With the “end-date” for using the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program funds allocated by the 2009 Recovery Act approaching later this week, the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversaw the BTOP initiative, said the program created jobs and increased economic growth in affected communities, but that more work needs to be done.
Speaking on September 28 at NTIA’s Digital New England Community Broadband Summit in Maine, NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said that the BTOP projects had laid or upgraded more than 114,000 miles of broadband infrastructure, “most of it fiber.”
“[C]ommunities that received our broadband grant funds experienced an estimated 2 percent greater growth in broadband availability than non-grant communities. The report also concluded that the additional broadband infrastructure built by our grantees could be expected to create more than 22,000 long-term jobs and generate more than $1 billion in additional household income each year,” Mr. Strickling said.
He cited BTOP projects in the summit’s host state, including the Three-Ring Binder project that created “1,100 miles of dark-fiber network across the state consisting of three interconnecting fiber rings.” However, he said that the broadband speeds required for various applications will only increase, and “we’re going to be constantly chasing a goal that gets larger and larger.”
“Even though the Recovery Act grant program is complete, President Obama has continued to emphasize the importance of broadband,” Mr. Strickling, pointing to, among other things, the Broadband Opportunity Council recommendations unveiled last week (TRDaily, Sept. 21). Continue reading
Scanning technology opens a new level of remote access to bomb techs: From conflict zones to airports to sporting events, bombs pose dangers for innocent civilians as well as the bomb technicians who regularly risk their lives to investigate suspicious objects and render the devices safe. Technology solutions can help first responders to see hidden dangers. To this end, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s First Responders Group (FRG) is developing the X-Ray Scanning Rover (XSR) to be a responder’s eyes. It quickly and accurately scans packages and bags for leave-behind improvised explosive devices (LBIED) while keeping responders out of harm’s way.
While other handheld scanning systems require multiple images to be stitched together, The XSR provides a complete 3-D, multi-view picture of the entire object being scanned in real time, saving first responders precious time. This technology offers an alternative to other large, bulky, expensive options that may have limited ability to operate in remote areas or rough terrain.
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The Department of Justice has signed off on agreement with LightSquared Subsidiary LLC covering a range of law enforcement and national security-related issues, and in doing so has advised the FCC that it has no objection to the Commission’s approving the transfer of LightSquared’s section 214 authorities and mobile satellite licenses through its bankruptcy reorganization plan provided that the FCC condition its approval on LightSquared’s compliance with the Sept. 24 agreement between the company and DoJ.
Ashley Durmer, a LightSquared spokeswoman, commented, “Today’s action moves the process forward another step, and we’re glad to see the Team Telecom review come to a successful conclusion. With no opposition to the application, the Commission now has what it needs to make a decision on change of control. Doing so would result in clear public interest benefits, including enabling significant investment in our nation’s next-generation broadband infrastructure.
If Congress fails to appropriate funding to continue the federal government after Sept. 30, up to 120 FCC employees working on “auction-related activities” will be retained during the shutdown, “because their salary and expenses are not funded out of annual appropriations that will lapse on October 1,” according to the Commission’s plan for an orderly shutdown.
Another 13 employees would be retained “to protect life and property” by staffing the FCC Operations Center, to handle emergency contacts for the agency, and the High Frequency Direction Finding Center. “Up to two (2) employees will be retained to conduct interference detection, mitigation, and disaster response operations wherever they might be needed,” “up to nine (9) employees will be retained for crucial oversight/protection of life or property,” “up to nine (9) employees will be retained to perform treaty activity instrumental in the discharge of the President’s constitutional power,” and “five (5) employees will be retained for critical Information Technology (IT) issues.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other four Commissioners would also work during a shutdown, “because their compensation is financed by a resource other than annual appropriations,” the Commission said. Continue reading
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) today posted for job-seekers its No. 2 position, which is currently being held by TJ Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy is serving in the role of president, which is a new title announced last month (TRDaily, Aug. 17), but the position posted today is that of deputy executive director, even though FirstNet no longer has that position. The salary range is $121,956 to $183,300.00. The posting is open until Oct. 9. The position is a Senior Executive Service position.
