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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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Out of Sight, But All Around, Cyber Abounds

Posted October 29th, 2010 by Linda HallerSloan

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

So you’re in another country, you stop for a cup of coffee at a café and plug in your laptop to an Internet connection.  Or you’re at the airport, and you get an email that says: “Free upgrade now.”   Or you’re in a hotel room and securing your passport in the safety deposit box and it asks you for a PIN number.  “Ah hah,” you think to yourself, “that’s easy, I’ll use the same passcode I use at home, that way, I’ll remember it!”  Or you live in a country like Haiti and one of the only ways to access currency is through a transaction on your cell phone.  Stop before you act.  BE AWARE.  Cyber may be out of sight, but it is all around.  Cyber abounds.  And so do tactics designed to harm your electronic devices and to take information from you.  In the United States, October has been National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.  At the FCC, we’ve developed safety tips for consumers about Internet usage.  And we’ve identified some precautions you can take when traveling internationally with electronic devices.  Protect yourself.  Take a look at these travel  tips we put together to learn how.

Posted in International Bureau Consumers Wisenet
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Announcing Open Developer Day at the FCC

Posted October 28th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

On Monday, November 8, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission will sponsor an "Open Developer Day" event at FCC Headquarters in Washington, DC to promote collaboration between web developers in the public and private sectors.

The goal of Open Developer Day is to further innovation in accessible technologies and foster citizen participation in open government.

Open Developer Day will be a public, single-day event that prioritizes accessibility goals, though other web solutions are also of interest. The event will feature guest engineers from the Yahoo! Developer Network and Yahoo!’s Accessibility teamLab and will have a component addressing the requirements and opportunities in the new "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act."

Think of Open Developer Day as a digital barn raising where software developers learn new tools and volunteer their skills to prototype and build new web applications together.

Engineers from the Yahoo! Accessibility team Lab and Yahoo! Developer Network will be providing technical instruction for some of their technologies that support working with web-based information and their ongoing work in accessibility.

A priority area is the development of a web application that will serve as a clearing-house of information on accessible information and communication technologies (ICT). The FCC is mandated to create this clearinghouse by a new law called the "Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act," which President Obama signed on October 8, 2010. The clearinghouse is intended to make it as easy as possible for people with disabilities, families, and support professionals to find information about accessible technologies.

The FCC will also be interested in other innovative ways that public APIs may be used to add value to the fcc.gov and broadband.gov web sites. The choice of intellectual property licensing is being left to each developer for code contributions made.

Any developer may participate, without charge. Each participant is expected to bring his or her own laptop computer, and to comply with security guidelines.

To RSVP for Open Developer Day, click here.

We hope to see you soon!

Posted in Developer Accessibility
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Open (FCC.gov) Redesign

Posted October 28th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

As you’ve heard from me, we’re hard at work reimagining FCC.gov. The new FCC.gov will, first and foremost, be a resource for American consumers. As we reimagine the site and how it can best deliver the information and services consumers demand, public feedback will continue to be vitally important to our process.

Today, we're showing off some basic sketches for how the redesigned FCC.gov is coming together. And again, we need your feedback.

Take an early look at some of the initial wireframe concepts for the redesign and let us know what you think.

These wire frames are just the first stage in the design process that show us how and where our information will be laid out. Rather than waiting for the release of the 1.0 version of the site, we wanted to give you-the users of FCC.gov-the opportunity to tell us directly what you think about the current ideas. 

These sketches show how, at a fundamental level, we're moving towards a new FCC.gov. Built on a layout that speaks with one agency-wide voice, we're building a stronger consumer resource that's intuitively organized -- not based around an FCC bureaucracy that's unfamiliar to consumers. 

We will soon be testing this and other wireframes with consumers in a usability setting using scenarios most common to the FCC.

Let us know what you think. You can share your comments in our forum or leave your comments below.  If you prefer, you can also e-mail us directly at newmedia@fcc.gov.

