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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)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Neutrality on

FCC Website

A Surprising Feature of ULS -
the "Universal" Licensing System

I ventured into ULS this week for the first time. Most of my work with FCC involves experimental (Part 5) licenses or rulemakings so I had never entered an application on ULS. For those who also haven't dealt with ULS, here is the official party line:

The Universal Licensing System (ULS) is the easy, online answer to your wireless licensing and research needs. ULS simplifies the application and licensing processes and provides secure, world-wide access through the Internet. This results in reduced filing time and financial savings for both customers and the federal government.

The ULS is browser-based, for ease of use, and provides built-in security. It contains everything you need for electronic filing. You will select the service and the purpose of your application, and the system will dynamically create a screen that will only ask you for the information that is needed. Likewise, if you want to make an administrative change in our licensing database or are required to submit a filing on a specific call sign, you'll be able to access your records with a password and immediately make the changes. Determining the status of an application is just as fast and easy.

Keeping Pace with Technology - The ULS incorporates the latest technical advances that are revolutionizing personal communications and information access to provide wireless radio licensees with online access to their FCC license records. Use your Web connection to keep abreast of fast-breaking developments, and use the ULS to keep your existing registrations up to date as changes occur. (Emphasis added)

Despite its name and the discussion above, ULS is not universal within FCC although it is "universal" within the world of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Other Title III wireless/radio licensing systems at FCC include:

Broadcast Radio and Television Electronic Filing System (CDBS)

Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS)

International Bureau Electronic Filing System (MyIBFS)

OET Experimental Licensing System Electronic Filing

(The OET-maintained General Menu Reports System (GenMen) allows access to review licenses across all 5 systems, but does not allow input of information.)

But the real surprise was the problem I encountered which is shown in the screen shot in the upper left corner of this posting. ULS supports Windows 98, NT, 2000, ME, XP and Windows Vista. It also supports the following browsers: IE8, IE6, Firefox 2, Netscape 8.1 .

Firefox 3, Safari, Chrome - no guarantees. But it is good to know that Netscape 8.1 is still supported! The site also says:

"NOTE: ULS does not support Linux, Unix,

Sun Solaris, or Macintosh operating systems."

I suppose Mac fans like me should not be too jealous because even Windows 7 isn't supported.

But I hope the new team at FCC reviews this issue and sets some goals to prevent this type of problem in the future. Clearly these quirks of ULS have been around for a while and can't be fixed overnight. But recognizing them can help guide revision of the FCC website.

Why should FCC, presumably the most tech savvy agency in the federal government, have web-based systems that are so fussy about the users' systems?

I don't know what the traffic to the FCC website looks like, but the traffic to this blog uses the browsers shown below. In the past 500 readers, nary a Netscape user! Lots of IE 7, Firefox 3, Safari, and even a few Chrome and Opera users. I assume FCC website visitors have a similar spectrum of software systems.

(Click on chart to get clearer version)

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