September 7, 2010 - 1:38 pm
By Michael Byrne | Geospatial Information Officer

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.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, two of these API's (Consumer Speed Test and Census Block search) are location-based services returning data based on a latitude and longitude. We imagine use of these APIs to unlock a myriad of government data based any user location. As many notice the sea change in the use of geography by the public, the government has to respond with strong leadership. In our case, leadership means publishing via open standards which fosters consumer and citizen connecting, communicating and collaborating to solve policy issues.

The release of these APIs marks an important day for us at the FCC. The FCC has long published many data sets. Now we are allowing developers direct access to our data via live queries. Your feedback on these APIs—what you think, how you are using them, what needs to be improved—helps us continue in this direction.

Below is a quick digest of each service.

Consumer Broadband Speed Test API

This API returns the Consumer Broadband Test speed test statistics for a US County given the passed Latitude and Longitude. The statistics are grouped into wireline and wireless and are the number of tests, average download speed, average upload speed, maximum download speed and maximum upload speed. This data is calculated nightly and includes all tests to date performed through the consumer broadband test.

Census Block Search API

This API returns the US Census Bureau Census Block number (aka the 15 character FIPS Code) given a passed Latitude and Longitude. The API also returns the US State and County name associated with the Block. Just about every major dataset in the US Federal Government uses some form of Census geography. The lowest level of that geography is the Census Block. This geography is highly nested, such that removing coded values from the right hand site aggregates to the next highest geography (e.g. from block to tract, and from tract to County). Providing this search allows developers to build applications which foster connectivity from their individual location to the full array of federal databases based on census geography.

FCC Registration Number (FRN) Conversion

Filers with the FCC must get a registration number (aka FRN) whose company names, parent names and subsidiary names often change from state to state and region to region. We are providing this API to increase the value of the transparency of broadband providers providing service in each state. Providing a single place for understanding the complex naming of these providers will benefit consumers. This API has 2 method calls: getList and getInfo. GetList call takes the parameters of a state's abbreviation or state FIPS code, and a yes-or-no for multiple-state indicator, and returns all the broadband providers in that state. GetInfo call takes FRN number of a broadband provider, and return information about the provider.

FCC License View

The FCC issues licenses for use of the nation's airwaves and other purposes. License View API provides snapshots such as the number of licenses across different services, how many licenses different entities have, and how many licenses are up for renewal in the near future. The following APIs represent a step toward reform of our licensing systems and improvement in how the FCC makes licensing information available to the public.