WASHINGTON, January 11, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday launched http://reboot.fcc.gov, a new interactive website attempting to foster public discussion on how to best improve the agency.
The site includes many opportunities for public input on a variety of facets of FCC operations, including greater release of FCC data, the development of new systems such a the “Consolidated Licensing System,” and the redesign of the main agency website, http://FCC.gov.
The site is broken down into five sections: systems, rules and procedures, data, engagement and redesign. The home page also offers links to the RebootBlog – this reform efforts blog – plus all current FCC initiatives and upcoming events. Each section also includes the ability for users can comment, post suggestion and then vote on suggestions, Ideascale model.
Following FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s introductory message, the second post on the RebootBlog tackles the issues of redesign. David Kitzmiller, Internet Working Group Chairman, admits that “although web guidelines and cooperation between content providers has proved successful… the usability of the site design has not improved along with it.”
Their main task on redesigning the website is to create a user-centric design: “People expect page elements to be in certain standard places on webpages …content is king and intuitive navigation is the key that unlocks it,” said Kitzmiller.
Kitzmiller said he was tasked with discovering what people come to the website to accomplish and then organizing the content along those lines. Statistics based on research and collected data are used to help determine the FCC’s top tasks and prominence of which they are featured on the website.
Without data, said Kitzmiller, the agency cannot be sure whose needs the site aims to fill.
As for systemic reform, the agency has already launched a new version of its Electronic Comment Filing System 2.0 in October. The new version allows users to file multiple documents to multiple rulemakings in a single submission, has enhanced search features, and allows users to explore data results in more efficient Excel and PDF formats.
Special Counsel for FCC Reform Mary Beth Richards said that through “reboot” feedback, the agency can continue an ongoing conversation towards further enhancements of a potential ECFS 3.0 system.
Richards also is looking for feedback on consolidating the numerous license applications systems, including a Universal Licensing System, Consolidated Database System, and International Bureau Filing System.
The “rules and procedures” section of the site seeks comment and input on increasing the transparency of the current ex parte systems and streamlining FCC internal processes.
FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick said that the FCC places a high priority on reforming rules and practices to improve openness and efficiency. In an effort to maximize the number of proceedings that use the commissions electronic filing system and make proceedings easier and more efficient, Schlick proposed an example of having documents served electronically rather than through the mail, which would save money and time. He continued, “Many state courts have similar e-filing systems. The FCC should be at least as user friendly and accessible to the public as the courts.”
Another fundamental part of the reform process that Reboot seeks to address regards agency data. Chairman Genachowski said that ensuring the openness of data that underpins FCC decisions is a key dynamic in fulfilling a fact based data driven agency. To meet these ends the Commission is launching FCC.gov/data – an online clearinghouse for the public data of the FCC. The FCC.gov/data link currently has information that is searchable by data type and by individual bureau.
Paul de Sa, Chief of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy, said that he wanted the “character of the project to revolve around standards of machine readable, open file formats as well as syndicated feeds and bulk downloads.” Current discussion sections already include; what data sets would users like to see published on FCC.gov/data, how can the FCC better employ such data, and how can the data released on FCC.gov/data be better formatted in order to be more useful to the public?
Reboot.fcc.gov has launched at a point in time where the FCC has been working extensively to foster new levels of public participation, as well as finalizing the national broadband plan that Congress delegated to it.
The FCC has improved access to live events through their broadband workshop series and FCC Live platform. They have also worked toward digitizing agency material for enhanced searchability and have established a new an active social network presence. Steve VanRoekel, agency managing director, pointed out the over 30,000 comments that were generated in the first month following the launch of the first FCC blog, and their easy to use crowd sourcing platforms.
“These examples are just the beginning of our efforts to bring 21st century communication to the FCC as we begin to explore new avenues of participation through eRulemaking, look to find new ways to increase public engagement offline, and work to make the current systems more accessible to all users” said VanRoekel.