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Data the Way You Want It – New GIS Data Formats for Mobility Fund Phase I

by: Michael Byrne, Geographic Information Officer

March 8, 2012

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Today the FCC is taking another step in our approach towards open government. We are releasing additional formats of high-need data to make it easier to use for individual analysis. The data we are releasing is for the potentially eligible areas for the Mobility Fund Phase I of the Connect America Fund. We first published this data as files for use with spreadsheet and database software and as interactive map with the release of a public notice. While the map is very useful, and the data files thorough, we heard from some constituents who asked for additional help in accessing this data.

To answer that call, we have packaged the data in three ways for you to use, making the data more accessible to everyone. Now, in addition to the published map, the data behind the map is open for analysis by geographers, developers and analysts alike.We choose three of the most accessible data formats for geography to publish: shapfile, WMS, and Mapping Tiles. These formats are either industry standards, are established open standards or are extraordinarily fast approaches to analyzing and displaying the data.

One of the ways we are providing the data as a shapefile for download. The shapefile format is actually four individual files (.dbf, .shp, .shx, and .prj) all with the same prefix. This format is generally recognized as a standard transfer file for geographic information systems data. The shapefile is accepted transfer in just about every GIS software package.

Additionally we are providing a link to a web mapping service (WMS) of the data. WMS is an Open Geospatial Consortium standard for delivering geospatial data over the web. The WMS data service can be viewed in two ways. First, the data can be viewed just by using the URL. Second, most GIS software allow anyone to add this service as a layer to their individual session or project. To do this, the service is located at http://apps.fcc.gov/geoserver/wms and at the layer is fcc:mcaf_1_poly.

Lastly, we providing the data as served Map Box Map Tiles. Map Box Map Tiles are cached map tiles of the data. This URL provides the data as these cached tiles. With this open approach, these tiles can be composited with other MapBox layers to make new maps. This approach is an entirely open source software approach to looking at data.

We seek to enable use of our data by the widest possible audience so that everyone understands the issues we are addressing in our actions. Our government goals motivate us to publish the data in more than one way, to maximize access to our process, not just for those with certain software, or with significant technical expertise.

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