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  • 07.22.09

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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Robert McDowell letter

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]

About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.

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