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A better way to e-comment?

There have been a number of stories in recent weeks about the Federal Commununications Commission's proposal to lifts the nationwide ban on using cell phones on airplanes. Here is the WashingtonPost.com column posted today... the Boston Globe posted a story last week... and USAToday reported last week that cell phone company Cingular is even opposed to the proposal. This is from the WP.com piece:
The FCC has released comments from flight attendants, passengers and various aviation industry unions, and most say, "Keep the ban." According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, more than 7,700 e-mails and letters have landed on the comments tarmac since the commission started reevaluating the 14-year-old ban in December.
But what I found most interesting -- and it is on the second page of the WP.com column -- is how one has to go about finding these comments.
(If you want to see more comments for yourself, you can find them the same way I did: Go to the FCC's Web site and type in search terms like "flight," "cell," "phone" and "ban." One or more combinations of these words should yield some results.)
The rule is not posted on Regulations.gov. Um, WHAT? Even doing this, the list that comes up is... well... I'm not sure how the FCC has received 7.700 comments, but this sure doesn't seem like any way to elisit true comments from people. Several years ago, the Defense Department had the grand idea of holding a true forum -- but doing it online. They posted a proposed rule and then opened the comment period. People were allowed to post their comments in (almost) real-time... and people could even comment on other people's comments. (Almost like a blog!) And it kinda worked. It was years ago, so my sense was that people were still somewhat uncomfortable with this concept... and it was also a rule that (unlike this rule) was not going to elicit widespread comments. I understand that this is the concept behind Regulations.gov, but... This always struck me as one of the areas where there the "e" of e-government could show its stuff... and I understand that this isn't easy! Really! And perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but it doesn't seem that it is quite there yet. But I begged to be corrected.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jun 21, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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