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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

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

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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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

Announcing FCC.gov/developer at the Gov 2.0 Summit

Posted September 10th, 2010 by George Krebs


The annual Gov 2.0 Summit wrapped up this week. Among the many roll outs, innovations, and talks from across government, Managing Director Steve VanRoekel and Chairman Julius Genachowski took the stage to announce the launch of fcc.gov/developer. At launch the page currently features an initial sweep of developer APIs including the Consumer Broadband Test, Census Block Conversions, and License View.

If you didn’t catch the speech on Tuesday, we’ve posted it below.


As a bonus, this compelling keynote by Carl Malamud, The Currents of Our Time, marked one of the high points of the week. He’s an open government evangelist who spoke forcefully about the need to use government as a highly functioning platform.


Posted in Reform - Redesign Events Open Government Reform - Data Developer
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Top Ten Things You Should Know About Filing Comments on the FCC’s Data Review

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.
Resources: reboot.fcc.gov/data/review

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
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FCC'S Open Data Initiative: A Bit of Background about the FCC's Data

Posted July 16th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

Post: FCC Data Innovation Initiative Journal, Day 17, 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.
Resources: reboot.fcc.gov/data/review

Yesterday, the Commission announced a Notice of Public Rulemaking WC Docket No. 10-141 to consider requiring tariff filers to file using the FCC's existing Electronic Tariff Filing System and to standardize tariff filings to ease review by the public and the FCC.
In undertaking this public review and the NPRM to increase electronic filing of tariffs, the Commission is  following the Paperwork Reduction Act's (PRA) requirement that agencies manage information resources to "improve the integrity, quality, and utility of information to all users within and outside the agency."  The relevant PRA's subsection is quite instructive:
(b) With respect to general information resources management, each agency shall--
(1) manage information resources to--
(A) reduce information collection burdens on the public;
(B) increase program efficiency and effectiveness; and
(C) improve the integrity, quality, and utility of information to all users within and outside the agency, including capabilities for ensuring dissemination of public information, public access to government information, and protections for privacy and security;
The Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), passed in 1980, has significant relevance for the FCC's Data Innovation Initiative. The basic law is that we make our information more useful, more effective, and less burdensome to collect.  The Commission requires a tremendous amount of data to pursue its statutory and public interest obligations. The law is that we do not stand still with our information, but continuously improve it to everyone's benefit. The PRA demands we innovate as new tools and methods offer new possibilities for improved information management.
The case for completing the transition to electronic filings of tariffs which disclose the rates, terms, and conditions set by certain carriers, is decreased burden collecting the data. Standardization also decreases collection burdens by enabling vendors to recoup initial development costs of new products and services across many customers instead of just one. Standardization also improves the utility of information to all users within and outside the FCC.
As the Data Innovation Initiative continues, this journal will look into more aspects of FCC data and hopefully provide you with more material to consider in your official comments on our public review of FCC data. 

Posted in Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director Developer
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FCC’s Data Innovation Initiative: Reinvigorating the FCC’s Data Assets

Posted June 30th, 2010 by Greg Elin - Chief Data Officer

As part of the FCC reform agenda to improve our fact-based, data-driven decision making, the Media, Wireline Competition, and Wireless Telecommunications bureaus have released simultaneous, identical Public Notices seeking comment on all aspects of how they collect, use, and disseminate data.

Along with Public Notices, we are also publicly announcing a cross-agency data team of Chief Data Officers in the bureaus, a Geographic Information Officer, and a Chief Data Officer for the agency to ensure a better connection between data and sound analysis in policy processes.

These actions are part of the FCC’s Data Innovation Initiative publicly launched yesterday. They are the next steps of a journey that began last fall with the Commission’s first-ever, agency-wide inventory identifying hundreds of distinct data sets. The Public Notices initiate an iterative process examining all the FCC’s current and future data requirements, starting with these three Bureaus.  