We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Office Of Managing Director

Big Data

Posted October 28th, 2010 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

The emerging discussion around "Big Data" is capturing imaginations quickly, and with good reason. The arenas that compose Big Data -- transaction records (e.g. banks, telephone service providers), social networks, and geospatial data all fall into this field.

Thanks to a combination of the advancement of computer science, demand for data, and ability for businesses and large institutions to make use of large datasets, Big Data is here.

Last week, I was honored to be part of the Booz Allen Series for Fed News Radio "Expert Voices," speaking on the topic of Big Data. From a government perspective, we at the FCC are not dealing with big data (billions of records) like some partners are, but we oversee and work with many industries that do. But to do the FCC's work, we are constantly collecting and tracking records in in the tens and hundreds of millions of records to help make sense of the communications industry.

As you might be able to tell from our data innovation initative, we clearly are in the business of better understanding our data assets and knowing where and how to make our own data better. We feel strongly that one of the most important aspects to a more efficient and effective FCC is strong data assets -- and in particular, ensuring our data assets are fully geospatially-enabled. When we have geospatially enabled data assets our ability to analyze trends over space and time will provide benefit to the policy discussion and provide a more informed and empowered arena for consumers.

Listen to the whole big data discussion or watch my small trailer on big data.

We're curious: How are other government organizations and large industry partners looking out at the horizon of Big Data? Leave us thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Data
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ON DECK: Pending and Upcoming Appellate Litigation Involving the FCC

Posted October 27th, 2010 by Richard Welch

During spring training, on the cusp of the major league baseball season, the Office of General Counsel discussed several significant cases involving the FCC that were pending before the appellate courts.  See “On Deck” blog entry dated February 19, 2010.  Now that the baseball season draws to a close, we thought this might be a good time to provide an update on these cases and other upcoming appellate litigation involving the agency.

The FCC in the Supreme Court

The Freedom of Information Act.  In FCC v. AT&T, Inc, No. 09-1279, the Supreme Court of the United States will decide whether the FCC properly applied the Freedom of Information Act in a case involving the agency’s investigation into AT&T’s alleged over-billing of the United States Government for services it provided under an FCC program for schools and libraries.  The Freedom of Information Act (commonly known as the “FOIA”) is the federal law that permits the public to request and obtain copies of records from the Government.  After a trade association filed a FOIA request asking the FCC to release certain documents the agency obtained during its investigation, AT&T sued the FCC to block release of the documents, relying on FOIA Exemption 7(C).  That provision exempts from mandatory public disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, when disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of “personal privacy.”  The question facing the Supreme Court is whether Exemption 7(C)’s protection for “personal privacy” protects corporations in addition to individuals.  In September 2009, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia held that corporations can have protected “personal privacy” interests under Exemption 7(C).  The Supreme Court recently granted the request of the FCC and the United States Department of Justice to review that decision. Briefs are due by the end of this year, oral argument likely will be heard early in 2011, and the Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision by June 2011.

Intercarrier Compensation for Dial-up Internet Access Traffic.  In January of this year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s authority to regulate the rates charged between carriers that collaborate to carry dial-up Internet access traffic. The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and a local carrier whose customers are Internet Service Providers (Core Communications, Inc.) have asked the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision.  The FCC and the Justice Department recently filed a brief opposing their petitions. By mid-November, we expect the Supreme Court to announce whether it will hear the case.

The FCC in the Courts of Appeals

Broadcast Indecency Enforcement.  In our February 2010 blog entry, we discussed several pending cases involving the FCC’s enforcement of the statutory and regulatory prohibition against indecent programming on broadcast television.  All remain pending.  The most prominent case is Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. FCC, which presents a constitutional challenge to the FCC’s decisions finding violations of the broadcast indecency statute and regulations for Fox’s broadcast of expletives by celebrities Cher and Nicole Richie on live television awards shows.  In July of this year, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the FCC’s indecency policy is unconstitutionally vague and therefore violates the First Amendment rights of broadcasters. The FCC has asked all active judges on that appeals court to review the panel’s decision. That request remains pending before the court.   

