The week of March 11, 2013 is Sunshine Week-- a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government. The FCC joins the Department of Justice in celebrating efforts to increase public participation in government. As part of those efforts, we want to share some tips for filing FOIA requests.
As the FCC’s Chief FOIA Officer, I am responsible for oversight of the implementation of the FOIA at the Commission. My 2013 Annual Report (posted earlier this week) cited the progress we have made in our handling of FOIA requests. Since last year, we have fewer backlogged FOIA appeals and all ten of the oldest pending FOIA appeals have been addressed. And, importantly, access to agency records continues to improve in large part because of a greater effort to post materials of interest on the web. For a list of frequently requested items please visit the FCC Electronic Reading Room.
This last point is particularly important because the more the Commission posts on its website, the less the public needs to use FOIA to obtain records. The statistics prove the point. The number of initial FOIA requests we received declined by 15% from FY 2011 to FY 2012 and continues to decline during FY 2013.
If you do need to file a FOIA request with the FCC, it’s easy – you can use our electronic request form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can help us process your request even more quickly by providing us with the best information you have in order to allow us to identify and locate the records you want. Remember to:
- Provide your email address or phone number so we can contact you easily for clarification;
- Give us as much description as possible of what you are seeking;
- Give us a time frame for the records you want;
- Tell us what fees you are willing to pay (sorry, by statute we must charge fees for processing many FOIA requests, but often there will be no fees);
- If you ask for a fee waiver, explain in detail why you should get one, including why the records you seek will be used in the public interest and not your personal interest, and how you will disseminate the records to the public; and
- Consider which federal agency(s) are likely to have information of the type you seek. The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, wire, satellite and cable.
We look forward to working with you.