Federal Communications Commission
Home » Blog

Developer Category

New Market Opportunities and FCC Building Blocks

Posted March 23rd, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

The National Broadband Map was developed to embody the spirit of the Internet.


Let me explain what I mean. The Internet is a two way street. At its most basic, the National Broadband Map shows how quickly Americans can give and take information over our national networks.


The Internet is also highly dynamic; it is constantly changing. The Map, too, was built to not only support but encourage change.


Since the product launched, we've seen some cool developments that use the Map's building blocks to make other projects better and more powerful. We think these developments lead to new opportunities -- new markets, new jobs, and new ways of tackling tough issues.


Here’s the first big example: The team at Broadband.com has integrated two of the FCC's APIs -- one for Census Block Conversion, the other to access the crowdsourced data points of the FCC Consumer Broadband Speed Test -- into their own mapping tool. This helps show the speed at businesses' locations -- a hugely important data point to surface as the speed of broadband to business and industry only climbs in importance in our connected market place.


On the government side, the excellent data team at the U.S. Department of Education just released a map product that visualizes one of the most vital aspects of broadband deployment in America: broadband availability for U.S. schools. Moving forward, the National Broadband Map will be collecting more information about Community Anchor Institutions – the places like schools and libraries that often are the central locations for public broadband access – that will help grow the functionality in products like the Broadband Availabilty map.


These integrations are a great example of government data products helping businesses build new markets. It’s exactly the spirit of integration we had in mind, and we’re excited to see other products -- in the private and public sectors -- continue down this path.


The second example is even more exciting. Since launch, we have received over 32,000 user-suggested inputs which are location based.  These 32,000 data points come in two varieties: some support the data that the map shows, and others point out discrepancies where user data doesn’t match the data in the map.


These user inputs are being fed back to the states -- the collectors of the National Broadband Map’s data -- to continuously improve the quality of the product. And user data input -- like our speed test -- continue to show the value that hybridized data collection techniques can pass on to users and innovators alike.

Posted in Developer Maps

App Accessibility: Are We at a Tipping Point?

Posted March 11th, 2011 by Pam Gregory

Everyone is always talking about some new app, and I simply can’t keep up!

Recently, I ran across something called the “iPhone App Directory.” The British magazine, now in its sixth issue, reviews, rates and lists download costs for apps.  I was curious to see how many of the 947 reviewed apps had potential for assisting with most disabilities, and I ended up very pleased and surprised.

Dare I say we might have reached the tipping point in technological universal design?  It seemed there were many apps that could be beneficial to people with cognitive disabilities, although interestingly, some of those were not user friendly and therefore not recommended.

It was refreshing to see the number of new educational apps that may help persons with learning disabilities.  Knowing that this magazine couldn’t cover all the new apps, I launched a search for similar magazines and found a good site that listed endless publications that also rate and compare new apps.

Here are some apps that I thought were particularly interesting.

