Study: FCC Could Improve Data Collection Practices

Broadband Data, Documents, FCC, Transparency March 2nd, 2010

, Managing Editor,

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission could do a better job of collecting and managing the information it gathers from consumers, businesses and other entities, according to a new Government Accountability Office report (pdf).

According to GAO’s review of 30 information collections conducted by the FCC, the agency’s bureaus and offices collect and manage information in many different ways. For example, FCC collects and manages 14 of the 30 information collections electronically, while it collects and manages some information in paper format. FCC disseminates information from 11 of the 30 information collections on its Web site, while it disseminates some information upon request, but in a redacted format.

It gathers information on a wide variety of subjects, and the FCC estimates that it receives nearly 385 million responses with an estimated 57 million burden hours associated with the 413 collection instruments it uses.

Some of the information it gathers are company filings such as television station ownership, consumer complaints and company financial and accounting performance.

The study found some weaknesses in the way it treats the gathered information. For example, GAO recently reported that FCC rarely includes the text of a proposed rule in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Stakeholders agreed, according to the GAO, that FCC does not initially specify the information that it wants to gather in the notice; the lack of specificity makes it harder for stakeholders and the public to provide meaningful input on the proposed information collection instrument.

The FCC responded to the report prior to its public release in a letter, which the GAO included at the end of the report. The agency said its chairman, Julius Genachowski, has made” modernizing and reforming the FCC’s data management processes a priority.” Additionally, it acknowledged that the agency’s Web site and database infrastructure are “many years out of date” and that it hopes to make upgrades. It also has launched an initiative that will combine all the functions of the many current systems into one consolidated system.

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