The FCC's Open Internet Apps Challenge

Probably the great unheralded accomplishment of the Net Neturality Order passed by the FCC in December has to do with transparency requirements. The new rules require all network operators-- wired and wireless alike-- to be open about how they're managing traffic flow over their networks. Why didn't this rule get much credit? I can't say it better than CDT:

Since transparency seems to represent low-hanging fruit in this proceeding, in the sense that it doesn't generate nearly as much controversy as the other elements, neutrality supporters probably have a tendency to take it for granted. But that doesn't mean it won't be beneficial.

In some ways, the transparency rule is the lynchpin that allows the rules to stop where they do, and avoid overregulating. For example, the Order doesn't apply neutrality rules to wireless networks-- a move I consider wise, given technical constraints, the rapidly evolving nature of the mobile space, and high competition in the wireless marketplace. But in cases of anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior by mobile networks operators, the FCC will have to step in. (My full writeup of the Order is here.)

By itself, though, the FCC has limited ability to keep an eye on the internet and ensure that network operators are fully forthcoming. So yesterday, the FCC called in support, announcing a competiton for developers to build apps that will help safeguard the open internet.  The "Open Internet Apps Challenge" seeks software tools that will allow you to see whether your network operator is blocking competitors' sites, slowing your downloads, or otherwise messing with the freedom of the network. From the FCC's press release:

The Open Internet Challenge seeks to encourage the development of innovative and functional applications that provide users with information about the extent to which their fixed or mobile broadband Internet services are consistent with the open Internet. These software tools could, for example, detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.

If you're a developer, you have until June 1 to submit your app and and get a chance to win-- wait for it-- a free trip to Washington in August! But seriously, it would be great exposure for a young developer, and an opportunity to help safeguard the openness of the internet. And if you're less of a geek and more of a nerd, you can write a research paper that "analyzes relevant Internet openness measurement techniques, approaches, and data."  Info on both competitions is here.