Yesterday’s Public Notices invite you to join us on this journey for the next 45 days as we openly and transparently look closer at, and seek your comments on, nearly 340 data sets managed by the Media, Wireline Competition, and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus and consider future needs. Each of the three Bureaus has compiled a working inventory of their respective data collections to make it easier for everyone—not just those who file information year in and year out—to provide us with comments and insights on innovating how the agency collects, uses, analyzes, and shares information.

Introducing the FCC’s New Data Team

To help clear away the Agency’s data cruft and keep it cleared away, the Commission has put together a cross-agency data consisting of newly created positions of Chief Data Officers in each Bureau, starting with these three Bureaus. They are: Robert Alderfer, Chief Data Officer, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, who joined the FCC from OMB; Kris Monteith, Deputy Chief and Chief Data Officer, Media Bureau, who brings years of FCC experience to the team; and Steven Rosenberg, Chief Data Officer, Wireline Competition Bureau who was previously part of the National Broadband Plan team. Also part of the data team will be Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer, Office of Strategic Planning, joining the FCC from the GIS office for the State of California. Mr. Byrne is the FCC’s first Geographic Information Officer and is responsible for creating a National Broadband Map in partnership with NTIA. Rounding out the team will be Andrew Martin, Chief Information Officer for the FCC, who brings his experience in Auctions and running FCC IT; and finally, me, Greg Elin, Associate Managing Director New Media and Chief Data Officer for the agency. I came to the FCC from United Cerebral Palsy and prior to that at the Sunlight Foundation where I worked on open government data. The FCC has a long tradition working with and disseminating data both in reports and in structured, machine-readable formats, a tradition all of us on the team are looking forward to building upon with your help.

Posted in Open Government Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director

Mobile Wireless Competition Report

Posted June 10th, 2010 by Ruth Milkman - Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

On May 20th, the Commission released its Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the 14th in a series of annual reports to Congress, which reviews the state of competition in the wireless industry. 

This year’s report expands our analysis of what is traditionally called “Commercial Mobile Radio Service” into a larger understanding of competition across the full mobile wireless “ecosystem”, including voice, messaging, and broadband services, as well as “upstream” segments (e.g., towers, spectrum, backhaul) and “downstream” segments (e.g., devices and applications).  The broad perspective of the report reflects the increasing importance of mobile wireless broadband, as mobile devices that can access the Internet – such as smartphones – are gaining enormous popularity. 

One of the main goals of the FCC staff in preparing this year’s report was to bring as many relevant facts to the table as possible.  In many cases, we’ve looked at trends from two or three different angles to reveal a fuller picture of how wireless marketplace is evolving.  And, for the first time, we are making much of the data in the report available in machine-readable format for researchers and data practitioners. (Some data used in the report is from proprietary sources such as financial analysts which the Commission does not have the permission to re-distribute in machine-readable form.)

One example of an industry trend examined in the report from multiple data points is the growth of mobile data traffic, arising due to the increased adoption of smartphones and data consumption on new mobile devices that access the Internet.  For instance, Cisco estimates that global mobile data traffic grew 157 percent from 33 terabytes in 2008 to 85 terabytes in 2009.  The chart below, from independent industry analyst Validas, shows how greater device functionality leads to greater mobile data utilization.

Estimated Mobile Data Usage by Type of Device


And Morgan Stanley data clearly shows that smartphones are becoming a more significant element of the wireless market. 

Smartphone Adoption Rates in the United States 2008-2009

In addition, industry revenue from data services is growing, as the below FCC analysis of industry data shows (available in our release of data).

Total Mobile Wireless Industry Revenues

The wireless industry is evolving, and our approach to this annual report has evolved in kind to provide a more complete picture of wireless competition.  We hope this data-driven approach will prove to be a useful resource for consumers, analysts, and policy makers. 

We’re interested in your feedback – what does this data say to you?

Posted in Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Reform - Data