We also await a decision by the Third Circuit in CBS Corp. v. FCC, another broadcast indecency case, which was argued in February 2010.  At issue is CBS’s broadcast of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show in which Janet Jackson, performing with Justin Timberlake, suffered what some have described as a “wardrobe malfunction.”  CBS is challenging the $550,000 forfeiture that the FCC assessed against certain CBS-owned affiliates for broadcasting Jackson’s fleeting nudity.  Both the FCC’s brief and its supplemental brief are available; its supplemental letter is available; and its second supplemental brief is available.

Finally, we await a decision by the Second Circuit in the case of ABC, Inc. v. FCC, which was argued in February 2009.  That case presents a challenge to the FCC’s finding of an indecency violation for broadcast of nudity during an episode of the television show NYPD Blue.  Here you can find the FCC’s brief in this case and its supplemental brief.

LEC-CMRS Interconnection.  The D.C. Circuit recently heard oral argument in MetroPCS Calif., Inc. v. FCC, No. 10-1003.  This case involves a dispute in which a competitive local exchange carrier that handles only incoming calls bound for chat lines (North County Communications) has sought compensation for completing such calls that originated on the network of a cellular carrier (MetroPCS California).  Because all the traffic at issue was “intrastate” – that is, the calls originated and terminated within California and did not cross state borders – the FCC ruled that the California Public Utilities Commission should set the rate North County may charge MetroPCS for completing the calls to the chat lines.  MetroPCS contends that the FCC, not the state regulatory commission, should establish the rate.  We expect the court’s decision in the next few months, perhaps before the end of the year.  The FCC’s brief in this case is available.

Upcoming Cases.  Over the next three months, the FCC will file briefs or present oral argument in support of its decisions in a number of cases, including the following:

•    A First Amendment challenge to a provision of the Communications Act that bars a non-commercial educational television station from broadcasting promotional advertisements.  (Minority Television Project, Inc. v. FCC, No. 09-173111 (9th Cir., argument scheduled for Nov. 1, 2010) (to be argued by the Justice Department)).  The brief for the United States and the FCC is available.

•    A challenge to an FCC order establishing interim rates for providers of Video Relay Service.  (Sorenson Communications, Inc. v. FCC, No. 10-9536 (10th Cir., FCC’s brief due Nov. 8, 2010)).

•    A challenge to an FCC order permanently transferring three toll-free suicide hotline numbers from a private nonprofit entity to a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (Kristin Brooks Hope Center v. FCC, No. 09-1310 (D.C. Cir., argument scheduled for Nov. 9, 2010)).  The FCC’s brief in this case is available.

•    A challenge to an FCC order concluding that an exclusive distribution agreement between a cable operator and a terrestrially-delivered cable-owned network may constitute an unfair method of competition in violation of the Communications Act.  (Cablevision Sys. Corp. v. FCC, No. 10-1062 (D.C. Cir., FCC’s brief due Nov. 18, 2010)).

•    A challenge to an FCC order denying Alpine PCS, Inc.’s request for a waiver of the FCC’s automatic license cancellation rule, when Alpine defaulted on its installment payments for wireless licenses it won at auction.  (Alpine PCS, Inc. v. FCC, No. 10-1020 (D.C. Cir., argument scheduled for Dec. 3, 2010)).  The FCC’s brief in this case is available.

•    A challenge to FCC orders denying a complaint filed by Staton Holdings, Inc. against MCI concerning the reassignment of a toll-free number from Staton to a third party.  (Staton Holdings, Inc. v. FCC, No. 10-116 (D.C. Cir., FCC’s brief due Dec. 10, 2010)).

