Posted August 30th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is here, we are faced with a strong swirl of emotions and memories. The unprecedented devastation that the Hurricane wrought was compounded by organizational troubles from many quarters. As painful as it is for America, I want us to remember the death and destruction inflicted on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I want us to remember the bravery and determination of the people who suffered through it. And I want us to remember the valiant first responders, volunteers, members of the armed forces, and others who worked to save lives and property. It is important that we not forget any of this.
As I and our FCC staff members reflect on the anniversary of this American tragedy, we consider lessons learned and how we have worked to ensure the tragedy and devastation of Katrina are not seen again. I was not at the FCC in 2005, but I am proud of the response of the FCC during Katrina. In fact, the White House Lessons Learned document that was issued following Hurricane Katrina expressly recognized the FCC for “What Went Right” and the Commission was cited for acting quickly to facilitate the resumption of communications services in affected areas and authorizing the use of temporary communications for emergency personnel and evacuees.
Despite our success at response, we also recognized that there are things we can improve. First, while the FCC was well-prepared for most emergency events, we learned the importance of having a formal incident management system to manage the required FCC response to an emergency of the magnitude of Katrina. Accordingly, the FCC quickly worked to create a new Bureau, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, where emergency response and incident management could be resident.
Further, we have been actively engaged—from the top-down, to improve our ability to respond to any major public emergency. For example, the FCC, working with its licensees and regulated entities developed the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), which provides the communications sector a web-based tool to share operational status and restoration information on service outages.
Information collection and analysis at the FCC-Headquarters level, while important, also needs to be matched with a commitment of personnel on-the-ground. Accordingly, the FCC deployed full-time Regional Communications Liaison Specialists to FEMA Regions IV and VI to establish close working relationships with and obtain the support of state, tribal, and local public safety officials as well as regionally deployed Federal agency representatives before major disasters occur. During emergencies, these Liaison Specialists will serve as primary FCC first responders in the disaster area, supplemented by FCC Headquarters and field office emergency trained personnel.
Additionally, the Liaison Specialists will perform duties under the FCC’s spectrum monitoring Roll Call Program. Roll Call is a spectrum monitoring system that analyzes wireless transmissions and matches them to licensing records. Information gathered pre-event is then matched to scans conducted right after an event, such as a hurricane, to identify critical licensees that may have lost communications capabilities and then to locate and deploy resources to get these licensees back on the air.
To manage these emergency programs, the FCC has implemented a scalable Incident Command System that starts at the Division-level, and then can be used by the Bureau- and Commission-level as the event or incident requires.
While the FCC family contemplates Katrina’s legacy and the toll Katrina imposed on our brothers and sisters in the Gulf Region, we continue to rigorously plan, prepare, train, and exercise so that when the next blow, expected or not, comes, we stand ready to respond with alacrity to do our part to save lives and protect property.
Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Posted August 26th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
On August 31, PSHSB will welcome Dereck Orr from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as our latest headliner in the Bureau’s Speaker Series. The Speaker Series brings representatives from other government agencies to the FCC to speak about their work involving public safety and homeland security. Dereck is the program manager for Public Safety Communications Systems in the Office of Law Enforcement Standards. The Public Safety Communications Systems program focuses on leading the development of wireless telecommunications and information technology standards, profiles and guidelines for interoperability and information sharing among criminal justice and public safety agencies at local, state and federal levels.
Dereck has a very impressive background and is enthusiastic about how his office can advance the communications capabilities of the nation’s first responders. He has been at NIST for eight years, and during that time, he was detailed for a short time to serve as Chief of Staff for SAFECOM. Because of this experience and many others, he has unique insight into public safety’s unique communications needs.
We are excited to have Dereck speak with us about NIST’s role in improving public safety communications across the nation as well as his office’s role in the Commission’s newly created Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). We have worked closely with NIST in the past, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them well into the future.
I look forward to seeing you for this stimulating presentation and discussion on Tuesday, August 31 from 10:00am-11:30am ET in the Commission Meeting Room. This event will also be streamed live and you can watch it at FCC.gov/live .Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Posted August 16th, 2010 by Lisa Fowlkes - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
It is indisputable that broadcast radio and television plays a critical role during times of disaster. One need only look at the role broadcast played in delivering critical emergency news and information during the snowstorms of 2010 that blanketed the Northeast, recent tornadoes, floods and the hurricanes of 2008 and 2005 to know the pivotal role broadcast plays in ensuring the safety of life. When disasters hit, it is imperative that all of us receive timely alerts and warnings, access to the latest information about an emergency situation, and guidance from government officials on what we should do to protect ourselves and our families. For most of us, access to this information before, during and after a disaster is so commonplace, it is taken for granted.
