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Blog Posts by Michael Byrne

IssueMap Round-up

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
February 16, 2011 - 03:39 PM

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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:

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Announcing IssueMap: Copy, paste, map

by Michael Byrne, Geospatial Information Officer
February 7, 2011 - 11:23 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]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.

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Video: Crowd-sourced mobile broadband data

by Michael Byrne, Geospatial Information Officer
January 25, 2011 - 08:50 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]] 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.

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Big Data

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
October 28, 2010 - 01:06 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]The emerging discussion around "Big Data" is capturing imaginations quickly, and with good reason. The arenas that compose Big Data -- transaction records (e.g. banks, telephone service providers), social networks, and geospatial data all fall into this field.

Thanks to a combination of the advancement of computer science, demand for data, and ability for businesses and large institutions to make use of large datasets, Big Data is here.

Last week, I was honored to be part of the Booz Allen Series for Fed News Radio "Expert Voices," speaking on the topic of Big Data. From a government perspective, we at the FCC are not dealing with big data (billions of records) like some partners are, but we oversee and work with many industries that do. But to do the FCC's work, we are constantly collecting and tracking records in in the tens and hundreds of millions of records to help make sense of the communications industry.

As you might be able to tell from our data innovation initative, we clearly are in the business of better understanding our data assets and knowing where and how to make our own data better. We feel strongly that one of the most important aspects to a more efficient and effective FCC is strong data assets -- and in particular, ensuring our data assets are fully geospatially-enabled. When we have geospatially enabled data assets our ability to analyze trends over space and time will provide benefit to the policy discussion and provide a more informed and empowered arena for consumers.

Listen to the whole big data discussion or watch my small trailer on big data.

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FCC /Developer update: Building off community input

by Michael Byrne, GIS Program Manager
October 13, 2010 - 03:07 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]Based on your comments and suggestions, we've just released updates to our FCC.gov/developer API's. In particular we have made two enhancements: one to help navigate the complexities of census geography, and one that's purely stylistic.

Census geography changes, while small or obscure, can be significant. A tiny change in a census boundary can mean that a rate based calculation includes a completely different denominator for population or demographic value. These changes, if not watched for carefully can be significant to the results of querying large federal databases.

To assist the community of developers building off FCC tools, we'll try and point out these small but significant changes when we see them.

The biggest change between 2000 census boundaries and 2009 census boundaries was the addition of a sub identifier to the smallest unit of boundary, the block. This addition allows for finer resolution to the map base. However, because of other changes like population growth, demographic switches, and land use changes, the external boundaries of the block boundaries have also changed.

In order to keep up with these issues, we are supplementing our FCC Census Block API with the ability to query for the current year as well as previous years. From now on, the current (e.g. 2009) year search will be the normal REST query on the documentation page like this;

http://data.fcc.gov/api//block/find?latitude=37.21&longitude=-120.4356

To gain access to a previous year, all you need to do is insert the year in the url like this;

http://data.fcc.gov/api//block/2000/find?latitude=37.21&longitude=-120.4356

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Update for /Developer

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
September 14, 2010 - 12:44 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:]]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.
Thanks.

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:

XML

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

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FCC.gov/developer

by Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer
September 7, 2010 - 01:38 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]Today the Federal Communications Commission is releasing four Application Programming Interfaces (API) and our first developer pages at fcc.gov/developer. These APIs are part of our Data Innovation Initiative and are foundation pieces in our own redesigning and improving FCC's web presence. We want the FCC's web presence to be larger than a single web site. We want the developer community to run with these APIs to make mash-ups and data calls connecting FCC data assets to other sources for creative and useful applications to the public.

When we publish data through open standards like these APIs and smart people make use of trusted government data in innovative ways, we realize the ideal of the Gov 2.0 movement of government and private sector innovating together to solve our great policy challenges.

Several aspects of this release deserve highlighting. First, APIs are central to our efforts for data transparency and open government. Second, all of these API's are RESTful in nature and return open structured data as a service. RESTFul APIs are popular on the web because they involve less programming effort to incorporate dynamically in mash-ups. We want many developers to view and use our data assets.

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Its about we

August 5, 2010 - 11:07 AM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:158:height=100,width=70]]This week the Federal Communications Commission, acting as a partner in the National Broadband Map for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is releasing a transfer data model of the State Broadband Data Development Program data from state ‘Awardees’ to us here at the FCC.  I just want to comment on a couple of things with this news.

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