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September, 2010

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 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"/>

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A Discussion with WTOP on Consumer Telephone Issues

September 13, 2010 - 04:17 PM

On September 9, 2010, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Shirley Rooker, Director and Consumer Reporter for the 'Call For Action' program, at the WTOP studios. The segment aired on WFED (1500 AM) on Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 10:30pm but if you missed it you can listen to the segment on the left side of their website under Of Consuming Interest. The interview was a great forum to provide an overview of and consumer tips on Lifeline Link-Up, bill shock and early termination fees.

The first topic discussed was Lifeline Link-Up. For eligible consumers, Lifeline provides a monthly discount on basic local telephone service. Some consumers may also be eligible for Link-up - a one-time assistance that pays for part of the consumer's connection or activation charge for new phone service. Consumers might not be aware that they qualify for this assistance. Since eligibility requirements for these programs vary by state, consumers should contact their local telephone service provider or public utilities company for more information on these requirements. A consumer can always visit or call 1-888-CALL FCC for assistance.

Next, we discussed bill shock – the result of a sudden, unexpected increase in monthly mobile service bills. Bill shock can occur because of misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming, or data charges. Among the tips I provided are:

  • Understand your calling pattern. By discussing your pattern with your service provider, the carrier may be able to provide a plan that meets your needs.
  • Consider a prepaid phone if you have a low usage pattern of calls.
  • Understand your roaming charges and confirm that your phone's screen indicates when you are roaming.

The last topic covered was early termination fees (ETF). We discussed ways to avoid ETF:

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Announcing at the Gov 2.0 Summit

September 10, 2010 - 02:21 PM

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 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.

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A 9/11 Tribute ' Facing Challenges Together

September 10, 2010 - 11:21 AM


This Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of September 11, 2001, an infamous day. Tomorrow, let us remember the lives lost and also the brave first responders and volunteers who risked their lives to save others in peril, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Let us also honor our service men and women who continue to fight and preserve our freedom at home and abroad. 

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What's Changed

September 9, 2010 - 04:59 PM


The twenty first century has been about downloading data. Cataloguing, accessing, and downloading data. This has resulted in a great deal of innovation. On September 7, 2010 the FCC added the next play to the playbook with the release of I believe this is significant for a couple of reasons. First, data is still available for download. The FCC did not change course and begin offering a new service to replace one they already provided (download). They simply added to the playbook. Second, the release of the developer API’s opened the door for more innovation to occur. The API’s were provided with a number of ways to make calls to them. This will allow innovators to access the API’s in a manner they are accustom too.

The challenge- finding the niche and sustaining the system. It is critical that FCC quickly determine what API’s developers are finding useful and which ones need additional work. In other words; the success of will hinge on the FCC’s ability to work with the developer community not just provide another way to access information. After all, isn’t bi-directional communication what Gov 2.0 is all about?

Learon Dalby currently serves as the GIS Program Manager in the Arkansas Geographic Information Office. He is responsible for managing a number of statewide incentives focused at providing open access to GIS data.

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Promoting Lifeline & Link Up at Joint Utility Discount Day (JUDD) in Washington, DC

September 9, 2010 - 03:16 PM

On Friday, September 03, 2010 the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division staff attended Joint Utility Discount Day in Washington, DC. This event, sponsored by District Department of the Environment (formerly DC Energy Office) is designed to provide information on utility discounts and other forms of public assistance to qualifying residents of the District. The FCC was there to promote Lifeline & Link Up Awareness Week September 13-19, 2010. Lifeline & Link Up are programs that provide discounts to low income individuals for basic telephone installation and service.

Lifeline involves discounts on the monthly charges, and Link Up involves a discount on the cost of installation of telephone service. The discount is available for the primary residential services telephone and/or a wireless phone. Many consumers are unaware that these programs exist. Our goal is to work with social assistance organizations such as Office of the People's Counsel, and others, to ensure that more consumers become aware of the programs and receive information on how to apply.

Participating in an event such as Joint Utility Discount Day, with over 5,000 eligible consumers in attendance, was important. Events such as these are key in ensuring that consumers in the Washington, DC area develop an awareness of discounts offered through Lifeline & Link Up.

We are currently working with officials from Montgomery County and Prince George's County, Maryland as well as West Virginia, and Fairfax County, Virginia to hold similar events within the next month. And we plan to continue our outreach efforts beyond the DC Metropolitan area with future plans to make this a nationwide effort.

Read more »

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 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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Worth a Thousand Words: The FCC Through a Camera's Lens

by Benjamin Balter, New Media
September 2, 2010 - 04:01 PM

The FCC Flickr stream is a great, free resource for students writing reports, bloggers writing posts, and just about anyone interested in the agency’s daily happenings. As works of the Federal Government, all of the FCC’s more than 500 photos can be used, edited, or mashed up with other media, in almost any way you can imagine.

Although all the sets are too numerous to mention, some of the more recent pictures include:

FCC Headquarters, 12th Street Entrance

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FCC Seeks Membership to Public Safety Advisory Committee Focusing on Technical Issues and Interoperable Public Safety Broadband Communications

September 2, 2010 - 10:27 AM


Earlier this week, the FCC marked the achievement of another significant milestone in the implementation of the National Broadband Plan’s recommendations for the deployment of a nationwide interoperable wireless broadband network for our Nation’s first responders by calling for public safety officials and others in the public to serve on a advisory committee that will make recommendations to the Commission as it develops the technical framework for the network (see public notice seeking nominations). Over the past year we’ve met with public safety officials, lawmakers, government partners, and the communications industry with one goal in mind – deployment of a cutting-edge interoperable broadband network for America’s first responders, hospitals and other public safety officials. Teamwork among all interested parties is the best formula for one day making this network a reality.

Nominations for membership on the Emergency Response Interoperability Center Public Safety Advisory Committee are welcome and may be submitted through September 17, 2010. The establishment of this Federal advisory committee continues the Commission’s ongoing dialogue with public safety as the Commission develops a framework for nationwide interoperability and expands this dialogue by including members from a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the public safety community, such as representatives of state and local public safety agencies, public safety trade associations, federal user groups, and other segments of the public safety community, as well as service providers, equipment vendors and other industry segments involved in public safety.

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