Imagine, however, being one of the significant population that does not speak English. If you are lucky, you have access to least one broadcast station that airs programming in your language. If a disaster occurs, you expect that you will be able to receive Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts, as well as other warnings and critical emergency information from that station. But, what happens if that station has lost power and is no longer operating? Where will you receive information regarding access to food or shelter? How will you learn how to report or locate a missing relative? How will you know about the best evacuation route?
“It is the policy of the United States to have an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive system to alert and warn the American people in situations of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster, and other hazards to public safety and well-being …and to ensure that under all conditions the President can communicate with the American people.” Executive Order 13407, Public Alert and Warning System (June 26, 2006). The Executive Order extends this alert and warning policy to those “without an understanding of the English language.” But beyond emergency alerting, it is clear that people who do not speak English must have timely access to the same accurate emergency information that is made available to everyone else.
So, how do we address this? For those of us in the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) who work on emergency alerting issues, this question has been in the forefront of our minds. One suggested approach is to designate within each market with a significant non-English-speaking population, a station or stations that can take on the task of airing emergency information in the language of a station that is knocked off the air. This concept has been referred to as the “designated hitter” approach. For example, if a Spanish-speaking station can no longer operate as a result of a disaster, another, previously designated station in that market would broadcast emergency information in the language of the downed station. Some suggest that this approach will be costly because the designated broadcast station would need to hire staff proficient in the language of the downed station. Would simply allowing the staff of the downed station (who presumably would be proficient in the language of that station) to have some regularly scheduled air time at the designated station address the cost issue? In other words, how costly would it be to allow staff of the downed station to broadcast emergency information for a few minutes at the top of the hour with announcements during the day about when to tune in to such programming? Other possible objections include how the designated station would know that the foreign language station was off the air, and what would happen if the same disaster disabled the designated station?
Another option is for stations in the market and/or the government to pre-position equipment in various markets (particularly those subject to hurricanes and other disasters) that can be used to build a temporary station that can replace the one that is off the air. This has been referred to as the “radio in a box” approach. Presumably, the staff of the downed station would then broadcast programming, including emergency information, from the temporary station. How costly would this approach be? Would this approach address the issue? What happens if the temporary station goes off the air or can’t be deployed in a timely fashion? Would some combination of a “designated hitter” and “radio in the box” approach address the issue?
Some have suggested that the Federal government needs to develop a policy for multilingual alerting. What policy should the Federal government adopt? Should the Commission integrate multilingual alert planning into state and local EAS plans? How would a Federal policy on multilingual alerting address the broader issue of ensuring that people who do not speak English have access to timely emergency information that is typically broadcast during or following a disaster?
Finally, some have suggested that minimal or no regulatory action is necessary here as broadcasters have a history of assisting each during disasters. Indeed, when a Spanish language station went down during Hurricane Gustav in 2008, PSHSB reached out to other broadcasters for assistance. In response, one broadcast licensee offered access to one of its functioning stations in the market to the Spanish language station. Other stakeholders view this issue as too important a public safety issue to rely on “self-regulation.”
PSHSB welcomes additional dialogue from stakeholders on this issue. Written ideas should be submitted in the Emergency Alert System rulemaking docket (04-296) through the Electronic Comment Filing System.
Posted August 16th, 2010 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media
The business of regulatory agencies can sometimes be a bit obscure. There is a swath of legislation known as administrative law that governs how the Federal Communications Commission serves the public. The same applies to sister agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration , and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is very important to all of us to make the FCC as open and transparent an agency as possible, but also to make the work that we do more understandable and accessible to everyone. Whether blogging about upcoming litigation or sharing a screencast of how to file a formal consumer complaint, we’ll continue to scale out and revamp these efforts.
Regulations.gov, EPA, and others recently held a contest asking citizens to submit videos explaining the federal rulemaking process and showing why it matters to you and me. The winner was recently announced and we wanted to share it here at FCC.gov, too. Enjoy!
Posted August 12th, 2010 by David Kitzmiller - Internet Working Group Chairman
Dammit Jim, I’m a Webmaster, not a Digital Government Web Content Communications and Application Development Knowledge Management Specialist! ...or am I?
