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Your Consumer Advisory Committee

Posted March 16th, 2011 by Scott Marshall - Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

The Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) is yet another means by which the consumers’ voice is heard at the FCC.

Originally established in November 2000, CAC advises the commission on consumer issues within its jurisdiction and facilitates the participation of consumers -- including people with disabilities and underserved populations such as American Indians and persons living in rural areas -- in proceedings before the FCC.

On December 30, 2008, the commission announced the rechartering of the Committee for a fifth two-year term thru November 2010. As a federal advisory committee, CAC membership is required by law to represent a balanced point of view.  Accordingly, of the committee’s 28 volunteer members, 12 represented interests of consumers, minorities and low-income communities, five represented the interests of people with disabilities, six represented the interests of Tribal, state and local governments and five represented the telecom industries.  Debra Berlyn, formerly of the Digital Television Transition Coalition and presently the National Consumers League, chaired the committee.  

Last November, the committee was rechartered for another two year term (PDF) through 2012. Applications for committee membership were solicited and are currently being reviewed.  It is expected that Chairman Genachowski will make appointments to the CAC in April.

A highlight of the CAC’s fifth term was two recommendations concerning the Consumer Information Disclosure Notice of Inquiry, CG 09-158 (PDF), which sought comment on whether there are opportunities to protect and empower consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services.  These two recommendations , adopted by the committee in March and August of 2010, relate to the kinds of pre-sale disclosures consumers need when they are trying to make wise purchases of wireless, broadband, and other communication services.

For further information about the Consumer Advisory Committee, along with the recommendations referred to in this post, visit the Consumer Advisory Committee section of our website.  If you have any questions about the Committee please contact me, Scott Marshall, CAC's Designated Federal Officer, at scott.marshall [at] fcc [dot] gov.

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Advisory Committee Consumers
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App Accessibility: Are We at a Tipping Point?

Posted March 11th, 2011 by Pam Gregory

Everyone is always talking about some new app, and I simply can’t keep up!

Recently, I ran across something called the “iPhone App Directory.” The British magazine, now in its sixth issue, reviews, rates and lists download costs for apps.  I was curious to see how many of the 947 reviewed apps had potential for assisting with most disabilities, and I ended up very pleased and surprised.

Dare I say we might have reached the tipping point in technological universal design?  It seemed there were many apps that could be beneficial to people with cognitive disabilities, although interestingly, some of those were not user friendly and therefore not recommended.

It was refreshing to see the number of new educational apps that may help persons with learning disabilities.  Knowing that this magazine couldn’t cover all the new apps, I launched a search for similar magazines and found a good site that listed endless publications that also rate and compare new apps.

Here are some apps that I thought were particularly interesting.

