FCC Launches App Contest

Commission uses new federal ‘challenge site’ to offer winners a paid trip to D.C.
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Commission uses new federal ‘challenge site’ to offer winners a paid trip to D.C.

How do you get an open Internet? Incentivize it!

As part of a federal government-wide “challenge” initiative, the FCC has started a contest seeking apps to protect the “open Internet.”

The Open Internet Challenge asks researchers, inventors and software developers to develop “creative, innovative and functional software tools that provide users with real-time data about their fixed or mobile broadband Internet connection, as well as Internet-wide patterns and trends based on aggregate data.”

And if you’re still a little confused about exactly what is being looked for, the FCC helpfully suggested: “These software tools could, for example, detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said: “This challenge is about using the open Internet to protect the open Internet … Our goal is to foster user-developed applications that shine light on any practice that might be inconsistent with the free and open Internet. Empowering consumers with information about their own connections will promote a vibrant, innovative, world-leading broadband ecosystem.”

The deadline for submissions is June 1 and the winners of the “challenge” get a trip to Washington, an FCC reception and a chance to present their work to the commission. “Authorized travel expenses will be reimbursed by the FCC (up to $500 per individual, or up to $1,500 per team).”

The “Challenge.gov” program is an Obama administration effort to use prizes and challenges to promote innovation; agencies post challenges on the site and the public can post submissions. In 2009 the president called on agencies to increase their ability to promote innovation by using tools like prizes. The Office of Management and Budget put out a policy and legal framework to guide how agencies do this and subsequently awarded a no-cost bid to a vendor to run the challenge site.