FCC Launches Competition for “Open Internet” Apps

As the commission adopted new Net Neutrality rules, it also challenged developers to come up with apps to help users figure out just how open the Internet is.

Tired of reading about how the Net Neutrality rules the FCC approved today will either destroy capitalism as we know it or cement the power of the wireless oligarchs? You may be interested in this side-note to today’s brouhaha: The FCC simultaneously launched the Open Internet Challenge, in which it is inviting the public at a large to create apps that will “that help consumers enhance, foster, measure and protect Internet openness”–a kind of Netflix Prize for the Net Neutrality set.


Starting February 1, individuals and teams can submit applications to the competition that do things like provide Internet users with real-time information about their network connections. For example, the FCC said, one app could be a tool that tells a user when “a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.”

The competition is being hosted at, the platform created as part of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation, in which he called upon agencies to foster innovation through these kinds of prizes and competitions. Among the 55 other challenges posted to are one from the Department of Veterans Affairs soliciting ideas for wireless devices or apps that solve specific veterans problems, and another from FEMA that is looking for ideas on how to prepare communities before disasters strike.

Participants in the Open Internet Challenge have until June 1 to submit their apps, which must be free, open source, and available on the Internet. Expert judges and public voting will winners, which will be announced on Aug. 8.

Unlike the Netflix Prize, which came with a $1 million kitty, the FCC is only ponying up a trip to DC and the opportunity to present one’s app to the Commission as a prize. We’ll be watching closely to see how well this competition does. Sure, many coders hack for glory, but there’s nothing like the promise of a juicy carrot to get their fingers moving across those keyboards.

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About the author

E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.