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Delivering on Our Open Government Promise

Posted April 5th, 2011 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

Look across the landscape of government websites, and you see a common phenomenon: a dot gov site at rest, stays at rest.

Our own FCC.gov is proof enough. What was hailed in the late 1990’s as one of the leading federal web sites has sprawled out over time, moving with the organizational changes of the FCC, but largely resisting the outside forces of technical evolution and consumer expectations.
The FCC wasn’t alone; across the government, agencies faced similar challenges: long, cumbersome procurements; lack of focus on the importance of this work; or simply an unwillingness to devote the resources needed to keep up.
Thankfully for this community -- and for every American citizen -- a strong force has been quickening the pace of change. The principles of “open government,” which urge federal agencies to embrace the inertia created by engaged citizens -- the real dot gov shareholders -- are helping to move these vital issues forward.
The new FCC.gov comes from you: the citizens who commented on our blog posts, who submitted suggestions on our citizen engagement platforms, who answered our surveys, and who use the site day in and day out to make American technology work. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on government to be “open and competent,” building off new skills and driven by new ideas. Our reimagined FCC.gov answers the President’s call, and delivers on our open government promise.
With the launch of the new FCC.gov, we’re proving that Washington can keep up with the speed of the Web, implementing today's tools with an eye to tomorrow's innovations. Some of the highlights include:
  • One voice of the FCC: Intuitive design and layout optimized for the everyday citizen who isn’t familiar with the FCC’s own organizational chart.
  • Top tasks: Surveys, testing, and analytics showed us what FCC.gov users do on our site. Those tasks now follow visitors throughout their FCC.gov experience in the “Take Action” bar.
  • Great search: A powerful shortcut to help users get in and get what they need. For business users, powerful search filters make finding documents easy. 
  • Tech-forward: Built in the cloud, and developed with open source software, the new FCC.gov lowers barriers to future development as part of a long-term IT cost-cutting strategy.
  • Feedback everywhere: Putting citizen skin in the game to make FCC.gov work better for users, and holding us accountable to continual improvement.
  • This beta launch isn’t a beta in a traditional sense. FCC.gov will change again -- and quickly. It’s an approach that’s fairly foreign to the way most agencies work on the Web. But we’ll build this new experience on a solid, future-ready platform; we’re taking a page from the online entreprenuer’s playbook, releasingproducts  quickly and often,  and letting the many eyes of the Web drive the continuous improvement we hope FCC.gov will come to embody.
The scope of the changes to FCC.gov will also expand over time. The FCC new media team is continuing an aggressive campaign of applying innovative tech and techniques to the FCC's legacy databases and systems. Many of these systems facilitate billions of dollars in transactions that are vital to American prosperity in a global, connected economy. We can use the lessons we learn from the new FCC.gov to simplify data collections, improve time to market, and facilitate transactions at the speed of 21st century technology.
Welcome to the reimagined FCC.gov. Leave your comments below -- or participate in our online engagement platforms -- and tell us how we can continue improving FCC.gov together.


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Open Internet Apps Challenge

Posted January 5th, 2011 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

For months, we've been hearing from a committed community of citizens that care deeply about preserving the foundational principles of the Internet.

Many of the same people have been involved with the FCC over the last few months through our FCC.gov Developer community. Now that the FCC has released the Open Internet order, we’re calling on that developer community to help us meet a new challenge.

The Open Internet Apps Challenge, released by the FCC, asks this community -- particularly the researchers and developers -- to help build the strongest safeguards possible to preserve these principles and innovate online.

This is an opportunity for the FCC to tap talent in a variety of fields -- technology development, research, monitoring, and more -- to build a powerful toolkit that protects and informs consumers. These software tools could, for example, detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.

The winners of this challenge will have their work widely seen and used. We think that there a number of interesting opportunities in this challenge, particularly for researchers with deep experience in highly-technical and specified fields of industry and academia.

We've called on the FCC Developer community before, like the Open Developer Day we hosted in October, and this challenge presents a new opportunity for the agency to partner with innovators and researchers working towards important goals.

Check out all the details for the Open Internet Apps Challenge at Challenge.gov.

Posted in Open Government Office Of Managing Director Developer Api
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The FCC and First Year of Open Government

Posted December 7th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

In the modern federal landscape, the FCC finds itself increasingly at the intersection of technology, law, and citizen participation. It’s a challenging place to be -- these arenas change quickly, and move in ways that advancements in one ripple out and can change the others. But the opportunity to make progress on these fronts has never been greater.