Posted in Reform - Redesign , Office Of Media Relations
Posted August 11th, 2010 by John Healy
Unfortunately disasters happen. Government agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Communications System (NCS) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House need to know the status of communications systems and services during and after a disaster. The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau developed the voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) to collect this information during major disasters.
When a disaster strikes, the FCC asks wireline carriers, wireless carriers, broadcasters and CATV providers to provide information on the condition of their systems in the disaster area. This includes information on switches, E 9-1-1 call centers, broadcast stations, and fiber-optic cable routes. The DIRS system organizes the information into tables, charts and maps that will accurately depict the status of communications in the disaster area. This information can be used to determine which communications service providers might need assistance with restoration efforts. Although the information provided by companies into DIRS is treated as confidential, DIRS has been set-up to provide aggregate information almost instantaneously to those Federal agencies with a need to know.
Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
On Friday, August 6, the FCC issued a Public Notice asking broadcasters to enroll in DIRS. Although the Public Notice is focused on broadcasters, all communications providers are encouraged to enroll. During a disaster, all the companies with communications assets in the disaster area will be asked to provide information into DIRS. Although providing information to DIRS is voluntary, an accurate picture of communications status depends on complete information from all sources.
DIRS has been used to collect information for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 and the ice storms in Kentucky in 2009. Hopefully, 2010 will be a quiet year but, if it is not, DIRS will be the essential tool to track communications status and restoration efforts.
Click here for more information on DIRS.
Posted August 10th, 2010 by Jenny Hou
Earlier this month, we launched the Consumer Help Center. If you haven't already had a chance to explore our key features, this video guides you through some consumer tools you can use, such as how to:
Posted in Consumers , Office Of Managing Director
Posted August 9th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer
Post: FCC Data Innovation Initiative Journal, Day 41, Washington DC. For Comment: Media Bureau MB Docket No. 10-103; Wireline Competition WC Docket No. 10-132; Wireless Telecommunication Bureau WT Docket No 10-131.
If you've given any thought about data at the FCC and filing comments on the opening round of the FCC's Data Innovation Initiative – the Public Notices of Data Reviews released by the Media, Wireline Competition and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus - this blog post is for you. Initial comments are due this Friday, August 13.
Though the scope of the Public Notices is significant and welcomes comments on any or all of 340 data sets across three bureaus, filing comments does not have to be a major project. You can make a difference with as little as 15 minutes of effort. The following Top Ten Things You Should Know explains why.
1. You don't have to make your filing a multi-day effort. The conversation is just starting. If you only have 15 minutes, use that time to layout the big concerns. This stage doesn't have to be a research project. Simply share with us what you already know needs attention and rethinking. Think of your comments as writing a quick email to a colleague about your long standing concerns about FCC data. And if you are working on more substantive analysis and comments of how to improve FCC data, please keep at it. This filing is perfect timing.
2. Don't feel you need to comment on every data collection. Comment on the ones you know and are important to you. Treat the data collection list as a helpful guide and don't think you need to comment on all collections. Ignore the list if you want. (Identifying data sets by OMB Paperwork Reduction Act approvals is just one lens onto Commission data; use it to the extent it is helpful.) We offer the spreadsheets of the data collections in each Bureau for transparency sake and as a handy reference. We expect people to file comments about the data and data filings with which they are already familiar. But we also want to make it easier for others reading such comments to learn about the data set being discussed and to provide thoughtful replies. The data collection list exists as a guide and reference, not a threshold or checklist for participation.
3. Share high level thoughts on FCC current data and future data practices. The Public Notices are clear that we are seeking comments on all aspects of how we collect, manage, analyze, and share data. High level comments about the forest may be even more important at this stage than specific comments about individual trees. What data collection techniques are standard now that might have been cutting edge even a few years ago? What issues, or solutions, cut across multiple data sets?
4. Repeat yourself. File anew data-related comments you filed before. It's OK, even encouraged, to re-file comments or link to comments on data issues you've previously filed. Why? Because we are doing a "zero-based review" of all agency data, we are putting everything on the table for review, even data sets that have been reviewed recently, as if we were starting from scratch. The Paperwork Reduction Act requires agencies to review and seek re-approval of a data set at least every three years to keep data current to changes in technology and the market. In addition to those periodic reviews, we are trying a larger, agency wide review to pursue macro-level changes across multiple data collections. Another reason to be comfortable re-filing data-related comments are the new resources the FCC has committed to tuning our data for the digital 21st century including Chief Data Officers in the three Bureaus posting the Public Notices, a Chief Data Officer for the agency and our first-ever Geographic Information Officer.
