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More News with the FCC Registration Numbers

Posted February 24th, 2011 by Warren Firschein

 FCC license holders and others doing business with the Commission are likely to be already familiar with the Commission’s Registration System, also known as “CORES,” which primarily is used by registrants to obtain an identifying number called an FCC Registration Number, or “FRN.”  These unique ten-digit number sequences allow registrants to submit or file applications to the Commission, as well as remit payments, and are used by all Commission systems to easily identify individuals and companies when they interact with the agency.  They also serve an important role by aiding the Commission’s compliance with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which was enacted by Congress to address concerns that debts owed to the Federal government were not being properly collected.  

On December 6, 2010, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing modifications intended to make CORES more feature-friendly and improve the Commission’s ability to comply with various statutes that govern debt collection and the collection of personal information by the federal government.  One of the primary goals of this proceeding is to improve the interface with CORES so that you can use the system in a more efficient and effective manner.  Some of the proposed modifications to CORES are summarized below, but the full text of the NPRM can be found on the Commission’s web site.  Note that comments to the proposals raised in the NPRM must be submitted on or before March 3, 2011, while reply comments must be submitted no later than March 18, 2011.  

I’d like to also mention that on March 10, 2011, we’ll be holding a forum with staff and the public to explore legal and technical challenges associated with the proposed modifications that were raised in the NPRM.  The workshop will be held in the FCC’s Commission Meeting Room at our headquarters in Washington, D.C., beginning at 10:00 a.m.  Mary Beth Richards, Special Counsel to the Chairman for FCC Reform, will present opening remarks, and I’ll be moderating the forum.  If interested, you’re encouraged to attend the forum or to follow along over the Internet from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.  For more information, please refer to the Commission’s Public Notice announcing the public forum, which was released on February 15 and can be found on the front page of the Commission’s website.

Here are highlights of some of the proposals raised in the NPRM:

A Single FRN:  Since the creation of CORES, companies have been able to obtain multiple FRNs so they could better internally manage their dealings with the agency.  As a result, however, it has been difficult for the Commission to identify all the FRNs that are held by the same entity and tie them together in order to examine the entity’s entire course of dealing with the agency.  Thus, the NPRM proposes to limit each registered entity to a single FRN, possibly through multiple sub-accounts that are linked together electronically.  If enacted, this would have numerous benefits, both to our regulatees and the agency itself.  For example, limiting each registrant to a single FRN will enhance our ability to inform them of past due regulatory fees and impending license renewal deadlines, through e-mail or on-line notification messages.   Furthermore, it would enable the Commission to roll out a series of new features for CORES, including a company-centric “dashboard” that filers would see upon login, through which they’d have the ability to review the progress on their filings, fees that are due, the history of files they’ve submitted, as well as other important information.  Such features could only be made possible by limiting entities to a single company-wide identifier.  The NPRM also proposes to limit individual filers to a single FRN as well.

The NPRM describes some methods that we’re considering to limit registrants to a single FRN while retaining flexibility to organize their filings and other dealings with the Commission among logical business lines of their choosing, such as creating sub-accounts under a common FRN, and seeks comment on some of the technical and managerial challenges for each idea—take a look and let us know what you think.  

Multiple Registrants with Multiple Points of Contact:  Currently, CORES does not permit FRN holders to identify anyone other than themselves as the point of contact for their FRN, which may limit the FRN’s usefulness, because the listed person is not always the appropriate individual to resolve a particular issue or to provide necessary information to the agency.  For this reason, the NPRM proposes that FRN holders should have the ability to voluntarily provide additional points of contact for their FRNs for specific pre-designated issues, such as “Accounting,” “Billing,” “Licensing,” “Legal Issues,” etc.     

Elimination of Certain TIN Exception Reasons:  Some individuals and entities aren’t required to provide their taxpayer ID when registering in CORES for various reasons.  Over time, we’ve begun to believe that some of these exceptions are unnecessary, and the NPRM proposes to eliminate some of them.  If you’re one of the few individuals or companies that have taken advantage of one of these exceptions, we recommend that you review the NPRM to see if you’d be affected by any of these proposals.  

Registrant E-mail Addresses:  When CORES was first designed approximately ten years ago, the use of e-mail wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it is now.   As a result, entities and individuals were given the opportunity to voluntarily provide an e-mail address when completing the CORES registration process to obtain an FRN.  Given the significant increase in the use of and dependence on e-mail in the years since CORES first became operational, however, the NPRM proposes that all FRN holders now be required to provide an e-mail address upon registration, which would simplify the process for us to maintain contact with registrants when a regulatory matter requires attention.  Don’t worry—your e-mail address would remain private and hidden from public view. 

