilitating 60 billion dollars a year in economic activity.

The animating force behind all of these efforts is a shared appreciation for the Internet’s wondrous contributions to our economy and our way of life. Over the past generation we’ve seen American-made Internet innovations connect people across the globe. Social networking tools, online video services, and other new tech haven’t just changed the way we stay in touch -- they’ve helped create a booming sector of unbound creativity and economic opportunity.

I’ve learned a key lesson from these entrepreneurs and their businesses. Their spectacular growth is powered by a core value, one shared by the founders of our nation and the architects of the Internet: restrictions on freedom shackle the human spirit, and constrain the promise of bold, new ventures.

The success of these businesses has made America’s tech economy the envy of the world. These businesses are proof that the Internet’s open principles have helped clear the way for unfettered growth. Changing those principles, or regulating this growing market in a way that disfavors innovation, is unacceptable.

This founding principle -- the openness of the Internet -- is at issue today. Interfering with this growth threatens jobs at a time when Americans can hardly afford the risk.  

This is not just a plan to protect a free and open Internet -- this is a plan to protect jobs, now and in America’s future. It is my responsibility to make sure that the economic and legal environment that allowed these jobs to grow remains just as healthy and competitive for future generations.

I’m proud to oversee the FCC at a moment of unprecedented technological advancement. It’s my responsibility to act as a just steward for America’s technology economy and protect these valuable jobs. I’ve seen what works from some of the most dazzling entrepreneurs America has ever known. It’s my responsibility to fight to uphold the free and open principles that have brought us to where we are -- and I am committed to this goal.

(This is cross-posted on the Open Internet blog. Please leave comments there.)

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Preserving a Free and Open Internet

Posted December 1st, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

 After months of hard work we have reached an important milestone in the fight to protect a free and open Internet for all Americans. 

Today, the FCC proposed basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, job creation, competition, and free expression. If adopted later this month, these basic rules will mean several things for consumers, namely:

1. Americans have the freedom to access lawful content on the Internet, without discrimination. No one should be able to tell you what you can or can’t do on the Internet, as long as it’s lawful. Our rules will ensure that no central authority—either corporations or government—have the right to decide what you can access on the Internet. 

2. You have a right to basic information about your broadband service.  Our proposed framework will ensure that consumers have information they need to make informed choices about subscribing or using broadband networks. 

3. The Internet will remain a level playing field. The ability for consumers to speak their mind, engage in commerce and innovate without permission from a corporation has enabled the Internet’s unparalled success.  Our rules will protect against corporate gatekeepers prioritizing access to one person’s content over another’s.

The openness of the Internet has enabled unparalleled innovation and job growth, yet we continue to find examples of this freedom being attacked. We have found instances when broadband providers position themselves as gatekeepers to the Internet, and have prevented consumers from using applications of their choice without disclosing what they were doing.

We must take action to protect consumers against price hikes and closed access to the Internet—and our proposed framework is designed to do just that: to guard against these risks while recognizing the legitimate needs and interests of broadband providers.

I look forward to the very important work ahead as we strive for free and open communications for all Americans.


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Unleashing America’s Invisible Infrastructure

Posted October 21st, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Just last week, President Obama said that to create jobs today and lay the foundation for economic growth and U.S. competitiveness in the future, “We need … a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century.”

When most people think of infrastructure, they think of visible projects like highways, bridges or high-speed rail.

But just as vital is our invisible infrastructure – the electromagnetic spectrum that travels unseen through the air and enables all of our wireless communications networks, cellular voice and data services, as well as radio, broadcast TV, and satellite.

Wireless innovation fuels economic growth and job creation. Sales of smartphone “apps” – an industry that didn’t exist a few years ago -- topped $4 billion in 2009; our new apps economy has created many jobs and can create more. Our invisible infrastructure also supports breakthrough tools to improve education through mobile online learning and e-books, enhance health care through potentially life-saving remote diagnostics, and promote energy efficiency by supporting the smart grid.

But we are at an inflection point.

The explosive growth in mobile communications is outpacing our ability to keep up. Spectrum is finite. If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to run into a wall – a spectrum crunch – that will stifle American innovation and economic growth and cost us the opportunity to lead the world in mobile communications.

Today, many of the nation’s leading experts on wireless technologies gathered at the FCC for a spectrum summit to identify ways we can solve the spectrum crunch and unleash our invisible infrastructure to spark our economy and create a powerful engine for job creation.

I kicked off the discussion with some remarks that highlighted some of the strategies we are pursuing at the FCC to make more spectrum available and put it to its best use.

I hope you will check out my speech, and I encourage you to watch other videos from the summit, which feature national leaders like Aneesh Chopra, our nation’s Chief Technology Officer, and Jason Furman, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, as well as my fellow Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker.

The future is being built on our invisible infrastructure. Today’s summit identifies important ways we can work together to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century and make sure that infrastructure truly serves our country’s needs.

(Cross-posted at Blogband)

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October's Open Commission Meeting: Empowering Consumers

Posted October 14th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

New technology is an exciting thing, and what's happening in the mobile space is simply incredible. With any new technology, consumers need to be empowered to address concerns quickly and with simple solutions.

During the October Open Commission Meeting we took bold moves on our consumer empowerment agenda. Following the meeting I recorded a video that outlines how the FCC is taking on important consumer issues -- like bill shock -- to empower and educate Americans.

Watch the video to learn more, then leave your comments below.

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The FCC's Consumer Empowerment Agenda

Posted October 13th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

On the way in this morning, I got an email from a friend that rings familiar to way too many Americans.

My friend said that he incurred $2,000 in extra data charges while on a trip overseas, despite buying an “international plan.”  He added that this was “more than 15 times” what he had expected to pay.

He was a victim of what we at the FCC call “bill shock,” and, according to our research, there are 30 million Americans just like him.

Bill shock occurs when consumers see their bills jump unexpectedly by tens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars from one month to the next.  Common cases are when a subscriber is charged for unknowingly exceeding his or her allotments for voice, text or data, or gets hit with roaming charges that are unexpected.

A few hours ago, I delivered a speech highlighting what the FCC is doing to put an end to bill shock, as well as other fees and billing practices that are giving consumers headaches.

I’m proud that the FCC is pursuing an aggressive Consumer Empowerment Agenda.  In a nutshell, our strategy is to educate, empower, and enforce.

We are working to harness technology and promote transparency to empower consumers with the information they need to make smart decisions and to make the market work.  And when there is bad conduct in the market, the FCC has acted, and we will continue to act. Consumers must know that the FCC’s got their back. 

I hope that you will read the speech to learn the details of our Agenda.  I also invite you to check out FCC.gov/consumers, where you can access digital tools like our broadband speed test, and learn more about preventing bill shock.

There’s never been a more exciting – or complex – time to be a consumer of communications technologies.  Be assured that the FCC is working to make sure that you and all Americans have the tools to take advantage of new technologies, without having to worry that somebody is taking advantage of you.

Posted in From The Chairman Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumers

July Open Commission Meeting: Thoughts from the Chairman

Posted July 15th, 2010 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

The FCC held an Open Commission Meeting today to discuss expanding the reach and use of broadband by rural health care providers, increasing access and investment in mobile spectrum, and streamlining efficiency in the Electronic Tariff Filing System.

Chairman Genachowski shares his thoughts on today’s Open Commission Meeting below:

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Unleashing Spectrum For Mobile Broadband

Posted June 18th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

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Reflections from the Chairman on the May Commission Meeting

Posted May 21st, 2010 by George Krebs

Chairman Genachowski provides his thoughts on yesterday’s Open Commission Meeting in the below video blog.


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