  • D2u Transcriber provides dictation and transcription on a mobile phone.
  • SendStuffNow offers cloud-based storage.
  • Conf provides help for conference attendees by tracking each session, list speakers, lists panels/discussions, and even provides GPS to show how far away you are from each event (Note to self: Download for CSUN conference!).
  • ClearRecord Premium is an audio recording app that is able to suppress background noise.
  • Wallet Advanced manages your website logins, credit card info and other private information.  It has strong encryption so that this information is safe. 
  • Similarly, there is Password Keeper, which is a simple tool that stores your password and is also secure.
  • Flashcards App, teaches new vocabulary, then tests you, and even checks your daily progress.
  • Voice Cards are Not Flashcards!! allows you to create voice flash cards with an autoplay and shake option.
  • WordWarp (which I actually have) is a game where you create as many words as possible from a selection of letters.  If you’re stuck, just press the “warp” button and it will help you out. Also, a very useful game for persons with head injuries.
  • Pill Time reminds you to take your medications, and breaks up your medications by medication type, ailment concerned, dosage, frequency and the specific time of day.  It also provides a medication countdown, which counts what medicines you have taken, and what you have left to take in a day.
  • Living Well with Arthritis provides helpful tips to manage your arthritis.  This app was rated superior for usability.  It has many features, including routines, basic understanding of your type of arthritis and how it affects your body, and teaches how you can deal with your arthritis better.
  • iCanBass offers a guitar interface and allows you to pull strings.  This app made me think of Paul Schroeder of the American Foundation for the Blind, who is an avid guitar player.
  • Music For Users provides ambient music to affect your brainwaves.  This app has is programmed with certain tasks, which act as an “alarm” for project management.
  • LocateMeNow provides you with your location, and is user friendly and fast. If I had only had this when I first moved to DC!
  • MobileRSS gathers and manages your selected feeds and presents them in one place for easy monitoring.
  • Breaking News with Push delivers breaking news.  This reminds me of a story Al Sonnenstrahl, a life-long Deaf telecommunications advocate, told me of how, despite being in a car pool and working all morning  with colleagues, when RFK was shot after midnight in 1968, he had no idea. His deafness had pushed him out of the information loop..
  • PhotoDiary enables you to track your day with photographs, and allows you to add captions to the photos, and date and time-stamp the photo.  I would love to see user testing on how people with cognitive disabilities who need help with their daily routine could use this app!
  • PhotoMashup has great potential for people who are Deaf and to other visual learners by allowing you to arrange your photos, make montages, rotate, enlarge and move photos, and even provides the ability to include drop shadow and customize border colors.
  • iStuff is a highly visual method of managing tasks by providing 12 categories that are named based on time and function. It provides simple calendar views, an in-box for new tasks, tags to work on several tasks together, and overdue tasks, which require you to pay attention.  This task-management app is rich in features, and rated high on usability.  Another project management tool that is also highly rated is SideTacts, which integrates phone, e-mail and SMS into a single app.  It also provides audio, text and video notes, while continually synching with the basic apps on every off-the-shelf iPhone.
  • Easy Group Text allows you to group your contacts and text everyone in that group at the same time.  There is a similar app, GroupSMS!, which does the same for SMS.  Another app is FogHorn, which is a simple and user-friendly app that allows you to enter phone numbers for multiple people, and hold text chats where everyone sees all the messages.  FogHorn also allows you to store your chats, archive your chats online, and add extra information about the participants.
  • Today Screen can simplify your day by taking all of your appointments in the iPhone calendar, and putting them into a user-friendly view.  It even color codes past, present and future events;
  • 15,000 Useful Phrases is perfect for those whose English is a second language. It can provide assistance in the much needed gap between ESL and real English conversations--a great social skills app.
  • Lonely Planet San Francisco Guide is a one-stop resource for visiting a city. It is said to be even more helpful than a travel book and received rave reviews.  It includes detailed maps (online and offline). I personally love the Lonely Planet guides, and the San Francisco guide is just one of many cities offered.  Maptual allows you to view various points of interest on a map using the Open Street Map interface. Like Lonely Planet, Maptual provides information about cities all around the world.
  • Find A Pharmacy  will locate a pharmacy for you based on your geographic location, indicate how far the pharmacy is, and provides a Google Map to direct you to the pharmacy.
  • QuickPaste ranks very high on usability and allows you copy multiple records (the iPhone app limits you to one record at a time) for pasting into other apps. A good tool for everyone, especially for those with hand dexterity issues.
  • Pic-Z Tag is great for conference or meeting attendees, especially people with speech disabilities. It lets you design a name tag (templates provided).  When you meet someone new, you can just flash your iPhone to introduce yourself.
  • Ring Finger is a great speed dialing program that you can program time and automated calling.  For example, if you needed to call in to your job coach each day at 1:30 p.m., it will automatically connect you with your job coach at 1:30.

If you have used any of these apps and have found them to provide access, I would love to hear from you.  Also, I would love to hear from you about accessible apps that weren’t listed—it would be great to have one ongoing list of apps that have disability implications.

Are there any groups that are studying new apps for accessibility? If you’re an app developer, let me know if you are designing to include the 54 million Americans with disabilities.  My next step is to remember my password so I can download some new apps! Happy apping!

(Cross posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumers Developer Accessibility

Public Service Recognition Week

Posted March 10th, 2011 by Kelli Farmer - Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) is a great time to educate the public about what we as government employees do, why we do it and how well we do it.  The main goals of PSRW are to:

  • Educate citizens nationwide about the many ways in which government serves the American people
  • Improve the perception and confidence of government workers and other public servants, and
  • Inspire a new generation of public servants

In past years, the FCC, with the help our dynamic Consumer Affairs & Outreach Division in our Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau has held exhibits on the National Mall alongside various branches of the military, other government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private companies showcasing the quality work done by public employees.

Due to a lack of funding, no doubt a symptom of the current financial hardship our country is experiencing, there will not be a major event held on the National Mall this year.  However, the effort to honor and highlight our dedicated, hard-working public servants won’t be diminished.  Instead, individual agencies are encouraged to hold events onsite for PSRW.

A variety of activities have been offered in the past in light of PSRW, such as:

  • Job Shadowing --which offers opportunities for young people to personally connect with and “shadow” representatives from various agencies throughout the city, inspiring future employees.
  • Jobs Day --a great opportunity for various agency representatives to talk about the types of careers offered by their agencies and what job openings they may have available at that time.

