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Making Universal Service and Intercarrier Compensation Reform Happen

Posted March 15th, 2011 by FCC Commissioners

By Julius Genachowski, Michael Copps, Robert McDowell, Mignon Clyburn, Meredith Baker – FCC Commissioners

When we voted unanimously to approve the USF/ICC Transformation NPRM last month, each of us made clear that we are committed to reforming the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) system, and to doing so as soon as possible.   We must eliminate waste and inefficiency and modernize USF and ICC to bring the benefits of broadband to all Americans.  We can’t afford to delay.

As part of our process, today we’re announcing the first of a small number of open, public workshops to identify solutions to key issues in the USF/ICC proceeding.  This first workshop at the FCC on April 6th will focus on ICC issues.  At least one of the others will be held outside of Washington, DC, and all of them will be live-streamed on the Internet and will enable online participation.  More details on the workshops will be released soon.

At these workshops, we’re looking forward to robust discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders.  And we’re expecting participants to come prepared with responses to our reform proposals—and/or proposals of their own—that recognize that reform will entail compromise and shared sacrifice, as well as shared opportunity.

In addition to the workshops, we of course encourage parties to file comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).  As a reminder, the first comments on certain issues are due on April 1, and the last reply comments are due on May 23.  While the NPRM included many reform ideas, there may be others that merit consideration as well.  We remain open to considering all ideas put forth in the workshops and comments.

Once the record is complete in late May, we look forward to moving to an Order within a few months—it’s going to be a busy spring and summer.

The time is right to make reform happen, and to do so through an open, public, and participatory process.

(Cross posted on Blogband.)

Posted in From The Chairman Open Government Usf

Chief FOIA Officer Report Shows Continued Progress

Posted March 14th, 2011 by Laurence Schecker - General Counsel

The FCC’s second annual Chief FOIA Officer Report  (Word doc) shows continued progress at the FCC in ensuring public access to Commission records through the Freedom of Information Act and by Internet posting.  General Counsel Austin Schlick, the FCC’s Chief FOIA Officer, led a review of the Commission’s FOIA operations.  Key points in the report include:

  • The FCC granted in whole or in part 97.9% of the initial FOIA requests it has received in FY 2011, up from 95.3% in FY 2010 and 94.2% in FY 2009.
  • The Commission is expanding the use of redaction software to ensure that records properly withheld under a FOIA exemption are properly redacted and marked with the applicable exemption.
  • The increase in records available on FCC.gov has reduced the need of the public to seek records through the FOIA.  The FCC has more than doubled the number of pages of records available on its website since 2008.  At the same time, the number of initial FOIA requests received by the FCC declined from 659 in FY 2009 to 598 in FY 2010 and is on pace to decline again in FY 2011.
  • The already small backlog of FOIA requests and applications for review is being further reduced. 
  • Much credit for the smooth handling of the Commission’s FOIA program goes both to members of the Office of Managing Director’s Performance Evaluation and Records Management FOIA staff and to staff throughout the agency that process FOIA requests.  They work hard to ensure responses to FOIA requests are timely and complete.

The Chief FOIA Officer welcomes suggestions to help the FCC’s FOIA program continue to operate successfully and to improve.

Posted in Office of General Counsel Open Government
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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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New Tools Allow Developers to Leverage Spectrum Data

Posted January 14th, 2011 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

James BrownToday the Federal Communications Commission released two new Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) on our developer page at fcc.gov/developer.  The new APIs leverage data from the Spectrum Dashboard and provide the developer community with direct access to these assets.

Managing spectrum is one of the FCC's primary responsibilities. These APIs are tools that unlock our substantial databases related to spectrum ownership, spectrum use, and spectrum capabilities at different locations.

Below is snapshot of the two APIs.

  • Spectrum Bands: This API returns a description of how spectrum bands are allocated and for what uses within the 225 MHz to 3700 MHz frequency range.  This information includes the lower and upper frequencies of each band, the radio services operating within the band, whether the band is allocated for federal or non-federal use, and whether the band permits unlicensed operation.  The API returns data falling within the frequency range specified as the search criteria.
  • Spectrum Dashboard Licenses: This API returns an overview of who owns spectrum across the country within the 225 MHz to 3700 MHz frequency range in radio services deemed appropriate for mobile broadband use.  The API returns the call sign, licensee name, common name, radio service code, radio service description, channel block, channel block frequency, market code and market description.

When we released the first set of APIs back in September, we did so as part of our Data Innovation Initiative efforts towards better data transparency and open government.  We continue with those efforts by releasing the second set of APIs today.

Your feedback has been essential to improving these API releases and making them more valuable to developers in the wild (see previous conversations here and here). Let us know what uses you might have for APIs like these, recommended tweaks, or suggest APIs you want to see in the future.

