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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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The FCC and First Year of Open Government

Posted December 7th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

In the modern federal landscape, the FCC finds itself increasingly at the intersection of technology, law, and citizen participation. It’s a challenging place to be -- these arenas change quickly, and move in ways that advancements in one ripple out and can change the others. But the opportunity to make progress on these fronts has never been greater.

Modernizing the rulemaking process -- keeping up with these changes to best serve the American public -- was the focus of an event hosted by the Brookings Institute last week. As an invited member of the Digitization – Past, Present, and Short-Term Future panel , I spoke about two key benefits that new technology offers to the rulemaking process.

First, erulemaking can make government work smarter. Moving from a largely paper-based system -- the norm very recently -- to a digital system has led to a rulemaking process that’s accessible, searchable and less weighed down by troves of paperwork.

Second, moving rulemaking online has allowed the FCC to open a process that was closed for too long. Traditionally, access to rulemaking required access to the expert legal mechanisms typically out of the reach of most citizens, yet the rules we are creating are created for all and often impact people who don’t have access to legal support. We’ve made strides on this front - You may be familiar with our online comment crowdsourcing platforms, the ability to integrate blog comments into the public record, and our other moves to make the FCC process as open as possible – there’s more to come.

Something most people don’t know: the FCC is also developing ways to help citizens that lack access to the Internet participate in rulemakings remotely via voicemail, powered by increasingly accurate speech-to-text technologies. It’s another way that the spirit of open government is pushing us to tinker with the process, open up closed structures, and empower citizen experts to meaningfully engage with rulemaking.

With the help of open technologies, agencies like the FCC increasingly find themselves as repositories of valuable insight generated by citizen experts. New technology makes that information available as data outputs that are easily shared, syndicated, and mashed-up against other data sets. As part of our team’s effort to reimagine a new FCC.gov, we’re revamping the Electronic Comment Filing System that allows for bulk download, RSS subscription to particular rulemakings, and infusing our own processes more with the web services model that’s ubiquitous in the modern Internet.

An open and participatory FCC is in line with the spirit of President Obama’s Open Government Directive -- passed one year ago today -- that is creating a more open, transparent, and participatory government.

On this anniversary, we think it is worth looking back and compiling the agency’s open government accomplishments. Take a look, then add your voice in the comments and help us continue improving the FCC’s rulemaking process.

Posted in Reform - Redesign FCC Staff Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Reform - Rules And Processes Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director Data Developer Api Accessibility

Wrapping up Open Developer Day

Posted November 12th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

On Monday, November 11, the FCC successfully held (we think) a first-of-its-kind event in the U.S. federal government! 

FCC Open Developer Day attracted about 100 web developers and other technology professionals to our headquarters building in Washington. We spent a day learning about open data sets and APIs, brainstorming together about how they could be combined to benefit citizens with new apps, and starting coding projects toward those goals.

One focus of FCC Open Developer Day was accessible technology. By facilitating the use of fully-accessible technologies - in line with the FCC’s support for our Accessibility and Innovation Initiative - the FCC is promoting innovation and collaborative problem-solving in the field. One exciting fact: FCC Open Developer Day marked the first time many developers in attendance sat and chatted as a group with others using assistive technologies.

The most valuable take-away from this first foray was the opportunity to build the FCC developer community. The momentum from this event will hopefully help bring the popular activity of Developer Day and "hack-a-thons" to the a federal agency. We were grateful, and a bit surprised, at the number of people who came in from out of town to this event.  It was incredibly exciting to the see the Commission Meeting Room, usually set up for formal hearings and presentations, organized in tables for eight people and laptops plugged into power strips.

Here are some cool things we got from having the event:

One day is too short to get much hacking done, so we are planning to do more developer days to make them a regular activity at the FCC.

P.S. Eager to participate in a gov-related developer day? December 4 is International Open Data Hackathon. FCC will be there. Will you?