Using CORES to Alert FRN Holders About Financial or Other Administrative Issues:  CORES currently lacks the capability to alert FRN holders about known financial or other administrative-related issues regarding their standing at the Commission, such as their status in the Commission’s Red Light Display System, their debarment status, or the fact that we have discovered that their contact information is incorrect or nonoperational.  The NPRM proposes to remedy this by enhancing CORES to permit the Commission to post individualized warning messages that would appear the next time a user accesses his or her FRN through the system.  Another potential use for this feature might be to display payment histories and unpaid bills for Commission-related activities, such as unpaid fines and forfeitures, as well as the section 9 regulatory fee payment status.  

Tax Exempt Indicator:  Because tax-exempt entities often qualify for a reduction or elimination of their section 8 or section 9 annual regulatory fee requirements, the Commission is considering adding a data field to CORES that would enable entities and individuals to indicate any tax exempt status that they possess.  The availability of such data and documentation through CORES would simplify the process for confirming eligibility for a reduction of (or exemption from) annual fee requirements, thus improving our financial operations, and reducing errors.

Bankruptcy Indicator:  In certain contexts, our various Bureaus and Offices have an interest in knowing when industry participants are filing for (or emerging from) bankruptcy.  For example, the Commission is required to process assignments or transfers of control of licenses for parties that enter bankruptcy.  Also, the Commission’s Office of Financial Operations routinely receives requests for waiver of Section 9 regulatory fees from debtors claiming to be in bankruptcy.  Currently, the Commission does not have a central depository of notifications that an entity is in bankruptcy.  Therefore, to reduce administrative burdens at the Commission, the NPRM proposes to add a data field that would enable entities and individual license holders (or their representatives) to notify the Commission through CORES that they have entered into bankruptcy, or that there has been a change in their bankruptcy status (such as, for example, when they emerge from bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code).  

Company Dashboard:  In light of the Commission’s intent to develop and deploy an agency-wide Consolidated Licensing System, the NPRM seeks comments on the usefulness of utilizing a company dashboard or summary profile that filers would see upon login, which would serve as a central repository of information for the filer.  Through the dashboard, the filer would have the ability to quickly and easily review various pertinent information, such as the progress on their filings, fees that are due, the history of files the filer has submitted, as well as any other important information the filer may need.  Other uses for such a dashboard may include: identifying any information that is missing from a pending application, updating their profile, and detecting actions requiring immediate attention.

Posted in Office Of Managing Director Fcc Reform
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First 24 hours

Posted February 18th, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

 The launch of the National Broadband Map marks the beginning of a promising new venture: empowering consumers, researchers, policy-makers, and developers to truly understand what broadband means in America.

This idea — a powerful way to navigate huge troves of data to increase transparency and understanding — drove the production of the map. In building the map, our team had a hunch that there would be a hunger for a tool that served up this level of detail and information. The talented designers, web architects, and geospatial pros kept that in mind throughout the entire building process.

When the map went live yesterday, the response was astounding, with the number of requests to the website averaging more than 1,000 per second! Below is just a short list of the metrics we observed on our first day;

  • Total hits yesterday: 158,123,884
  • Hits served by cache: 141,068,348 (89.21%)
  • Total Bytes Transferred: 863GB
  • Peak Requests per Second: 8,970
  • Average Requests per Second: 1,095
  • Visits in the first 10 hours: over 500,000

This phenomenal response shows that the investment of time, energy, and — not least of all — Congressional funds were well worth it. The National Broadband Map clearly has a market of interest, and we’re extremely proud to see that market being well served.

With this kind of traffic, we are tripling efforts to serve you better. The team has been working round the clock to make infrastructure enhancements to the site. These enhancements include horizontal scaling of servers, adding more memory and more caching to the maps, tuning the map server architecture with the software developers for the map, and working with outside partners to help with the application. We are also working to resolve known browser issues with the map. Most features of the website can be viewed in any browser, but the maps in the gallery are best viewed with Firefox and Chrome. You can help identify and solve these issues through feedback.

I can’t wait to keep making the National Broadband Map better, particularly because I know that feedback, new ideas, and innovation around the map will be driving that process.

[Cross-posted from the National Broadband Map Blog.]

