Rebooting the FCC

Proposed changes to the way the nation's media watchdog does its business will mean more transparency for citizens—and bad news for secretive consumer-electronics companies.

Fix it, or we'll fix it for you: That was the mandate the Senate sent to the FCC on July 20. Today ArsTechnica reports that the FCC has responded by building a Web site to help improve the agency. Though only internally available at launch, reboot.FCC.gov will later become publicly accessible. So what's going to change?

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Opening up the innovation pipeline. This is bad news for Apple and other consumer-electronics makers who live for the dramatic surprise at CES, MacWorld, or some other event filled with stagecraft and twinkle dust. FCC commissioner Robert McDowell has said that he wants the agency to publish a readable matrix of all active proceedings to be published on the FCC's Web site, to allow citizens to see which devices and allocations are on the docket. Companies with a penchant for secrecy, like our friends in Cupertino, will face more of a challenge.

Sharing the National Broadband Plan. Also on the agenda: more openness surrounding major public initiatives such as the National Broadband Plan. Little is known about the NBP's progress.

Rules before ruling. In the past, the censure of companies like Comcast (say, for selectively impairing Internet traffic) requires the invention of ad-hoc regulations that seem arbitrary. Members of the commission have asked for the establishment of rules of behavior for companies and then for more enforcement mechanisms once permanent rules are in place.

Communication without waste. This is the central trope of the rest of the commissioner's requests. McDowell said he wants all the FCC's advisory committees to be kept more regularly apprised of the agency's doings—but without the reams of paper usually used to deliver reports. "Perhaps this is another area where we could save money and help the environment at the same time," he said in his letter. The Federal Communications Commission being smart and effcient in its communications. Imagine that.

[Via ArsTechnica]

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