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Legal and Telecom Practitioners' Voices in the new FCC.gov

by: Colin Sandy, FCBA Access to Government Committee Co-Chair

May 3, 2011

Federal Communications Bar Association members and other interested individuals took a deep dive into the new FCC.gov website during a half-day session at the commission on April 25. The seminar featured lots of great interaction with the new site and provided the commission’s New Media team with valuable feedback for  future industry-focused iterations of FCC.gov, which will begin rolling out later this year.

The session began with opening comments from Dan McSwain, Senior New Media Fellow at the FCC. He shared how redesigning FCC.gov has not been easy. 
 
“We undertook to learn the culture of the FCC and agencies in general,” said McSwain. The new FCC website is designed to “change at the pace of technology.” Indeed, Dan and other members of the New Media team have spent a great deal of time studying site analytics and responding to feedback in order to create a user-focused website platform for rapid change. Dan also shared how a lot of the work being accomplished would not have been possible without the help of the Office of General Counsel.
 
Ann Bushmiller, Deputy Associate General Counsel in the OGC, said the team tackled a number of legal issues concerning how to incorporate commenting on the site into the public record. Electronic comments are nothing new to the commission, but determining the legitimacy and relevance of those comments before the Commission remains an important issue the legal and New Media teams continue to work out.
 
Neil Chilson, a member of the FCBA Young Lawyer’s Committee and associate at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, also gave some remarks. Neil, representing the FCBA, explained that what he and his colleagues in the bar need is timely, accurate and complete information. “We depend on the success of the site,” said Chilson, adding that he was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the new site’s development.
 
Gray Brooks, New Media technology specialist, said the New Media team is on an aggressive development cycle to make incremental improvements to beta.fcc.gov every three weeks. He went through some of the prominent features of the new site, including the search tool, which follows users from page to page.
 
After opening comments, the group broke into two work sessions – one looking at the beta site, the other concentrating on the current FCC web site. The beta group looked at navigational issues by evaluating what path the typical legal researcher would take to accomplish a particular task. The group looking at the current site shared thoughts on improvements and what is worth keeping.
 
What’s Next
 
In the coming weeks expect to see more exciting, helpful and time-saving features added to the beta website as feedback from this session and other channels are implemented. Here are a few discussed at the session:
 
  • The FCC’s team is working on ways to give business and legal users a more customizable FCC.gov experience that is built around the features and functionality practioners need to do their work. More on that to come over the next few weeks.
  • For those of you who live from your personal bookmarks – not to worry! Current bookmarks will send you to the appropriate location on the new website. And with a gradual transition planned, both the legacy and new sites will exist concurrently until the transition is complete. 
  • Every portion of the site will be available as a subscription via an RSS (really simple syndication) feed you can set up from your web browser or a specialized news reader.
 
The FCBA is grateful for the opportunity to give it’s input to this important development and was happy to provide input to the Commission’s New Media team. We hope to continue the dialogue as the site progresses.
 
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