•    A challenge to an FCC order consenting to the involuntary transfer of nine radio station licenses to a state court-appointed receiver.  (Cherry v. FCC, No. 10-1151 (D.C. Cir., FCC’s brief due Dec. 20, 2010)).

•    A challenge to an FCC order interpreting a provision of the Communications Act that requires state and local governments to act “within a reasonable time” on siting applications for facilities used to provide wireless communications services.  (City of Arlington, Texas v. FCC, No. 10-60039 (5th Cir., FCC’s brief due Dec. 23, 2010)).

•    A challenge to an FCC order denying Qwest Corporation’s petition that the FCC forbear from enforcing certain network element unbundling requirements and certain dominant carrier regulatory obligations against Qwest in the Phoenix area.  (Qwest Corp. v. FCC, No. 10-9543 (10th Cir, FCC’s brief due Jan. 10, 2011)).

•    A challenge to an FCC order concerning the grant of certain applications to operate Automated Maritime Telecommunications Service stations in various locations of the United States.  (Havens v. FCC, No. 02-1359 (D.C. Cir., FCC’s brief due Jan. 20, 2011)).

As the above discussion shows, unlike baseball, litigation challenging the FCC’s decisions never ends.  So stay tuned for the next edition of “On Deck” – perhaps when pitchers and catchers report to spring training early in 2011 and help chase away those winter blues.  Who knows, maybe the Washington Nationals will finally have a winning season next year.  In baseball, as in appellate litigation, “Hope springs eternal….”

Posted in Office of General Counsel
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Our Upcoming Cybersecurity Roadmap Workshop

Posted October 27th, 2010 by Jane Kelly

We are continuing to gather input for the Cybersecurity Roadmap that PSHSB will present to the Commission early next year.  Since early August, we’ve met with dozens of organizations representing a wide range of interests to help us focus the Roadmap.  To everyone who has participated in these discussions, thank you.  We are at the point where we think it would be beneficial to get as many of these vantage points as possible in the same room for an extended open discussion.

To this end, last week, we announced that on Friday, November 5, 2010, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., the Bureau will hold a workshop at FCC Headquarters to support the development of the Cybersecurity Roadmap.   Because the Commission Meeting Room can hold only a limited number of people, you must pre-register by November 3rd.  You can do this online.  You also can register by contacting my colleague Deandrea Wilson or calling (202) 418-0703.    As of today, almost 100 people have registered.  If you cannot attend in person, free audio/video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC's livestream Web page. If you participate this way, you can ask questions by email, which will be manned during the workshop.  We’ll try to get to as many of these questions as we can.  We have a great mix of private and non-profit panelists lined up, and we’ll be announcing more about the agenda in a few days.  

For those who may be new to this topic, the Roadmap was one of the recommendations in the Public Safety chapter of the National Broadband Plan.  Its purpose is to identify five of the most critical cybersecurity threats to the communications infrastructure and its end-users, and develop a two-year plan for the FCC to address these threats.  The reasoning behind the development of the Roadmap is that the public internet, like other critical communications infrastructure, is under constant assault by malicious traffic and harbors a number of potentially disabling vulnerabilities. 

The discussion at the workshop will explore cybersecurity issues related to the underlying communications network that enables interconnectivity, including secure routing and directory services and on identifying the key security vulnerabilities from an end-user’s perspective, whether enterprise or residential.  We will discuss ways to increase awareness of communications reliability and security, incentives for ISPs to implement network security practices, protocols and technologies, and what should be done to help consumers deal with cyber security threats and incidents.

Your input will be important to the development of the roadmap, so we look forward to seeing you at the workshop on November 5.

Posted in Events Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
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Putting FCC TEC in the right hands

Posted October 26th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

As part of this agency’s mission, the FCC supports the field of high-tech devices and solutions that are available to consumers all over the world.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the opening of the Tecnhnology Experience Center here at FCC headquarters. FCC TEC is an on-site technology lab that gives FCC employees and invited guests the chance to get their hands on the latest high-tech tools and toys and grow their understanding of this exciting field.