Posted in Data Developer Api Maps

The National Broadband Map

Posted February 17th, 2011 by Anne Neville - Director, State Broadband Initiative – NTIA

Welcome to the first-ever public, searchable nationwide map of broadband access. 

The National Broadband Map is an unprecedented project created by NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with each state, territory and the District of Columbia. We created the map at the direction of Congress, which recognized that economic opportunities are driven by access to 21st Century infrastructure.

With funding from NTIA’s State Broadband Data & Development Program, our state partners have gathered and worked to validate broadband data from thousands of providers across the country. Together, we developed a dataset and website that includes more than 25 million searchable records displaying where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used to provide the service, the maximum advertised speeds of the service, and the names of the broadband providers. Whether you are a consumer seeking more information on the broadband options available to you, a researcher or policymaker working to spur greater broadband deployment, a local official aiming to attract investment in your community, or an application developer with innovative ideas, the National Broadband Map can help.  And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for on the map itself, you can download the entire dataset.

While the launch of this map is a huge accomplishment, today is just the beginning. Our partners in the states are working to expand and update this important dataset, and we will update the map with new data every six months. In the meantime, you can help. Each time you search the map, you have the opportunity to tell us about the data you’re seeing. This crowdsourced feedback will be an important tool to improve and refine the data.

We invite you to explore the many features and functionalities the National Broadband Map offers. To start, search for broadband by address. Or go straight to our analysis tools and compare one area to others, and make sure you spend some time with our maps.  Want more? Download the dataset, use our APIs and please tell us how you’re using the data.

We expect the map will be a valuable tool as we work to bridge the technological divide, expand economic opportunities, and leverage the power of broadband to address many of the nation’s most pressing challenges.  We hope you will make full use of its capabilities and let us know what you think and how we can improve.

Posted in Wireless Open Government National Broadband Plan Data Developer Api Maps
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IssueMap Round-up

Posted February 16th, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

We’re really proud and humbled by the splash that IssueMap made last week. Thanks to the team at FortiusOne for rolling out a high-quality product that obviously hit the mark.

It’s exciting to see some of the cool IssueMaps that are shared over social networks. You can follow @IssueMap on Twitter to catch the shared IssueMaps published there. We’ve also put up a new Reboot page that collects a few FCC data sets and maps them on IssueMap.

We continue to hold strong to the belief that -- done right -- mapping will significantly change the way we understand data, solve problems, and tell compelling stories.

Here are some of the different angles on IssueMap:

Keep posting your IssueMaps, and stay tuned for more mapping news very soon.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Reform - Data Data Developer Api Maps
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Demand for mobile broadband

Posted February 10th, 2011 by John Leibovitz

By John Leibovitz & Robert Alderfer

Cisco recently released an update to its Visual Networking Index: Mobile Data Traffic Forecast report, which contains projections of data usage on mobile wireless networks over the next five years. The report is widely followed because Cisco’s role as a network equipment supplier throughout the network ecosystem –  including wireline networks, cellular networks, and consumer WiFi networks – gives them some unique insights into where network trends are heading. Last year’s VNI report, which projected surging demand on wireless networks, was an input into the spectrum demand analysis we released this past fall. We were therefore interested to see how Cisco’s report changed since the prior edition.

The bottom line is that Cisco continues to foresee an enormous surge in wireless demand.  Let’s take a look at their North American regional breakout. Cisco estimates that in 2010, North Americans transmitted 49 Petabytes (PB) per month over mobile networks. That’s about 4,900 times the amount of information in the printed collection of the Library of Congress. By 2015, Cisco expects this number will grow to 986 Petabytes – nearly one Exabyte, equivalent to almost 100,000 Libraries of Congress.

In relative terms, Cisco’s projects 20X growth in the next five years. This is lower than the 47X growth forecast in the previous Cisco report, but only because this year’s forecast starts from a higher “base” compared to the previous year. Overall, Cisco predicts that data growth begins to slow down in out years, but that the growth still continues at an impressive rate. The forecast consumption is 58X larger in 2015 compared to the 2009 estimate reported in last year’s report. Any way you look at it, that’s enormous growth.

Importantly, the report accounts for some offsetting effects, most notably the use of WiFi and femtocell networks to “offload” capacity from the mobile network to a fixed broadband connection. Cisco estimates that about 21% of traffic from smartphones and tablets was offloaded to WiFi or femtocells in 2010 and that this proportion will increase to 30% by 2015. This finding demonstrates the vital importance of unlicensed spectrum in helping address our nation’s wireless capacity needs. Still, overall traffic growth is likely to outpace offloading, according to Cisco’s forecast.

