December 19, 2020

Introducing Spectrum: A Geographic Search Engine for FCC Experimental Licenses

Introducing Spectrum: A Geographic Search Engine for FCC Experimental Licenses

MeasureCongress is proud to announce the alpha release of Spectrum, our geographic search engine for locating Federal Communications Commission (FCC) experimental licenses.

According to the FCC, each year it grants over 2,000 experimental licenses to private and public entities conducting experiments that involve unconventional or new kinds of radio transmitters. Although the FCC publicly releases this data, it has traditionally been difficult to search – especially for journalists.

This new tool from MeasureCongress makes decades of FCC experimental license data, comprising approximately 460,000 applications, searchable by geographic location or assignee and filterable by date.

Applications of the Tool

This tool will mostly be of interest to researchers and journalists interested in technology policy issues or covering local stories involving experimental testing. Novel radio transmitters are an important part of many key technologies: everything ranging from telecommunications to defense.

Though our focus at MeasureCongress is on the legislative branch, we recognized a need to cultivate datasets describing the otherwise opaque world of defense contractors and other entities doing technology work on behalf of the federal government. Without such data, effective oversight – one of the essential functions of Congress – is more difficult to exercise.

To that end, we developed this tool to improve access to this data. Examples of potential uses include:

  • Detailing the geography of experimental defense testing in the United States, which though often secretive is of public interest. An example story about a small Montana town known for defense and aerospace testing is available here.
  • Tracking and understanding technological developments in telecommunications, an increasingly important element of infrastructure
  • Making the operational details of large corporations, particularly defense contractors, more accessible to journalists and researchers
  • Aiding local and regional journalists in understanding the role of the electromagnetic spectrum in the lives of their readers and viewers

Video Tutorial

Our new tool allows users to search particular geographic areas of interest, and to filter by dates and licensees.

This three minute video tutorial walks through how to use the system and how to retrieve further documentation from the FCC.