Modernizing the rulemaking process -- keeping up with these changes to best serve the American public -- was the focus of an event hosted by the Brookings Institute last week. As an invited member of the Digitization – Past, Present, and Short-Term Future panel , I spoke about two key benefits that new technology offers to the rulemaking process.

First, erulemaking can make government work smarter. Moving from a largely paper-based system -- the norm very recently -- to a digital system has led to a rulemaking process that’s accessible, searchable and less weighed down by troves of paperwork.

Second, moving rulemaking online has allowed the FCC to open a process that was closed for too long. Traditionally, access to rulemaking required access to the expert legal mechanisms typically out of the reach of most citizens, yet the rules we are creating are created for all and often impact people who don’t have access to legal support. We’ve made strides on this front - You may be familiar with our online comment crowdsourcing platforms, the ability to integrate blog comments into the public record, and our other moves to make the FCC process as open as possible – there’s more to come.

Something most people don’t know: the FCC is also developing ways to help citizens that lack access to the Internet participate in rulemakings remotely via voicemail, powered by increasingly accurate speech-to-text technologies. It’s another way that the spirit of open government is pushing us to tinker with the process, open up closed structures, and empower citizen experts to meaningfully engage with rulemaking.

With the help of open technologies, agencies like the FCC increasingly find themselves as repositories of valuable insight generated by citizen experts. New technology makes that information available as data outputs that are easily shared, syndicated, and mashed-up against other data sets. As part of our team’s effort to reimagine a new FCC.gov, we’re revamping the Electronic Comment Filing System that allows for bulk download, RSS subscription to particular rulemakings, and infusing our own processes more with the web services model that’s ubiquitous in the modern Internet.

An open and participatory FCC is in line with the spirit of President Obama’s Open Government Directive -- passed one year ago today -- that is creating a more open, transparent, and participatory government.

On this anniversary, we think it is worth looking back and compiling the agency’s open government accomplishments. Take a look, then add your voice in the comments and help us continue improving the FCC’s rulemaking process.

Posted in Reform - Redesign FCC Staff Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Reform - Rules And Processes Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director Data Developer Api Accessibility

Open Developer Day’s First Chapter

Posted November 9th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

In a packed Commission Meeting Room on Monday, a coalition of tech developers and accessibility advocates made FCC history.

By organizing and hosting the FCC’s first Open Developer Day – one of the first of its kind in the federal government, and the first hosted at a federal HQ – the Commission took another big step towards realizing the full potential of the broad community of folks that FCC data and FCC tools have the potential to impact.

The success of the event proved that citizen developers are eager to engage in open collaboration with the FCC to find innovative uses for government data. Cooperative efforts like this help find efficiencies for users, open the door to new economic and creative opportunities, and stretch the value of the .gov dollar in ways we’re continuing to explore.

Open Developer Day also highlighted the ways that FCC initiatives can create efficiencies across the landscape of other government agencies – a pillar of the Gov 2.0 approach. The long-term success of these methods depends on agencies’ ability to cultivate an active community. I think this event shows us that we’ve made a great start, and we’re learning how we continue to improve on the steps we’ve taken so far.

Our own wrap up of Open Developer Day is coming, but I wanted to share this great video interview shot in our new, soon-to-be-released FCC TEC lab. O’Reilly Media’s Alex Howard sat down with Gina Trapani – a Developer Day veteran herself – to talk about the take-aways from the event. If you attended in person, watched via the livestream, or participated on the #fccdevday hashtag, leave your thoughts in the comments below. Tell us what you thought worked well, or pass on your ideas for the next FCC Open Developer Day for us to read.

Posted in Events Open Government Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director Data Developer Api
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Open (FCC.gov) Redesign

Posted October 28th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

As you’ve heard from me, we’re hard at work reimagining FCC.gov. The new FCC.gov will, first and foremost, be a resource for American consumers. As we reimagine the site and how it can best deliver the information and services consumers demand, public feedback will continue to be vitally important to our process.

Today, we're showing off some basic sketches for how the redesigned FCC.gov is coming together. And again, we need your feedback.

Take an early look at some of the initial wireframe concepts for the redesign and let us know what you think.

These wire frames are just the first stage in the design process that show us how and where our information will be laid out. Rather than waiting for the release of the 1.0 version of the site, we wanted to give you-the users of FCC.gov-the opportunity to tell us directly what you think about the current ideas. 