Consider what this astounding growth means to American families, to our economy, and to our future. All of those bits and bytes represent new ways of communicating, informing, and transacting with one another. They are video messages sent to grandparents, invoices sent to customers, and research findings sent to universities. And countless other uses, as diverse as the Internet itself. Our obligation at the FCC is to ensure that our wireless rules are flexible enough so that the supply of spectrum will meet this inexorable demand. That’s what keeps us busy every day.

Posted in Wireless National Broadband Plan Mobile
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National Women’s Heart Health Month

Posted February 10th, 2011 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

As we celebrate Black History Month, we also recognize February as National Women’s Heart Health Month. This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) is hosting the Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat campaign to encourage women to call 9-1-1 immediately when the seven symptoms of a heart attack occur:


  • Chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
  • Unusual upper body pain, or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat


The issues surrounding Women’s Heart Health are especially important to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. Every minute a woman suffers a heart attack in America, but according to a 2009 American Heart Association (AHA) survey, many are not aware of the key symptoms of a heart attack. More astounding is the fact that only 50% of women said they would call 9-1-1 if they thought they were having a heart attack. It is imperative for the safety of women that these statistics change; 9-1-1 is the number to call during such health events.

During this month’s observance of Women’s Heart Health and in the months to follow, please encourage yourselves, your mothers, wives, aunts and sisters to educate themselves on the symptoms of heart attack and, without hesitation or procrastination, to call 9-1-1.  It could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Please take time to visit the following websites for further information and to find out how you can participate in the Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat campaign. WomensHealth.gov and the Office on Women’s Health Facebook and Twitter pages.

Access downloadable TV broadcast quality sound bites by visiting the Plowshare Group’s download center.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
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Jammin' - A Hit for Bob Marley, a Miss for Communications

Posted February 9th, 2011 by Michele Ellison - Chief of Enforcement Bureau

Over the last several years, cell and GPS jammers have become increasingly portable and accessible to consumers on the Internet. These websites often mislead consumers, suggesting that cell jammers may be used lawfully to silence unwanted cell phone use in restaurants, movie theaters, or on the roads. And, some websites (including many based outside the U.S.) claim that individual consumers are responsible for determining the legality of their jammers.

Don't be fooled!

Because jammers are designed solely to block authorized communications, the marketing, sale, and operation of jammers is illegal in the United States. Why? Well, using jamming devices can endanger the public.

Jamming devices are indiscriminate. For example, when a cell jammer is used, the jammer's unwanted signal is often set to the same frequency as the phone signal, only stronger.

The jammer's signal can be so powerful that it cancels the signal of all phones in its range – yes, it may silence loud conversations disturbing those nearby, but it also can prevent a desperate teenager from calling 9-1-1 to report an accident, an elderly person from placing an urgent call to a doctor, or anyone else from successfully placing an emergency or other safety-related call.

Similarly, GPS jammers are often touted as "anti-spy" devices that can prevent an employer or a suspicious spouse from tracking your movements in your car. However, GPS jammers can also disable the E911 function in certain cell phones that allows emergency services to home in on 9-1-1 callers who are injured or otherwise unable to provide their location.

Given these real public safety concerns, the Enforcement Bureau has adopted a strict enforcement policy in this area. Leveraging the presence of the Bureau's Field Offices across the country, we will aggressively pursue violations wherever we find them.

We caution users and suppliers that violations are punishable by fines of up to $112,500 per violation, and could lead to criminal prosecution (including imprisonment) or seizure of the illegal device.
If you have questions about our enforcement of the jamming prohibition, you can email us at jammerinfo@fcc.gov.  To file a jammer-related complaint with the Enforcement Bureau, you should use the FCC’s online complaint form at www.fcc.gov/complaints.


Posted in Enforcement Bureau
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Announcing IssueMap: Copy, paste, map.

Posted February 7th, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

Everyone has seen a good spreadsheet go bad. Students, lawyers, public servants, accountants -- if you’ve ever spent time with a complicated dataset, you’ve had a spreadsheet turn against you.

Maps are a data visualization tool that can fix a rotten spreadsheet by making the data real and rich with context. By showing how data -- and the decisions that produce data -- affect people where they live, a map can make the difference between a blank stare and a knowing nod. Maps are also a crucial part of a decision-maker’s toolkit, clearly plotting the relationship between policies and geographies in easy-to-understand ways.

