FCC's social-media efforts draw fire

Agency is neglecting transparency, critic says

 The Federal Communications Commission won new fans Sept. 10 when it launched a new video blog by its chairman and an online brainstorming forum on broadband policy using the crowd-sourcing platform Ideascale. But a transparency advocate warns that for the FCC, Web 2.0’s shiny new tools could be a distraction from, rather than a help to, transparency.

“FCC is giving us the bells and whistles but what we really need is to get the data in accessible formats,” said Berin Michael Szoka, a senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation,

Szoka said the new projects are misplaced priorities because FCC’s existing public comment system, the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), is “antiquated” and “horrendous,” with limited capabilities. The system contains more than 10,000 comments on the commission's proposals for broadband networks, but it is difficult to search, Szoka said. Users cannot use the system to search for specific text in the comments, greatly limited the system's usefulness, he said.

However, other transparency advocates don't fault the FCC for the new projects. “There is no reason to wait to start a Twitter account or a blog,” said Art Brodsky, a spokesman at Public Knowledge. “I think they recognized that and brought it up quickly. It is a good first step for them to modernize their face to the public."

Public Knowledge is a nonprofit group that is "working to defend your rights in the emerging digital culture," according to its Web site.

Mark Wigfield, an FCC spokesman, said the comments system needs substantial improvement. However, he defended the new blog and broadband Web dialogue initiatives as having an immediate short-term benefit. “This is just providing another avenue and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, the ECFS will be easier to use and easier to search,” he said.

FCC isn't alone in needing to consider the value of introducing new technologies instead of revitalizing existing systems. The same dilemma is occurring with the federal efforts to launch the new Recovery.gov Web site to track spending under the economic stimulus law. Meanwhile, an existing federal spending site, USAspending.gov, needs improvements, said Patrice McDermott, director of OpentheGovernment.org. Other agencies are also experimenting with social media.

“There is a tension between favoring the new media versus the hard slog of getting the older media to be useful for the public,” McDermott said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group