Mr. Kennedy was hired at FirstNet as a three-year term employee. The president’s post is a permanent career position, and all permanent jobs must be competed – even if someone is currently serving in the role, FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland said last month. “The title in the job advertisement is the internal, government personnel title,” he said today. “The working title for the position is President of FirstNet.”
Garmin International, Inc., is stressing the need to protect GPS receivers from interference. An ex parte filing yesterday in IB dockets 11-109 and 12-340 reporting on a meeting with Julie Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, said “that Garmin remains committed to working with the Commission staff, other federal stakeholders, and interested third parties to protect critical GNSS applications from interference while potentially exploring ways that currently underutilized spectrum in adjacent bands can be made more productive.” A document handed out at the meeting emphasizes the importance of accuracy, integrity, availability, and continuity for GPS systems.
The FCC’s efforts to promote wireless broadband availability will “require cooperation by the local governments,” because “wireless providers are going to need to install thousands of new facilities to provide service,” FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said today. “I get the fact that not everyone likes the ascetics of towers but they are a necessity for wireless broadband.
For those local governments that stall or try to block tower siting, know that you will see the Commission step in with appropriate authority to push things forward,” he added. The Commissioner made his remarks at a town hall in Spotsylvania, Va., convened by Rep. Dave Brat (R., Va.). Mr. O’Rielly noted that he had been a frequent visitor to that part of the state when he worked for then Rep. Tom Bliley (R., Va.) in the 1990s.
The Federal Transit Administration today approved a corrective action plan drafted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for improving the safety of its system, including by improving radio communications.
“WMATA must demonstrate a renewed commitment to set a higher standard of safety for its riders and employees,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This plan is an opportunity for WMATA to make lasting changes and restore public confidence in its system.”
In June, FTA issued a safety directive to WMATA that detailed 91 actions the agency said the rail and bus system should take (TRDaily, June 17). In the directive, FTA cited, among other things, “serious lapses in the quality of the radio system and radio communications, which significantly affect the ability of the Metrorail system to manage abnormal and emergency events, and to ensure the safety of trains and personnel on the right-of-way.”
“While WMATA’s digital radio system is clearer than the analog version, there is still major distortion and feed-back in the field, and from the ROCC [Rail Operations Control Center], and a significant number of radio dead spots still exist,” FTA said. “Many WMATA employees throughout the agency ranked poor radio performance as their top safety issue. FTA’s team observed dropped words and communications as commonplace occurrences. ‘I can’t hear you, Central’ is a frequent radio transmission from the field.” Continue reading
The FCC today announced settlements totaling $1.4 million with three providers of Internet protocol captioned telephone service (IP CTS) to close the agency’s investigations of the companies’ delivery of IP CTS calls to 911 public safety answering points (PSAPs).
Hamilton Relay, InnoCaption, and Sprint Corp. had been unable to relay the calls for periods of as much as 10 months, the FCC said, and were not even aware of the problem until the Commission’s routine test calls revealed it.
“As part of the settlement, the companies have admitted that their actions violated Commission rules and have agreed to adopt robust compliance plans,” as well as “robust risk management processes,” the FCC said. Continue reading
Program Focuses on Wearable Technology for First Responders
Washington, D.C. – This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) held a demonstration day in San Francisco to showcase a wide range of innovative technologies discovered through its first accelerator program, EMERGE. EMERGE, announced in March, is designed to target entrepreneurs with innovative ideas on wearable technology.
“EMERGE is unique because it brings together – for the first time – innovators, public safety and the investment community to find ingenious ways of solving the complex challenges that, as a nation, we face every day to keep our homeland safe and secure,” said DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers. “The demonstration of technology prototypes at the EMERGE Demo Day will help put creative solutions into the hands of first responders.”
Throughout the day, EMERGE participants demonstrated their technology concepts and prototypes to members of the investor and industry liaison communities. Featured innovative technologies included mouth guards that use bone conduction technology for communication, devices for sensory impaired users that can help first responders locate people in challenging environments, a triage language translator for patients to communicate with first responders, and protective gloves with embedded equipment controls to remotely operate devices.
Interested in learning more? Read the full S&T Press Release.