These sketches show how, at a fundamental level, we're moving towards a new FCC.gov. Built on a layout that speaks with one agency-wide voice, we're building a stronger consumer resource that's intuitively organized -- not based around an FCC bureaucracy that's unfamiliar to consumers. 

We will soon be testing this and other wireframes with consumers in a usability setting using scenarios most common to the FCC.

Let us know what you think. You can share your comments in our forum or leave your comments below.  If you prefer, you can also e-mail us directly at newmedia@fcc.gov.

We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Office Of Managing Director

Putting FCC TEC in the right hands

Posted October 26th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

As part of this agency’s mission, the FCC supports the field of high-tech devices and solutions that are available to consumers all over the world.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the opening of the Tecnhnology Experience Center here at FCC headquarters. FCC TEC is an on-site technology lab that gives FCC employees and invited guests the chance to get their hands on the latest high-tech tools and toys and grow their understanding of this exciting field.

With the launch of FCC TEC, we’re growing our role as an expert technology agency here in Washington. By expanding FCC employees’ access to the latest technology, we’re continuously improving the agency’s expertise and awareness of a quickly changing -- and increasingly important -- high tech landscape.

FCC TEC also gives manufacturers and vendors the opportunity to display their latest devices in an environment designed for interaction, collaboration, and learning. As an avowed gadget geek myself, I’m particularly excited about expanding the relationship between the FCC and our industry partners, and growing FCC TEC. If you’re a manufacturer or vendor that’s interested in setting up a donation to FCC TEC click here.

One of the perks of my job is the privilege of working with FCC employees who help get some of the most innovative new tools and toys to consumers in the marketplace. I’m looking forward to ramping up FCC TEC and continuing to grow the expertise that our agency can provide for consumers and industry alike.

Posted in Public Notices Office Of Managing Director
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Moving FCC.gov into the cloud

Posted October 20th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

To create lasting change in the dot gov atmosphere, its incumbent on us to build better websites on top of better architectures.

But too often, government agencies have struggled to keep pace with technological change at a fundamental level. Cloud computing environments haven’t been within government agencies’ grasp for very long. The reasons have been various -- many of them well-founded and focused on keeping our nation’s information, and our citizens, safe.

Thanks to clear vision and consistent execution from government leaders, agencies are increasingly empowered to leverage the benefits of cloud computing. Private sector innovation has moved at incredible speeds, and it’s encouraging to see federal agencies -- like the FCC -- moving towards cutting-edge architectures in order to deliver quality services quickly to the citizens that depend on them.

As we continue to reimagine how FCC.gov can deliver dot com levels of service, getting cloud environments in the door and ready for implementation has been a primary focus. By hosting our new site in the cloud, we’re equipping the developers and content creators in the Commission with leading-edge technology so we remain agile, responsive, and relevant to the consumers and industry groups that rely on FCC.gov.

We fully expect this move to pay dividends in the short and long terms. Starting now, we’re able to wield highly-flexible sandboxes for our teams to innovate without bounds. And in out years, we save considerable costs -- and mitigate impact to the environment -- by hosting the new FCC.gov in the cloud instead of potentially inefficient and wasteful datacenters.

Many critics -- across sectors -- have voiced concerns about the information security questions that are raised around cloud computing environments. Our team has fully abided by the FISMA standards throughout this process; at relaunch, FCC.gov will have met or exceeded both low and moderate levels of clearance, enabling us to distribute information, power collaboration, and innovate freely.

At the government-wide level, programs like FEDRAMP are moving the ball forward and helping agencies save time and money while procuring the environments that fit their needs. Just this week, GSA announced government-wide clearance for nearly a dozen Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) cloud providers to be provided via Apps.gov. The momentum behind this movement is growing.

As the FCC continues to fill out our role as an expert tech agency, I’d like to hear from folks that are working towards innovations like these every day -- both in the public and private sectors. Leave your comments below, or send me a message at @stevenvfcc on Twitter.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Office Of Managing Director
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Modernizing FCC.gov from the Ground Up

Posted September 22nd, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

As IT tides shift in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission has a special opportunity to become an expert technology agency in the federal government.

We have been hard at work in redesigning FCC.gov: defining personas of citizens and business both current and potential, building our data infrastructure (as I mentioned in my O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 Summit talk), combing through first-ever site analytics and user surveys, and talking to people both online and off about how they would reimagine FCC.gov.