5. File more than one comment. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or even the just in case). Start your bullet list of points right now as you are reading this blog post and file some quick comments and make yourself a participant in this conversation. Feel free to file comments today and later this week as you think about them.
6. File comments that help us prioritize. We are reviewing, for purposes of improving, all data collected and used by the Media Bureau, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and the Wireline Competition Bureau. Particularly useful are comments helping prioritize what data and data practices to revise first.
7. Apart from the underlying data sets, the Public Notices are identical in the three Bureaus. File on the Notice that seems most relevant. Our Electronic Comment Filing System also supports filing one comment across multiple proceedings.
8. Share links to existing articles, papers, blog posts. A good filing would be one that lists existing articles, research papers, and blog posts discussing ways the FCC could collect, use, and disseminate data. Coordinate a list with a few colleagues. Keep the list manageable for us, between 10 and 20 links. You can also attach whole documents with your filing. Provide a paragraph or two of context for the list describing what themes in the linked material are most applicable.
9. We already know where we are, so let's talk about where we need to go and how to get there. Pointing out the obviously wrong is always welcomed. Just please recognize there are real reasons the FCC might not be collecting data that to you seems a no brainer and possible statutory reasons we are collecting data that may no longer seem relevant. Like any organization, at any given moment the FCC is juggling new ideas, legacy systems, and resources. Accept there are real challenges associated with modifying data practices and help us overcome those challenges. Don't simply tell us we are doing X when we should be doing Y. Instead, share with us workable road maps to get from X to Y. We know our forms could be easier; share examples of easier to use forms and screens. We know duplication exists in our data; tell us which duplications are easiest and best to address first. We know we want more transparency in our data; offer recommendations about which data sets are most valuable to publish first what formats and techniques make the data most useful. If we should be using RDF and taxonomies, what three steps do you recommend to get started? Do we do one sector at a time, or focus on just a few attributes across the breadth of FCC data? If we should be collecting data in XML, what standards or other trends should we be aligning with? If we need to share collected data better, who are the experts and what are the techniques that can help us enable data sharing while addressing legitimate privacy and proprietary concerns? If a data collection requires significant effort to gather, what is a better way to gather the information?
10. Finally, tell us what things we doing well with data at the FCC that we can build further upon. More than 40 specific databases searches are available on FCC.gov. We offer dozens of data sets for bulk download. Improvements recently made our Electronic Comment Filing System easier to search and use. We know there’s more work to do. That's why we are doing a zero-based data review. But building upon what we are already doing well speeds change. What existing assets can we extend to provide a strong foundation for further improvements?
There you have it. Ten Things You Should Know that should making filing comments on the Data Review Public Notices by the end of this week a snap. So stop fretting at the seeming enormity of improving data at the FCC or worrying you do not have time to file comments on the Public Notices this week. Detailed recommendations on our data collections, high level points, and even quick listings of things to change are all encouraged. In the time it takes to watch a couple Seinfeld reruns you could help improve data at the FCC.
Never filed before? You can file using the ECFS Standard form. Just enter the appropriate proceeding number (10-103, 10-131, or 10-132) and complete the form. To see already filed comments, follow these links: MB Docket No. 10-103 comments; WC Docket No. 10-132 comments; WT Docket No 10-131 comments.Posted in Reform - Data , Office Of Managing Director , Data
Posted August 6th, 2010 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau
Recently, I visited an art exhibit in Washington, D.C. featuring the works of Haitian children. If you live nearby or are coming to the capital for a visit, I encourage you to visit the exhibit. It’s called the “Healing Power of Art: Works of Art by Haitian Children After the Earthquake.” (The physical exhibit is at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, but you can also view the pictures on-line.
The artwork is mostly colorful, though especially the early pieces have some dark hues, undoubtedly reflecting the feelings of loss, fright, and sadness that hundreds of thousands of young Haitian children have experienced. At the exhibit, I saw in the children’s pictures some of the same things I’d seen in Haiti in January – images of crooked buildings, collapsed houses, helicopters overhead, dangling wires, a U.S. Navy ship in the port -- and some signs of hope like yellow suns.