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

Posted in Reform - Redesign Events Open Government Data Developer Api 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

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

Moving FCC.gov into the cloud

Posted October 20th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

To create lasting change in the dot gov atmosphere, its incumbent on us to build better websites on top of better architectures.

But too often, government agencies have struggled to keep pace with technological change at a fundamental level. Cloud computing environments haven’t been within government agencies’ grasp for very long. The reasons have been various -- many of them well-founded and focused on keeping our nation’s information, and our citizens, safe.

Thanks to clear vision and consistent execution from government leaders, agencies are increasingly empowered to leverage the benefits of cloud computing. Private sector innovation has moved at incredible speeds, and it’s encouraging to see federal agencies -- like the FCC -- moving towards cutting-edge architectures in order to deliver quality services quickly to the citizens that depend on them.

As we continue to reimagine how FCC.gov can deliver dot com levels of service, getting cloud environments in the door and ready for implementation has been a primary focus. By hosting our new site in the cloud, we’re equipping the developers and content creators in the Commission with leading-edge technology so we remain agile, responsive, and relevant to the consumers and industry groups that rely on FCC.gov.

We fully expect this move to pay dividends in the short and long terms. Starting now, we’re able to wield highly-flexible sandboxes for our teams to innovate without bounds. And in out years, we save considerable costs -- and mitigate impact to the environment -- by hosting the new FCC.gov in the cloud instead of potentially inefficient and wasteful datacenters.

Many critics -- across sectors -- have voiced concerns about the information security questions that are raised around cloud computing environments. Our team has fully abided by the FISMA standards throughout this process; at relaunch, FCC.gov will have met or exceeded both low and moderate levels of clearance, enabling us to distribute information, power collaboration, and innovate freely.

At the government-wide level, programs like FEDRAMP are moving the ball forward and helping agencies save time and money while procuring the environments that fit their needs. Just this week, GSA announced government-wide clearance for nearly a dozen Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) cloud providers to be provided via Apps.gov. The momentum behind this movement is growing.

As the FCC continues to fill out our role as an expert tech agency, I’d like to hear from folks that are working towards innovations like these every day -- both in the public and private sectors. Leave your comments below, or send me a message at @stevenvfcc on Twitter.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Office Of Managing Director
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Brainstorming: the FCC Mobile App

Posted October 5th, 2010 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

Haley Van Dyck The rate of mobile users has sky-rocketed in the past ten years, with over five billion mobile devices world wide.  Today Americans are spending more time online through their phones than ever before, with 6 out of 10 Americans connecting to the Internet through mobile access.

The FCC understands that growth like this makes mobile broadband even more vital in keeping Americans connected. To empower and inform consumers, we released iPhone and Android applications to test mobile broadband speeds. Since the FCC Broadband Speed Test launched in March, over 1.3 million speed test have been run.

As part of our FCC.gov redesign efforts, we’re heading back to the drawing boards to develop more powerful and innovative mobile applications to put in consumers’ hands.

Here's where we need you. We want to hear your ideas for new FCC Mobile Applications. What kinds of functionality could we deliver? Guidelines and precautions for emergency situations? Tools that illuminate the sometimes fuzzy world of consumer electronics and billing? Maps that mash up FCC data with private sector data?

Send us your thoughts on your ideal consumer-focused FCC mobile applications.  You can post your ideas in our forum, or check out ideas from other people and vote on your favorites.

Click here to share your ideas, or post a comment below.

Thanks—we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Mobile

Modernizing FCC.gov from the Ground Up

Posted September 22nd, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

As IT tides shift in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission has a special opportunity to become an expert technology agency in the federal government.

We have been hard at work in redesigning FCC.gov: defining personas of citizens and business both current and potential, building our data infrastructure (as I mentioned in my O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 Summit talk), combing through first-ever site analytics and user surveys, and talking to people both online and off about how they would reimagine FCC.gov.

