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Blog Posts by Gigi B. Sohn

New Consumer Help Center Is Designed To Empower Consumers, Streamline Complaint System

January 5, 2015 - 12:47 PM

The first responsibility of the FCC is to represent consumers. Facilitating consumer interface with the Commission is a major component of that responsibility. Today, we are proud to announce the launch of a new online Consumer Help Center.

The Consumer Help Center will make the FCC more user-friendly, accessible and transparent to consumers. This new capability is part of Chairman Wheeler's comprehensive review of the agency's processes and operations. A significant goal of this effort is to take advantage of advances in technology to provide better service and support for consumers, now and in the future. The new tool launched today replaces the Commission's previous complaint system with an easier-to-use, more consumer-friendly portal for filing and monitoring complaints.

We see the Help Center as a new approach to enhancing communications between the Commission and the public. In addition to being easier to use for consumers, the information collected will be smoothly integrated with our policymaking and enforcement processes. The result will be better results for consumers and better information for the agency. The insights we gain will help identify trends in consumer issues and enable us to focus Commission time, money, and resources on the issues that matter most.

Here are some key features of the Help Center:

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Setting the Record Straight on Open Internet Comments

December 23, 2014 - 11:22 AM

Over the past week, there have been two reports raising questions about the number of Open Internet comments that were included in a set of XML files the FCC released to the public on October 22.  We made available these XML files so members of the public could analyze the approximately 2.5 million comments filed during the reply comment period of July 19-September 15.  In light of these questions, the Commission undertook a fresh accounting of the comments, and, consistent with our commitment to transparency throughout this process, we wanted to share the results of our analysis.

Before sharing those results, we think it’s important that people understand that much of the confusion stems from the fact that the Commission has an 18-year-old Electronic Comment Filing system (ECFS), which was not built to handle this unprecedented volume of comments nor initially designed to export comments via XML. This forced the Commission’s information technology team to cobble solutions together MacGyver-style.  Thanks to these creative efforts, we have been able to accommodate the surge in comments and release the comments as XML files for the first time in the FCC’s history, but not without some glitches that we will explain in this post.

Here are some key takeaways from our inquiry:

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FCC Releases Open Internet Reply Comments to the Public

by Gigi B. Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs, Office of the Chairman
October 22, 2014 - 04:07 PM

**This blog has been updated as of 12/23/2014 to refelect the following:

Corrected December 23, 2014: The number of comments received during the reply comment period was initially reported erroneously in this post as 725,169 comments received through ECFS and CSV file uploads and another 1,719,503 comments received via the email address, for a total of 2,444,672 comments.

The correct number of comments the FCC received during the reply comment period is 1,393,835 received through ECFS and CSV file uploads and another 1,158,014 comments received via the email address, for a total of 2,551,849 comments. The FCC intends to release this revised data in XML format as well.

It is now well known that the FCC’s Open Internet docket is the most commented upon rulemaking in the agency’s history, with more than 3.9 million submissions to date filed both through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), our dedicated  email address, and via  the additional option of Comma Separated Values (CSV) files.   Regardless of the method through which a comment was filed, every comment submitted has been made part of the official record of this proceeding. 

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FCC Makes Open Internet Comments More Accessible to Public

by Gigi B. Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs, Office of the Chairman
August 5, 2014 - 12:29 PM

It goes without saying that there has been tremendous interest in the FCC’s Open Internet rulemaking.  As of yesterday, over 1.1 million comments were filed in the docket, both through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) and our special email address.  We welcome and expect many more comments in the weeks to come.  And to be clear, every comment will be reviewed as part of the official record of this proceeding.

Because of the sheer number of comments and the great public interest in what they say, Chairman Wheeler has asked the FCC IT team to make the comments available to the public today in a series of six XML files, totaling over 1.4 GB of data – approximately two and half times the amount of plain-text data embodied in the Encyclopedia Britannica.  The release of the comments as Open Data in this machine-readable format will allow researchers, journalists and others to analyze and create visualizations of the data so that the public and the FCC can discuss and learn from the comments we’ve received.  Our hope is that these analyses will contribute to an even more informed and useful reply comment period, which ends on September 10.  We will make available additional XML files covering reply comments after that date.

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Answers to Common Questions about the E-Rate Modernization Proposal to Get Wi-Fi in ALL Schools and Libraries

June 30, 2014 - 05:41 PM

We have spent the past few days – at the American Library Association annual conference in Las Vegas and in Atlanta at the International Society for Technology in Education 2014 conference and the State Educational Technology Directors Association Emerging Technologies Forum – talking with stakeholders, from teachers and librarians to individual school superintendents, CTOs and state education technology directors, about Chairman Wheeler’s E-rate Modernization proposal.  In talking to these stakeholders, we found that there are some common questions people have about the proposal.  

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