  • D2u Transcriber provides dictation and transcription on a mobile phone.
  • SendStuffNow offers cloud-based storage.
  • Conf provides help for conference attendees by tracking each session, list speakers, lists panels/discussions, and even provides GPS to show how far away you are from each event (Note to self: Download for CSUN conference!).
  • ClearRecord Premium is an audio recording app that is able to suppress background noise.
  • Wallet Advanced manages your website logins, credit card info and other private information.  It has strong encryption so that this information is safe. 
  • Similarly, there is Password Keeper, which is a simple tool that stores your password and is also secure.
  • Flashcards App, teaches new vocabulary, then tests you, and even checks your daily progress.
  • Voice Cards are Not Flashcards!! allows you to create voice flash cards with an autoplay and shake option.
  • WordWarp (which I actually have) is a game where you create as many words as possible from a selection of letters.  If you’re stuck, just press the “warp” button and it will help you out. Also, a very useful game for persons with head injuries.
  • Pill Time reminds you to take your medications, and breaks up your medications by medication type, ailment concerned, dosage, frequency and the specific time of day.  It also provides a medication countdown, which counts what medicines you have taken, and what you have left to take in a day.
  • Living Well with Arthritis provides helpful tips to manage your arthritis.  This app was rated superior for usability.  It has many features, including routines, basic understanding of your type of arthritis and how it affects your body, and teaches how you can deal with your arthritis better.
  • iCanBass offers a guitar interface and allows you to pull strings.  This app made me think of Paul Schroeder of the American Foundation for the Blind, who is an avid guitar player.
  • Music For Users provides ambient music to affect your brainwaves.  This app has is programmed with certain tasks, which act as an “alarm” for project management.
  • LocateMeNow provides you with your location, and is user friendly and fast. If I had only had this when I first moved to DC!
  • MobileRSS gathers and manages your selected feeds and presents them in one place for easy monitoring.
  • Breaking News with Push delivers breaking news.  This reminds me of a story Al Sonnenstrahl, a life-long Deaf telecommunications advocate, told me of how, despite being in a car pool and working all morning  with colleagues, when RFK was shot after midnight in 1968, he had no idea. His deafness had pushed him out of the information loop..
  • PhotoDiary enables you to track your day with photographs, and allows you to add captions to the photos, and date and time-stamp the photo.  I would love to see user testing on how people with cognitive disabilities who need help with their daily routine could use this app!
  • PhotoMashup has great potential for people who are Deaf and to other visual learners by allowing you to arrange your photos, make montages, rotate, enlarge and move photos, and even provides the ability to include drop shadow and customize border colors.
  • iStuff is a highly visual method of managing tasks by providing 12 categories that are named based on time and function. It provides simple calendar views, an in-box for new tasks, tags to work on several tasks together, and overdue tasks, which require you to pay attention.  This task-management app is rich in features, and rated high on usability.  Another project management tool that is also highly rated is SideTacts, which integrates phone, e-mail and SMS into a single app.  It also provides audio, text and video notes, while continually synching with the basic apps on every off-the-shelf iPhone.
  • Easy Group Text allows you to group your contacts and text everyone in that group at the same time.  There is a similar app, GroupSMS!, which does the same for SMS.  Another app is FogHorn, which is a simple and user-friendly app that allows you to enter phone numbers for multiple people, and hold text chats where everyone sees all the messages.  FogHorn also allows you to store your chats, archive your chats online, and add extra information about the participants.
  • Today Screen can simplify your day by taking all of your appointments in the iPhone calendar, and putting them into a user-friendly view.  It even color codes past, present and future events;
  • 15,000 Useful Phrases is perfect for those whose English is a second language. It can provide assistance in the much needed gap between ESL and real English conversations--a great social skills app.
  • Lonely Planet San Francisco Guide is a one-stop resource for visiting a city. It is said to be even more helpful than a travel book and received rave reviews.  It includes detailed maps (online and offline). I personally love the Lonely Planet guides, and the San Francisco guide is just one of many cities offered.  Maptual allows you to view various points of interest on a map using the Open Street Map interface. Like Lonely Planet, Maptual provides information about cities all around the world.
  • Find A Pharmacy  will locate a pharmacy for you based on your geographic location, indicate how far the pharmacy is, and provides a Google Map to direct you to the pharmacy.
  • QuickPaste ranks very high on usability and allows you copy multiple records (the iPhone app limits you to one record at a time) for pasting into other apps. A good tool for everyone, especially for those with hand dexterity issues.
  • Pic-Z Tag is great for conference or meeting attendees, especially people with speech disabilities. It lets you design a name tag (templates provided).  When you meet someone new, you can just flash your iPhone to introduce yourself.
  • Ring Finger is a great speed dialing program that you can program time and automated calling.  For example, if you needed to call in to your job coach each day at 1:30 p.m., it will automatically connect you with your job coach at 1:30.

If you have used any of these apps and have found them to provide access, I would love to hear from you.  Also, I would love to hear from you about accessible apps that weren’t listed—it would be great to have one ongoing list of apps that have disability implications.

Are there any groups that are studying new apps for accessibility? If you’re an app developer, let me know if you are designing to include the 54 million Americans with disabilities.  My next step is to remember my password so I can download some new apps! Happy apping!

(Cross posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumers Developer Accessibility

Auditing FCC.Gov with Open Source DeveloperView

Posted March 3rd, 2011 by Chris Barna

The current FCC.gov has hundreds of thousands of pages, hidden across a myriad of different directories and subdomains. When thinking about how we wanted to migrate content over to the new FCC.gov, we had to find a way to organize these pages into categories based on a number of different factors. No existing product fit our needs so we made our own and called it “DeveloperView.”

DeveloperView is an open source PHP/MySQL project designed to allow government agencies and other organizations, by aggregating otherwise distributed institutional knowledge, to overlay a third dimension of information over a web page and provide website stakeholders the ability to view, organize, and collaborate in the management of site content. When used in conjunction with our open source website crawler, it can provide complete statistics on tag usage and progress to a goal of tagging every page.

Here at the FCC, we’ve had each office and bureau use DeveloperView to categorize their pages into four main tags: archive, rewrite, consumer, and industry. We are now using these tags to import and classify pages into the new FCC.gov.

We’ve found DeveloperView useful in the redesign project and want to share it with any organization redesigning their website. The source code is released under the GNU General Public License and our current release is available on GitHub. Right now the project takes a bit of knowledge of PHP and MySQL to set up but we are planning to release a version of DeveloperView that runs right out of the box on a flash drive.