With the launch of FCC TEC, we’re growing our role as an expert technology agency here in Washington. By expanding FCC employees’ access to the latest technology, we’re continuously improving the agency’s expertise and awareness of a quickly changing -- and increasingly important -- high tech landscape.

FCC TEC also gives manufacturers and vendors the opportunity to display their latest devices in an environment designed for interaction, collaboration, and learning. As an avowed gadget geek myself, I’m particularly excited about expanding the relationship between the FCC and our industry partners, and growing FCC TEC. If you’re a manufacturer or vendor that’s interested in setting up a donation to FCC TEC click here.

One of the perks of my job is the privilege of working with FCC employees who help get some of the most innovative new tools and toys to consumers in the marketplace. I’m looking forward to ramping up FCC TEC and continuing to grow the expertise that our agency can provide for consumers and industry alike.

Posted in Public Notices Office Of Managing Director
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FCC Tech Cast: Aneesh Chopra on America’s Mobile “Killer App”

Posted October 25th, 2010 by Dan McSwain

Connecting people to their country and reimagining citizens’ engagement with their government is a America’s mobile “killer app.”

That’s the word from Aneesh Chopra, United States Chief Information Officer, in our very first edition of FCC Tech Cast.

As part of our #SpecCrunch summit on the looming mobile spectrum crisis, Aneesh shared his thoughts on mobile applications’ potential to unleash dramatic innovations across sectors.

Mobile platforms let us connect with people in ways we’ve never imagined, and bring new voices into the process of governing for the first time. In this FCC Tech Talk, Aneesh points to Manor, TX, to show how mobile technology and innovative applications are giving citizens high-tech access to leaders in their communities.

Watch the video, then share your thoughts about how the FCC can drive citizen engagement via our upcoming FCC.gov mobile application.

Posted in Open Government
1 Comment

Clearing things up with a Cloud

Posted October 25th, 2010 by Irene Wu

Imagine you were a reporter and wanted to compare budgets for each of the 50 states.  Or, you wanted to compare the official schedules of governors in 20 states?  Dan Oblinger, Program Manager at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) suggests that if there were a single cloud for state and local governments, possibly supported by the federal government, the release of data to reporters and the rest of the public could be modernized and streamlined. 

Journalists say now that when they ask for government records, often they get print outs of electronic documents with black marker used to redact certain sections.  These releases can be hundreds of pages long, and completely unsearchable electronically. This is taking place in a context where newspapers are closing and reporters are being laid off.  The number of employed investigative reporters is declining and therefore there are fewer people to keep government at all levels - national, state, local - accountable to the public.
For example, suppose all states kept their birth, marriage, and death certificates and their court and police records on this single cloud.  Whatever format any single state used for its data, the cloud could provide the support to convert it into other useful formats (I understand now that this kind of conversion perhaps is often too costly for any single locality or state to support).  For the public who wanted to use these data, they could access it in a format useful to them, not just in the format the state/local government uses. 

Inside the cloud, each state could specify what level of privacy/security is necessary for each piece of data, adjustable depending on the user's level of rights.  Thus, the decision to redact is made once, and preserved electronically.  For example, records of a policy discussion in 2012 can be accessed by only by people in the legislature for 2 years, and by the general public after that.  In 2012, the records can be entered into the cloud, with instructions to restrict access until 2014, when the cloud allows everyone access.

For individual state/local officials, there would then be no need for every FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to print out the whole record and physically redact with a black Sharpie; instead you just direct the reporter/citizen to the cloud for what was done before.  For the reporter/citizen they can access the data in a modern (i.e. digital) format which is amenable to more sophisticated tools for search and analysis.

With the cloud, can you see clearly now? With the redesign of FCC.gov hosted in the cloud, the commission is eager to engage with other federal, state, and local bodies working on making cloud environments work for them. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Office Of Managing Director