Congrats to FCC.gov on five years without an update

by on December 11, 2008 · 6 comments

Congratulations are in order for the FCC, which today celebrates five years since it last updated its online docket search system, ECFS. If you look at the bottom of the main search page, you will see the mark of this amazing feat: “updated 12/11/03″. In internet years that like a century. Kudos!

fcc-no-update.jpg

Yesterday at the Cato Institute panel on online transparency (video forthcoming here) I laid into the FCC for being an agency that’s supposed to be tech savvy, but that continues to have an online presence that is absolutely abysmal. Their docketing system is the agency’s lifeblood and yet there is no full-text search, there are no data feeds, and their robots.txt file is set to exclude search crawlers. This is totally unacceptable and I hope a tech-savvy Obama FCC will revamp the site.

Today the Washington Post features Google’s push to modernize government sites to allow it and other commercial search engines to index those sites:

[T]he U.S. government, one of the world’s largest depositories of data, has been unwilling or unable to make millions of its Web pages accessible [to search engines].

“The vast majority of information is still not searchable or findable either because it’s not published or it’s on Web sites which the government has put up which no one can index,” Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said during a recent presentation at the New America Foundation. …

Today, a wide array of public information remains largely invisible to the search engines, and therefore to the general public, because it is held in such a way that the Web search engines of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft can’t find it and index it. Not surprisingly, Yahoo and Microsoft officials agree that people would be better served if more public information became accessible to their search engines.

While an Obama administration could help solve this problem administratively by implementing Google’s sitemap scheme, Congress could also mandate that agencies make their data searchable. That’s exactly one of the thing that the Joe Lieberman-sponsored E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007 would do. Take your pick, just give us the data!

  • http://www.rentecdirect.com Mr Landlord

    5 years, that's amazing! Hopefully Obama's new CTO will shake things up a bit in this and other areas!

  • sjschultze

    As terrible as ECFS is, at least it is free and (moderately) parseable. Compared to PACER, this is refreshing.

    How's that for setting the bar low?

  • Rick Cain

    Don't worry. Obama is planning to get rid of EVERYBODY. Even Gate's tenure is temporary at best until Obama's new guy gets his feet wet.

  • http://www.radiospectrum.info buzz

    > there are no data feeds

    I offer RSS feeds of FCC Experimental Radio license applications and grants, at http://www.radiospectrum.info .

  • http://techliberation.com/ Johannes

    Goody. Now the FCC webmasters will have the pointless task of updating the “UPDATED” date on all FCC webpages in an empty attempt to deflate this criticism.

    Make a list of how the FCC – and all govt agencies – should move into the digital age. Send those recommendations to the Obama Transition Team and to the FCC Secretary. The address should be marlene.dortch@fcc.gov See http://www.fcc.gov/osec/ Maybe someone could compile all this in a wiki or report somewhere.

  • Cindy P Dennis

    Excellent, entertaining, useful reading, Thanks !!

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