FCC To Consolidate Licensing Systems

A top-to-bottom review of data collection is halfway to completion

The FCC Thursday outlined some of its specific plans for reforming agency processes and reviewed the progress made in transforming the agency along the lines outlined by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Those include consolidating licensing systems and improving the electronic comment system.

Mary Beth Richards, special counsel for FCC reform, told the full commission Thursday at its open meeting that a top-to-bottom review of data collection is halfway to completion.

Genachowski has repeatedly, by word and action, indicated that getting better data is the key to better decision-making by the agency.

Some of the takeaways so far include 1) hiring more staff. "We are lacking in certain skill sets," she said, especially in economics and engineering; 2) better and more access to technology; 3) better management of work flow; 4) and deficiencies of existing data. She said the FCC has more than 400 "major data collections" that OMB has approved as well as data bought from third parties and generated internally.

As part of that reform process, she said, the FCC next month will begin a five-year plan to combine all the functions of current licensing applications, including cable operations and licensing, international frequency systems, experimental licensing and more.

She also said the FCC's 10-year-old electronic comment filing system (ECFS) was in dire need of improvement, and would be getting it.

She said an improved ECFS would launch in September, first internally and later externally. She said it would be easier to navigate and search, allow for filings in multiple dockets with a single submission, allow filers to learn of certain documents via an RSS feed and more.

She said "some progress" has been made in internal and external communications, but there remained "a lot of room for improvement." The progress included the public broadband workshops--16 so far--that have also been streamed online and its partnership with the Columbia Business School and the Harvard Berkman center for outside research.

The commission has also launched its first official FCC blog and Twitter sites, pointed out FCC Managing Director Steven VanRoekel. He said that "thousands of people have connected to the FCC in the last week" via those new technologies. He also said that RSS functionality has now been added to the FCC.gov Web site.