This year, PSRW will feature a Public Servant Day with the Washington Nationals.   The partnership will offer discounted tickets, which will include admission to a pre-game celebration, for the afternoon game on Sunday, May 1.  Also, the partnership has launched a video contest as part of PSRW.  The contest encourages students, government employees and others to participate by creating a short video illustrating the value of government employees and/or what our nation would look like without us.  
The partnership wants contestants to consider the essential services carried out daily by government employees on behalf of the American people and what would happen if we as public servants simply disappeared.

PSRW is a week that allows us to show exactly how hard we work for the American people and how government services make life better for all of us.
We’ll keep you posted on the specific events the FCC will be hosting to honor PSRW.

I hope you can join us for any and all events associated during this special week.

For more information about how you or your organization can participate in Public Service Recognition Week, call (202) 775-9111 or e-mail psrw [at] ourpublicservice [dot] org. Complete program details are also available at PSRW.org.

Posted in FCC Staff Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
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Report from CES: How Will You Watch TV?

Posted January 11th, 2011 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

I’m back from the Consumer Electronics Show, the once-a-year showcase for the latest, most innovative consumer technology. With over 130,000 attendees, a show floor the size of six New York City blocks, and IMAX-sized arrays of flat-screen TVs everywhere, the CES can be hard to get your head around. But each year some strong themes emerge.

This year, a major development is what you could call the Emerging Entertainment Ecosystem. We’re moving rapidly into a world where movies, live TV, music, and more will be available on all devices, anywhere and at any time.

The idea of “TV everywhere” has been around for a while. For instance, Slingbox began six years ago by marketing devices that send your TV signal to your smartphone or laptop, wherever you are.  At the Slingbox booth, a rep told me how he’d recently used their product to watch his local TV station via Wi Fi on a plane over the Middle East.  What’s different now is that major manufacturers, software companies, and carriers are partnering to develop fully integrated systems to provide entertainment across devices.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on CES, chose several keynoters to talk about their visions for integrated entertainment. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg described how his company is developing strategies, infrastructure, and devices that will allow you to view TV or movies in HD with higher download and streaming speeds on your smartphone or tablet. The new XOOM tablet, designed in a partnership between Motorola, Google, and Verizon, is made for this use, and was a popular stop on the CES show floor. The XOOM, expected out early this year on Verizon’s 3G network, will use a new version of Google’s Android platform, called Honeycomb, that’s developed specifically for tablet use and will be upgradeable to Verizon’s new high-speed LTE network by mid-year.

In a similar vein, keynoter Boo-Keun (“BK”) Yoon, President and General Manager of Samsung’s Visual Display Business, presented a vision for integrated entertainment from a product manufacturer’s point of view. The world’s leading manufacturer of 3D televisions, Samsung produces everything from smart TVs, which are large Internet-enabled home units, to smartphones and Galaxy tablets. In partnership with Comcast, Hulu, and others, Samsung is “breaking down the wall between devices.” As Yoon demonstrated, you’ll be able to start watching a movie on your tablet, pause, and resume from the same place on your TV; watch the same live TV on your tablet as in your living room; and use your Galaxy to run your DVR, search for programming, and control your home TV set without using a conventional remote.

Many other major exhibitors on the show floor had demos of their own versions of integrated entertainment. The technology relies on broadband, with programming stored and managed through the Internet cloud and accessible by all kinds of devices. As this new entertainment ecosystem becomes the industry standard, we’ll need to develop faster speeds and greater capacity for both fixed and wireless networks. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that 70 percent of all consumer electronic devices will be connected to the Internet by 2014. With half of all Internet traffic now used for video, and more video use to come, the demands on our infrastructure will ratchet up by the year. The National Broadband Plan makes several recommendations for managing the new demand, and the FCC’s spectrum policy has made the expansion of wireless broadband a priority.

The ultimate goal of all this new technology is a better experience and more opportunities for consumers. Please add a comment to share your thoughts and experiences on TV, the Web, and the entertainment experience you’d like to have in the future.

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumers

Internet Service: Would You Switch – and Why?

Posted December 6th, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

If you’re like many Americans, you may be wondering whether you should keep the Internet service you have in your home. If you have more than one broadband provider in your area, you may be getting a barrage of advertising encouraging you to switch from your current provider to another one. Should you switch – and if so, why?

At the FCC, we’ve done a representative national survey to find out how satisfied consumers are with their Internet service and what goes into the decision to switch or stick with an ISP. We’re releasing the results of that survey today. It shows that Americans are largely pleased with their Internet service, but have some cause for dissatisfaction – and face obstacles that make it hard for them to switch ISPs.

Our survey found that 38 percent of Internet users have changed service providers in the last three years, more than half of them for a reason other than changing residences. The majority of Internet users seem to be satisfied with their service; most people who haven’t switched say they haven’t even considered it seriously. Still, 38 percent is a significant number, and one that deserves further exploration.