Posted in Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Wireless Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Reform - Data Data Developer Api

Open Internet Apps Challenge

Posted January 5th, 2011 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

For months, we've been hearing from a committed community of citizens that care deeply about preserving the foundational principles of the Internet.

Many of the same people have been involved with the FCC over the last few months through our FCC.gov Developer community. Now that the FCC has released the Open Internet order, we’re calling on that developer community to help us meet a new challenge.

The Open Internet Apps Challenge, released by the FCC, asks this community -- particularly the researchers and developers -- to help build the strongest safeguards possible to preserve these principles and innovate online.

This is an opportunity for the FCC to tap talent in a variety of fields -- technology development, research, monitoring, and more -- to build a powerful toolkit that protects and informs consumers. These software tools could, for example, detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.

The winners of this challenge will have their work widely seen and used. We think that there a number of interesting opportunities in this challenge, particularly for researchers with deep experience in highly-technical and specified fields of industry and academia.

We've called on the FCC Developer community before, like the Open Developer Day we hosted in October, and this challenge presents a new opportunity for the agency to partner with innovators and researchers working towards important goals.

Check out all the details for the Open Internet Apps Challenge at Challenge.gov.

Posted in Open Government Office Of Managing Director Developer Api
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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

Spectrum Dashboard Gets An Upgrade

Posted November 18th, 2010 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

On Wednesday, November 17, the first in a series of enhancements to the Spectrum Dashboard were released.  Along with this release, we are excited to announce that the Dashboard is no longer in beta.

The response we’ve received about the Dashboard has been remarkably positive and in the eight short months since its initial release, almost 200,000 searches have been conducted.  To crunch those numbers further – the Dashboard is being searched about 25,000 times a month or in other words, 800 times a day.  Wow!  What’s more impressive is the volume of activity has been pretty consistent month-to-month.

While this week’s release may not be the biggest or the flashiest, it is however, the starting point for bigger and better things to come.  For example, in the next few months, the Dashboard will include additional releases to track leased spectrum, search for licenses across tribal lands, customize maps, and use Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to access data from the Dashboard.  We don’t plan to stop there.  We will continue to evaluate potential candidates for future enhancements.

Here are some of the changes to the Dashboard released this week.

Advanced Search. The Advanced Search replaces the “License Categories” search and includes several different search criteria located at the same place, including the ability to search for licenses by channel block.  For example, a user can search for all of the licenses in the 700 MHz band or can tailor a search by only searching for A-block licenses in the 700 MHz band.

Auto Complete for Name Search. The auto complete function allows a user to search by a name and the Spectrum Dashboard will display all names that include the string of letters/characters entered.  For example, by entering “Wire,” a list of all names that include “Wireless” will be displayed.

Changes to Filters. The filters have been enhanced to allow a user to open and close filters, as they deem appropriate and to include an additional filter for channel blocks.

• Downloading Results.  When a user downloads results by clicking on the “Export Results” link, the results will download automatically if the results are 65,000 rows or less.  If the results are more than 65,000 rows a user will receive an e-mail when the results are available.

We are looking forward to improving the Dashboard even more and encourage you to continue providing feedback.

Posted in Wireless Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Data Developer Api
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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 Developer Day’s First Chapter

Posted November 9th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

In a packed Commission Meeting Room on Monday, a coalition of tech developers and accessibility advocates made FCC history.

By organizing and hosting the FCC’s first Open Developer Day – one of the first of its kind in the federal government, and the first hosted at a federal HQ – the Commission took another big step towards realizing the full potential of the broad community of folks that FCC data and FCC tools have the potential to impact.

The success of the event proved that citizen developers are eager to engage in open collaboration with the FCC to find innovative uses for government data. Cooperative efforts like this help find efficiencies for users, open the door to new economic and creative opportunities, and stretch the value of the .gov dollar in ways we’re continuing to explore.

Open Developer Day also highlighted the ways that FCC initiatives can create efficiencies across the landscape of other government agencies – a pillar of the Gov 2.0 approach. The long-term success of these methods depends on agencies’ ability to cultivate an active community. I think this event shows us that we’ve made a great start, and we’re learning how we continue to improve on the steps we’ve taken so far.

Our own wrap up of Open Developer Day is coming, but I wanted to share this great video interview shot in our new, soon-to-be-released FCC TEC lab. O’Reilly Media’s Alex Howard sat down with Gina Trapani – a Developer Day veteran herself – to talk about the take-aways from the event. If you attended in person, watched via the livestream, or participated on the #fccdevday hashtag, leave your thoughts in the comments below. Tell us what you thought worked well, or pass on your ideas for the next FCC Open Developer Day for us to read.

Posted in Events Open Government Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director Data Developer Api
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