Today, I'm happy to announce that this agency will be rebuilding FCC.gov using Drupal. This decision is a significant step towards modernizing our own underlying online infrastructure -- a key stage in redesigning and rebuilding FCC.gov.

We're excited to join a group of pioneering agencies and offices -- like Whitehouse.gov, Commerce.gov, and Ed.gov -- that have helped activate a movement that embraces and promotes inter-agency website efforts, while helping to usher in systemic change. As an open source content management system, Drupal also enjoys a robust and active community of users, code contributors, and evangelists. We look forward to engaging with this community to help us innovate and learn, as we build out our own budding community of citizen developers.

We understand that citizen shareholders deserve a government that moves quickly to deliver information, facilitate transactions, and inform and engage Americans. As we continue to reimagine what FCC.gov can -- and will -- be, we're excited to do so alongside the Drupal community.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Office Of Managing Director

FCC License View

Posted September 14th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

The FCC is proud to announce this Tuesday's Developer Release: FCC License View.

FCC License View is a tool designed to make FCC license management information more transparent and accessible to a broad range of users.

This release follows last Tuesday's launch of a suite of developer tools and APIs, including the FCC License View API.

FCC License View is an initial release of functionality from the FCC's ongoing Consolidated Licensing System (CLS) project. Thanks to efforts stemming from our the new Data Innovation Initiative, our team was able to expedite the release of FCC License View for speedy release to the public.

FCC License View is available now at http://fcc.gov/licenseview.

Last week at the Gov 2.0 Summit here in Washington, D.C., FCC leadership reaffirmed our commitment to providing powerful, innovative tools into our robust community of developers. Today's release marks our ongoing progress towards those goals -- and the first in a regular release schedule of tools and tweaks.

With this new tool, users from across private and public sectors can digest complex licensing info through a simple and easy-to-use dashboard. FCC License View lets users digest snapshots of FCC license management data that are at the core of the agency’s mission. At launch, FCC License View lets users explore over 3 million total licenses, 2 million of which are active.

This consolidated portal allows users of FCC License View to access information on the number of different licenses across services, the number of licenses owned by particular entities, and which licenses are up for renewal in the future.

The underlying dataset is composed of data across the FCC's five licensing databases, and gives users three options -- HTML pages, raw data files, and Application Programming Interaces (APIs) -- through which to access and reuse agency data.

Get started using FCC License View now, then make sure to leave us your feedback and sign up for our FCC Developer community.

Posted in Reform - Redesign Open Government Consumers Data

Great FCC Employee Poll Results – On the Road to a Model Agency of Government

Posted July 12th, 2010 by Steven VanRoekel - Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission

When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the new leadership team and I came to the FCC a year ago, we had one mission in mind – work with the great staff of the FCC to do all that we could to make the FCC a “model of excellence” in government. This was a worthwhile but daunting challenge – during transition, we had learned that the FCC placed 28th out of 32 small agencies in the Partnership for Public Service’s 2009 “Best Places to Work” report based on OPM’s Federal Employee Survey.  Over the course of the last year we set out to make the FCC a great place: We improved employee communication and openness through technology and new media, specifically creating the FCC “Reboot” intranet site which focuses on sharing information, gathering information, blogs and anonymous feedback. Chairman Genachowski established an SES “Senior Counsel on FCC Reform” –  a position that focuses on openness and transparency at the agency and reports directly to the Chairman (Note: The creation of this position also marked the return of Mary Beth Richards to the FCC which, if you know Mary Beth, surely accounted for improved morale).  In the last year, we worked to make management accountable for employee satisfaction, specifically briefing management on results and establishing goals in key leadership areas as well as coaching managers; and we worked on leadership development, specifically the establishment of executive leadership forums. This is all in addition to working through low-cost upgrades around the building, a focus on greening the agency, focus on charitable giving and community outreach, and much, much more.

As you can imagine, we were delighted when we got the results of our 2010 OPM Employee Survey and the FCC was the most improved agency in the Federal Government. OPM tracks four categories in the survey: Leadership, Results Orientation, Talent Management, and Job Satisfaction. Across all Federal Agencies, we were in the top 10 for the first two categories and the FCC was most improved in three of the four, and tied for second in the fourth.

We know we still have a lot more to do and evolution of an organization is never easy, but are excited that employees of the FCC are validating the work we are doing, and these results send us the clear message to keep moving forward on the path we have laid out to be a “model of excellence in Government”. Onward.

Posted in Office Of Managing Director
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