What makes people want to change providers? Two things: Price and performance. Nearly a quarter of home Internet users are dissatisfied with the price they pay for service, and 47 percent of those who switched ISPs said price was a major reason. Even more – 49 percent – said that a major reason they switched was to get a faster or higher performance Internet connection.

Moreover, the survey showed that a sizeable number of people would consider switching ISPs if it was easier to do. They’re deterred not only by the hassle, but by financial considerations – the need to put down a new deposit, pay a set-up or installation fee, or pay an early termination fee. Early termination fees are currently less common for ISPs than for cell-phone service, but they’re still a factor.

This survey, together with earlier data we’ve reported, underscores how much consumers need clear information to help them make smart choices about Internet service. Speed is a major factor that leads people to switch ISPs – but how many of us really understand what speed we’re getting? We previously reported that 80 percent of Americans don’t know their broadband speed, and today’s survey found that most say their monthly bills aren’t clear about speed either. If ISPs are going to compete on speed – which will be good for consumers and good for the country’s broadband infrastructure – then consumers need better information on what speed they need and what speeds they’re getting.

The same is true of price and fees. We’ve found previously that many cell-phone customers don’t know the early termination fees that they’re subject to. As some ISPs start instituting these fees as well, they need to ensure that consumers are fully informed and can factor these fees into their decisions.

Competition among ISPs, like competition in other markets, is good for consumers and good for service providers. And clear information will help consumers make the smart choices that allow competition to work.

We’re interested in your own experience: Have you switched ISPs, or thought about doing so? Post a comment to let us know your views.

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

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumers

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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The Power of Partnerships

Posted October 29th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

We had an inspiring couple of days in Colorado last week.  On October 21 in Westminister, we participated in the 10th Annual Coleman Institute Conference, entitled “All Together Now:  The Power of Partnerships in Cognitive Disability & Technology.” 

While at the conference, Pam announced that the FCC was partnering with the Coleman Institute and Raising the Floor, an international coalition of individuals and organizations who promote internet accessibility for people with disabilities, to launch a challenge to the public to submit short multimedia presentations on their visions of how cloud computing can create new opportunities.  The challenge, titled "Lifted by the Cloud: Visions of Cloud-Enhanced Accessibility" is the Commission’s first challenge using GSA’s new challenge.gov platform.  More information can be found here.  Preceding Pam’s announcement of the challenge, Elizabeth Lyle, Special Counsel for Innovation in the Wireless Bureau, gave remarks on “The National Broadband Plan and Access for People with Cognitive Disabilities.”

We also participated in a pre-conference workshop in Boulder on October 20, entitled “Implications of Cloud Computing for People with Cognitive Disabilities,” which was sponsored by the Coleman Institute and Silicon Flatirons.  Jamal participated on a panel on “Technical Opportunities and Commercial Infrastructure, including the Farther Future” and Elizabeth participated on a panel entitled “Legal and Regulatory Barriers to Accessibility Technology in the Cloud.”

The Power of Partnerships was truly an apt title – for both days.  The Coleman Institute and Silicon Flatirons created a powerful learning environment by bringing together people with disabilities, advocates, families, researchers, academics, developers, technologists, and policymakers – and we are happy that the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative could be a part of it!

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Accessibility
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Bill Shock: Starting to Set the Rules

Posted October 14th, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

At today’s FCC open meeting, the Chairman and the four other commissioners unanimously voted to propose rules to prevent Bill Shock. These proposed rules would require mobile carriers to send their customers a voice or text message when they are approaching their limit for a text, voice, or data plan, and when they are starting to incur roaming fees. The Commission notes that there are already similar rules in the European Union, where these alerts appear to be helping consumers without putting an undue burden on wireless companies. You can read the proposed rules and the commissioners’ and Chairman’s statements here.

We in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which prepared these proposed rules, are happy to have the full support of the Commission as we go forward. What happens next is a period of comment to allow all interested parties – including the industry, consumer groups, and the public at large – to weigh in on our proposals. That’s where you come in. You can go to our Consumer Help Center, at fcc.gov/consumers, and use the “File a Comment With the FCC” button to make your views known. If Bill Shock has happened to you, you can “File a Consumer Complaint” from the same website. You can also share your stories with us posting a comment to this blog, or sending me an e-mail at joel.gurin@fcc.gov.

In voting to propose these rules, the commissioners stressed the importance of a full record in determining the best way to prevent bill shock. The record on Bill Shock is growing all the time. Just yesterday, we learned about a new Consumer Reports online survey that found one-fifth of the respondents had experienced unexpected charges on their wireless bills. We need to hear from experts and the public alike to understand this problem and make sure consumers have the best tools to solve it. Please let us know about your views and your experiences. We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Open Meetings Consumers