Posted in International Bureau
The earthquake took a heavy toll on schoolchildren and all elements of education in Haiti. The exhibit noted that, on January 12, 4,000 Haitian children died while in the classroom, many others died elsewhere, and 500 teachers were killed. The earthquake destroyed 90 percent of the school infrastructure and now 1.2 million children are out of school.
As First Lady Elisabeth Préval said of the children, “They are wounded in their bones and in their souls for having been the witnesses of an unimaginable human tragedy made of horrifying scenes of buildings collapsing on loved ones, people trapped under layers of concrete, countless bodies scattered on the streets . . .” She established recreation centers called “Plas Timoun” (A Place for Kids) to enable young children to express their feelings through art, music, theater, reading and sports. One of the activities is to paint pictures – in old school buses that now hold tables and art supplies.
So while art has healing powers for the children of Haiti, as a telecommunications regulator, I see that information and communications technologies (ICTs) have tremendous learning power for Haiti. ICTs can help children in Haiti learn, which in turn, will help them grow personally beyond the earthquake and, eventually, help them to rebuild their beloved country.
As Haiti reconstructs Port-au-Prince and undertakes new construction in the outlying areas to encourage new population centers, I encourage planners and policy makers to integrate ICTs into their overall reconstruction efforts and investment plans.
ICTs remove barriers of time and space, creating new possibilities. ICTs can provide learning opportunities for children through online classes and radio and television broadcasts. ICTs can help Haiti train new teachers through interactive online courses. ICTs can provide educational assistance from international aid organizations operating at a distance. Additionally, while Haiti lost many of its books and libraries, the Internet can serve as valuable research tool for teachers and students while print resources are scarce.
Universal education is vital to countries all over the world and achieving that universality is a challenge that we all face. At the FCC, we promote the use of broadband infrastructure for learning. As Haiti starts to reconstruct its telecommunications infrastructure, some broadband ideas that could be adapted for use include: providing digital literacy teacher training programs, making educational materials available electronically which widen access to information and expand knowledge, and transferring paper records to electronic forms on-line to protect them from physical destruction.
Haiti still has a long road to recovery. But like art, ICTs can shorten the distance. As the exhibit at the Smithsonian illustrates, art already is helping the children of Haiti heal. ICTs can help them learn.
Posted August 6th, 2010 by Jeffery Goldthorp
Being a Chief Security Officer is not easy. Viewed by many in the business world as gloomy purveyors of doom and spoilers of fun and profit, CSOs are responsible for making sure that an enterprise’s information systems are secure and reliable. Under the best of circumstances, they occupy a lonely perch lacking in the glow that revenue and profit accountability attract. Security is a cost center - the bane of corporate existence. As such, it is under relentless pressure to reduce costs so that more sunlight can fall on the profit centers. This is true of virtually all sectors of the economy, including communications.
The Internet Security Alliance recently testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that nearly half of all enterprises in 2009 reported that they are reducing budgets for information security initiatives. Hence, despite the wide range of generally accepted best practices and standards on cybersecurity that exist, the FCC is concerned about the extent to which these practices are applied to create a culture of cybersecurity among communications service providers. We are also concerned that consumers of communications remain in the dark about the cybersecurity practices of their communications providers.
Earlier this year, the FCC launched an inquiry into a voluntary cybersecurity certification program for communications service providers. The availability of such a certification would strengthen market incentives for providers of communications services to upgrade the cybersecurity measures they apply to their networks. Sure, a certification would enhance the security of the Nation’s communications infrastructure, but equally important, it would offer customers large and small real information about which communications service providers have implemented cybersecurity measures.
Our Notice of Inquiry is framed broadly and includes questions that range from the value of a certification program to the logistics of its implementation. It is the first step in a process to determine whether there are ways for the Commission to harness market forces to improve cybersecurity. If we are successful, customers will benefit through greater transparency about the security of the communications offerings before them. And CSOs may start to see some of the glow that had previously been reserved for the revenue engines of the firm.
Is this how you see it? File comments on this proposal and see what others have said. Our next deadline is September 8, 2010.
If cybersecurity interests you, you should also check out a related FCC inquiry on communications survivability and resiliency. In this proceeding, we are looking at the ability of existing broadband networks to withstand significant damage or severe overloads as a result of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics or other major public emergencies. You can read the Notice of Inquiry and view what other have said and file your own comments. The next public comment deadline in this inquiry is September 3, 2010.