January 22, 2010 - 5:09 pm

On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama declared his commitment to transparency and accountability in government with the issuance of two important memoranda regarding Transparency and Open Government and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  The presumption of openness of government processes and records would be the hallmark of the new administration.  As legal counsel to the FOIA program at the FCC, I have seen firsthand how the Commission has embraced implementation of the President’s directives.

Interest in the workings of the FCC is at an all-time high and you can find out what is happening from the Commission’s website.   I heard a colleague refer to the FCC’s website as a labyrinth with many passages leading to treasure troves of information.  It will be easier to find this information as we redesign our website and make more records available on the Internet.  But if you can’t find what you are looking for on our website, filing a FOIA request is the way to go.  Filing a FOIA request couldn’t be easier – through our FOIA web page, by email, or by snail mail or fax.  I deal with FOIA staff throughout the FCC and I am always impressed with their dedication to responding to FOIA requests as quickly as is possible.  And, our FOIA Liaison is always available to help you.

I realized that our FOIA page provides a lot of background information but also wanted to  assure you – give us some basic information and FCC staff will get to work finding the records you want.  We need your name and contact information, and a good description of what records you want.  Your request will be sent to the proper part of the FCC to search for the records.  We will try to give you everything you want.  There may be fees for processing your FOIA request.  When you seek records for your personal use you get two hours of search time and the first 100 pages of records free, commercial users pay all costs, and the news media, educational and non-commercial scientific institutions only pay for copying more than 100 pages.  I know you’d like to get everything, but under FOIA some things are not released – national security records, confidential commercial information, and personal private information, for example.  FOIA also lets us withhold internal deliberative material and law enforcement records, but under the Obama Memo and the Attorney General’s FOIA guidance, we review and release those types of records unless we reasonably can see that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the FOIA exemptions.

So, ask away!