We encourage you to give the tool a try or if you are familiar with PHP, invite you to contribute back to the project itself.

Posted in Office Of Managing Director Developer
1 Comment

First 24 hours

Posted February 18th, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

 The launch of the National Broadband Map marks the beginning of a promising new venture: empowering consumers, researchers, policy-makers, and developers to truly understand what broadband means in America.

This idea — a powerful way to navigate huge troves of data to increase transparency and understanding — drove the production of the map. In building the map, our team had a hunch that there would be a hunger for a tool that served up this level of detail and information. The talented designers, web architects, and geospatial pros kept that in mind throughout the entire building process.

When the map went live yesterday, the response was astounding, with the number of requests to the website averaging more than 1,000 per second! Below is just a short list of the metrics we observed on our first day;

  • Total hits yesterday: 158,123,884
  • Hits served by cache: 141,068,348 (89.21%)
  • Total Bytes Transferred: 863GB
  • Peak Requests per Second: 8,970
  • Average Requests per Second: 1,095
  • Visits in the first 10 hours: over 500,000

This phenomenal response shows that the investment of time, energy, and — not least of all — Congressional funds were well worth it. The National Broadband Map clearly has a market of interest, and we’re extremely proud to see that market being well served.

With this kind of traffic, we are tripling efforts to serve you better. The team has been working round the clock to make infrastructure enhancements to the site. These enhancements include horizontal scaling of servers, adding more memory and more caching to the maps, tuning the map server architecture with the software developers for the map, and working with outside partners to help with the application. We are also working to resolve known browser issues with the map. Most features of the website can be viewed in any browser, but the maps in the gallery are best viewed with Firefox and Chrome. You can help identify and solve these issues through feedback.

I can’t wait to keep making the National Broadband Map better, particularly because I know that feedback, new ideas, and innovation around the map will be driving that process.

[Cross-posted from the National Broadband Map Blog.]

Posted in Data Developer Api Maps

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
No Comments

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
No Comments

Announcing IssueMap: Copy, paste, map.

Posted February 7th, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

Everyone has seen a good spreadsheet go bad. Students, lawyers, public servants, accountants -- if you’ve ever spent time with a complicated dataset, you’ve had a spreadsheet turn against you.

Maps are a data visualization tool that can fix a rotten spreadsheet by making the data real and rich with context. By showing how data -- and the decisions that produce data -- affect people where they live, a map can make the difference between a blank stare and a knowing nod. Maps are also a crucial part of a decision-maker’s toolkit, clearly plotting the relationship between policies and geographies in easy-to-understand ways.

I’m extremely proud today to announce the official launch of IssueMap, the result of a partnership between the FCC and FortiusOne. IssueMap is a long time coming. As a board member with the National States Geographic Information Council, some colleagues and I identified the need for a product that would produce maps from complicated data steps in just three steps: copy, paste, map. IssueMap is that product.

Along with FCC Deputy GIO Eric Spry, we shot a video to show this drop-dead simple tool in action. Check it out, then visit IssueMap.org and try it. You can use the social media functionality in IssueMap to share your map with your community, or even export in a KML file to mash up your map other online services. Leave links to your maps in the comments here, and let us know what you want to see from the next iteration of IssueMap.


Posted in Data Developer Maps

Video: Crowd-sourced mobile broadband data

Posted January 25th, 2011 by Michael Byrne - Geographic Information Officer

 We recently spoke at one of the largest federal mapping data events, the ESRI Federal Users Conference, where we presented a cool implementation of FCC APIs mashed up with other, powerful datasets.

Last Spring, the FCC launched a pioneering crowd-sourced data collection tool: the FCC Consumer Broadband Speed Test. Since then, the test has been run more than 1 million times, collecting results both from wired and wireless connections. This is real data, from real consumers, in real communities. To make the data more useful, we released an API to unlock those results and hand the keys to the developer community.

The presentation showed that crowd-sourcing data collections can yield great things – not just for agencies – but for developers in the private and public sectors that can take the data and build new products, services, and research.

By the numbers alone, we know the test has been popular. And for a crowd-sourced federal data container, we think it's a huge success.

The particularly exciting part of this presentation was the ability to display projected speeds at different geographies within standard error, all extrapolated out from the the speed test data points that were input by users. As we explain in the video, by using the 1 million+ records submitted by users, we were able to display a map that shows the probability of a certain level of mobile broadband speed at any given spot in the U.S.

These data sets are great tools at our disposal, especially in the run up to the release of the National Broadband Map. As we get closer to the product launch in February, watch this space for updates of interest to developers, geographers, and consumers.

We’re interested to know what you think about the results, and what other uses for these datasets and APIs you come up with. Watch the video below of the presentation, then leave your comments.

Posted in Data Developer
1 Comment

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
No Comments