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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Emphasizing the Positive:

Some Nice things About the FCC Web Site

In the past I have been critical about the FCC website, so this time I will follow advice I once got from a former boss at FCC and "emphasize the positive".
  • First, the website has actually won an award for the large amount of information it has. It does have a huge amount of information - it may be hard to find - but it is really there somewhere.
  • Second, maybe they listened my my criticism in any earlier entry, maybe not, but they have recently elimated the useless clutter caused by having three versions of most documents: .txt, .doc, and .pdf. Now documents are generally given in only .doc and .pdf format. (Continuing the .txt was anachronistic and of no practical value except to the handful of people who don't have MS Word and are unwilling to download the free Acrobat reader.)
  • Third, there is a very interesting collection of archival material at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/decdoc/annual_reports.html of the annual reports of the FCC and its predecessor from 1927-1998. These reports contain useful statistical information as well as a summary of what the FCC did that year. In 1999, new legislation mandated a more management style report and the style changed so that the reports are less likely to be of any interest to future generations. In any case, the whole collection of both the traditional reports and the newer ones are at http://www.fcc.gov/omd/strategicplan/.
  • (The URL of the archival reports is interesting because it indicates that the page was made by the Audio Service Division of the Media Bureau, the group normally known for AM and FM broadcast station licensing. I suspect someone in this group took some initiative and used a scanner to make all this information available online. I don't know who did it, but he/she has my respect and gratitude.)
  • Fourth, docket files are easy to find if you know the docket number, but what if you don't? OET has a solution to this in their own docket page: http://www.fcc.gov/oet/info/docket_comments/ . It lists docket numbers, names, comment due dates, and even has a clickable link to the Docket file! It sets a good example that hopefully others will emulate.
  • Fifth, the Media Bureau search engine for FCC Rules shows great initiative. If use the link on the FCC home page that is labelled "FCC Rules", you go to the National Archives website for the whole Code of Federal Regulations and it can be somewhat confusing for a beginner. But MB has a page at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/bickel/amfmrule.html that is much more user friendly as it acts as a front end for the Archives site, asking you only the rule number in the format (Rule part).(Section number), no need to end 47 (for 47 CFR each time). Oddly, the page indicates that it only works for Part 73, but it works for all Rule parts. The page also has the section headers and clickable links for Part 73 sections - apparently from the Archives web site. (The Wireless Bureau has a similar page with section headings and links at http://wireless.fcc.gov/rules.html .) These pages shows great initiative within MB and WTB and should be emulated throughout the FCC website. (A minor glitch on all these sites: I believe they are all linking to the Archives database of the published and bound CFR, which can be up to 15 months old at a given point. If this guess is true, they really should give a disclaimer that the current rule is really the published rule as amended by subsequent issues of the Federal Register as tabulated in List of Sections Affected .)
  • Sixth, in ancient history there was one FCC licensing database for all radio license data. At sometime a decade or so ago it was decided that each FCC bureau would manage its own licensing and keep its own database. Thus the Universal Licensing System/ULS is only "universal" in the universe that is the Wireless Bureau, it doesn't include broadcast facilities, satellite facilities, HF broadcasting, or experimental licenses. However, the OET staff has done what Humpty Dumpty was unable to do - put it all back together in a virtual way. This is done by GenMen, http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/reports/index.cfm which effectively merges all these databases and lets one do searches over all of them by doing the technical details for you.
The above items are true "points of light" on the FCC website. I hope this posting will inform people about their existence - which is not well publicized - and encourage the leadership at FCC to give me more positive examples to write about. There are real benefits of decentralizing much of the FCC website design and management to the bureaus and offices. However, more constructive interchange of success stories such as those above would also be helpful.

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