Today, I'm happy to announce that this agency will be rebuilding FCC.gov using Drupal. This decision is a significant step towards modernizing our own underlying online infrastructure -- a key stage in redesigning and rebuilding FCC.gov.

We're excited to join a group of pioneering agencies and offices -- like Whitehouse.gov, Commerce.gov, and Ed.gov -- that have helped activate a movement that embraces and promotes inter-agency website efforts, while helping to usher in systemic change. As an open source content management system, Drupal also enjoys a robust and active community of users, code contributors, and evangelists. We look forward to engaging with this community to help us innovate and learn, as we build out our own budding community of citizen developers.

We understand that citizen shareholders deserve a government that moves quickly to deliver information, facilitate transactions, and inform and engage Americans. As we continue to reimagine what FCC.gov can -- and will -- be, we're excited to do so alongside the Drupal community.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Office Of Managing Director

FCC License View

Posted September 14th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

The FCC is proud to announce this Tuesday's Developer Release: FCC License View.

FCC License View is a tool designed to make FCC license management information more transparent and accessible to a broad range of users.

This release follows last Tuesday's launch of a suite of developer tools and APIs, including the FCC License View API.

FCC License View is an initial release of functionality from the FCC's ongoing Consolidated Licensing System (CLS) project. Thanks to efforts stemming from our the new Data Innovation Initiative, our team was able to expedite the release of FCC License View for speedy release to the public.

FCC License View is available now at http://fcc.gov/licenseview.

Last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit here in Washington, D.C., FCC leadership reaffirmed our commitment to providing powerful, innovative tools into our robust community of developers. Today's release marks our ongoing progress towards those goals -- and the first in a regular release schedule of tools and tweaks.

With this new tool, users from across private and public sectors can digest complex licensing info through a simple and easy-to-use dashboard. FCC License View lets users digest snapshots of FCC license management data that are at the core of the agency’s mission. At launch, FCC License View lets users explore over 3 million total licenses, 2 million of which are active.

This consolidated portal allows users of FCC License View to access information on the number of different licenses across services, the number of licenses owned by particular entities, and which licenses are up for renewal in the future.

The underlying dataset is composed of data across the FCC's five licensing databases, and gives users three options -- HTML pages, raw data files, and Application Programming Interaces (APIs) -- through which to access and reuse agency data.

Get started using FCC License View now, then make sure to leave us your feedback and sign up for our FCC Developer community.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Consumers Data

Update for /Developer

Posted September 14th, 2010 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

Last week we announced the release of four API’s and the site fcc.gov/developer at the Gov 2.0 conference.  We heard great feedback via twitter, direct email and blog comments.  We have taken some of these ideas and implemented the changes right away.  We want to make sure that these services are useful to the developer community and that you know we are listening to your concerns here.  The changes we have made are listed below, but please keep the comments coming.  Your help is required to make these services better.

1. Bug fixes

- We heard about a bug in the FRN API that would cause a timeout when querying certain FRNs.  Sorry about that, it should be fixed now.
- We head about a bug in the Speed Test API that would cause wrong Wireline Maximum Download and Maximum Upload values in some cases.  Again, sorry about that, it should be fixed now.

2. API changes (Block Search)

- You gave us a suggestion that would make the return more compact and usable as we grow the service, so we decided to change the xml and JSON returns.  Now the Block Search API returns data in the following structure to facilitate parsing and future expansion. This
will break client applications of this method call if you implemented calls already to this API. 

New Structure:
<Response executionTime="0.047" status="OK">
<Block FIPS="560239782002133"/>
<County name="Lincoln" FIPS="56023"/>
<State name="Wyoming" code="WY" FIPS="56"/>



3. API Enhancements (Census and Speed Test)

We added the ability to select desired MIME return type from the URL using the parameter format, i.e. format=json. Possible values are xml, json and jsonp (in this last case, the parameter callback should also be used). If no format is specified XML is returned. This change doesn't break the API (old calls would still work, returning XML).  

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Reform - Data Developer