FCC Website Update:
Search Engine Improves &
EDOCS Gets Worse
Readers may recall that I have criticized the ever chaotic FCC website in the past. Now some good news and some bad news. I have not seem announcements of any changes, the items below are personal observations.
Being positive, I will start with the good news: the search engine has improved. A while ago another blogger pointed out that the search engine could hardly find any documents with the name Kevin Martin. That seemed a little strange. But now try to search on the Chairman's name and you get 728 results! No, they didn't just rig it to find more stuff about Chmn. Martin. The new engine really is better. It can find the 2004 press release announcing my appointment as an IEEE Fellow - something that was impossible under the previous search engine.
The new search engine also clarifies its scope of search:
"Search Scope: The FCC Search Engine searches throughout the FCC's web site, including the Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS), but does not collect information from the FCC's other databases and Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). Information is collected from web pages and many types of documents including Word, Word Perfect, Acrobat, Excel, and ASCII Text, and is constantly updated."
While the FCC search engine ignores ECFS, it appears now that a Yahoo search - but not a Google search - will often find ECFS documents. Of course, FCC allows people to submit comments to ECFS that are not machine readable or copyable, either because they were scanned from printed copies or because they are "locked". This is a pet annoyance and an inconvenience for all involved in FCC proceedings both inside and outside the FCC.
So congratulations on the search engine improvement!
Now let's look at EDOCS itself. This is the system used to store and retrieve official FCC-generated documents in FCC rulemakings and many other - but not all - proceedings.
Here is part of the results from a search of the old EDOCS when looking for the NPRM in Docket 04-186 - "TV White Space"
I previously commented that the 15 different links are confusing. All the other federal regulatory agencies use only .pdf format. An FCC staffer sold me FCC started using .txt formats in releases when the visually disabled community complained that computer reading/speech synthesis software had problems with .pdf documents. I do not have direct knowledge, but I wonder whether that is still true for documents that are directly converted to .pdf by software. But why the .doc formats?
If you search for the Docket 04-186 NPRM using the "improved" EDOCS, you get the following
I show two different documents out of the 15 that result from a search on 04-186 because it is unclear which is actually the NPRM, even if you ignore the 15 different links for each document. It turns out that the top one is the NPRM and the bottom one is a press release. How are you supposed to know? At least the old EDOCS had an indication in the upper left corner that said "NPRM".