I’m extremely proud today to announce the official launch of IssueMap, the result of a partnership between the FCC and FortiusOne. IssueMap is a long time coming. As a board member with the National States Geographic Information Council, some colleagues and I identified the need for a product that would produce maps from complicated data steps in just three steps: copy, paste, map. IssueMap is that product.

Along with FCC Deputy GIO Eric Spry, we shot a video to show this drop-dead simple tool in action. Check it out, then visit IssueMap.org and try it. You can use the social media functionality in IssueMap to share your map with your community, or even export in a KML file to mash up your map other online services. Leave links to your maps in the comments here, and let us know what you want to see from the next iteration of IssueMap.


Posted in Data Developer Maps

Modernizing and Streamlining the Universal Service Fund

Posted February 7th, 2011 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

This morning, Chairman Genachowski laid out a proposal to get broadband to rural America while cutting waste and inefficiency in two of the Commission’s largest programs.

Universal service has been core to the FCC’s mission since the Communications Act of 1934 created the agency and committed our nation to making vital communications services accessible to all.  The Universal Service Fund helped connect virtually every American to our 20th century communications grid.  But this program, along with Commission’s closely related Intercarrier Compensation rules, have become riddled with waste and inefficiency and are not up to our nation’s broadband challenge. Today, up to 24 million Americans have no access to broadband—fixed or mobile.
At tomorrow’s meeting, the Commission will vote on the proposal to transform the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation rules from programs designed to support 20th Century voice networks to a force for expansion of 21st century fixed and mobile broadband and voice networks, while eliminating waste and inefficiency.

Posted in Open Meetings Office Of Chairman
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A First-Ever National Test of the Presidential EAS

Posted February 4th, 2011 by Lisa Fowlkes - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Yesterday we released an order that adopts rules establishing the basic framework for national tests of the Presidential Emergency Alert System (EAS).  The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies.  Governors and state and local emergency authorities also use it – on a voluntary basis – to issue more localized emergency alerts.  Under the FCC’s rules, broadcasters, cable operators, Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service providers, Direct Broadcast Satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit Presidential EAS messages to the public.

To date, the EAS has not been used to deliver a Presidential alert.  While various components of the system are tested regularly, there has never been a nationwide, top-to-bottom, test of the system.  In 2009, the FCC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Executive Office of the President (EOP) (collectively, the “Federal Partners”) began planning to conduct the first-ever national test.  As part of this effort, on January 6, 2010 and January 26, 2011, FEMA, along with the State of Alaska and the Alaska Broadcasters Association, conducted two “live code” tests of the Presidential EAS within Alaska.  A “live code” test uses the same codes that would be used during an actual activation of the Presidential EAS.  The Federal Partners are using the results and lessons learned from these tests to complete a test plan for the first ever National EAS test.

Why bother testing the current EAS when the Federal government is moving to next generation alerting systems such as the Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System (IPAWS)?  The answer is simple.  First, the current EAS is designed to work when other methods of disseminating emergency alerts are unavailable.  Second, FEMA has stated that the current EAS will play a primary role in IPAWS for the foreseeable future.  Consequently, it is imperative that we make sure that this system works as designed.   A national test will help us determine the reliability of the EAS and its effectiveness in notifying the public of emergencies and potential dangers nationwide and regionally.

Some may be concerned that this is just another way for the FCC to ascertain compliance and take enforcement actions.  The purpose of this test is not to play “gotcha” with broadcasters or other EAS Participants.  The purpose of this test is to determine what is working in the EAS and what is not, and to work together – FCC and its Federal Partners, state and local governments, EAS Participants and other stakeholders – to make improvements to the system as necessary.  This test will require the active participation of all EAS stakeholders in the planning and preparation leading up to the test, including most significantly, outreach.  The FCC along with our Federal Partners looks forward to working with EAS Participants and other EAS stakeholders in preparing for this test.

Although a date for the first National EAS Test has not yet been set, there are some things EAS Participants can begin to do now:

  • Work with your State Emergency Communications Committees (SECCs) to review and, if necessary, update your     state’s EAS plans. 
  • Work with your SECCs to review the manner in which you deploy your EAS assets  -- particularly EAS Participant encoder/decoder equipment -- to ensure end-to-end connections and the required redundancies to minimize any single points of failure within your state’s EAS architecture;

The FCC, in coordination with its federal partners, will provide further updates about the National EAS Test.   Find out more information about the test rules.

Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
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