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FCC Chair Pledges New Media, Web 2.0 Push

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission pledged to move the agency into the Web 2.0 era, committing to bring the same social media tools that have transformed the private sector to the regulatory body that oversees the nation's communications systems.

"We're trying at the FCC to bring it into the 21st century," Julius Genachowski proclaimed here Thursday at the Gov 2.0 Summit, an event that focused on government and technology, co-hosted by O'Reilly Media and TechWeb. "I'd like it to become a real model for excellence in government."

Earlier in the day, Genachowski added his first video post to the new blog the FCC set up to chronicle its ongoing efforts to craft a national broadband strategy, fittingly dubbed "Blogband."

The agency also just rolled out a new section of its Web site, fcc.gov/connect, which is set up as a clearinghouse where users can access the agency's Twitter feed, Facebook page and other new media overtures.

Two months into his tenure heading the agency, Genachowski said that much of his time has been spent meeting with the staff and reassessing the way the FCC does business with an eye toward modernizing its public face.

Rising RSS feeds

In that spirit, he said that within the last two weeks, the number of RSS feeds the agency offers has jumped from one to 50.

The FCC has also set up an internal Web site, reboot.fc.gov, to provide a forum for the staff on how to improve the agency. Genachowski said he plans to make the site available to the public in the coming weeks.

He admitted that the progress of the FCC's glasnost efforts, which include a revamp of the agency's circa-1996 Web site, has been slowed somewhat by its recent focus on broadband.

The FCC is working under a February deadline to deliver a broadband strategy to Congress, but Genachowski noted that he has been experimenting with ways to make that process more open, as well.

Over the past several weeks, the agency held about two dozen workshops exploring various aspects of the broadband challenge, inviting participation from a multitude of stakeholders and streaming the events on the Web.

"We are trying to run the most open, participatory process the FCC has ever run," he said.

Reaching outside the Beltway

Genachowski acknowledged that the agency has too often given Washington insiders a disproportionate influence over its policymaking decisions. He spoke of the need to reform the comment process to balance the well-heeled interests who tend to dominate the conversation with the voices of experts, academics and others outside the Beltway whose ideas are too often marginalized in the FCC's work.

"There's nothing wrong with lawyers participating in the FCC process, it's just that they should not be the only people," he said. "We need to find ways to allow ordinary citizens to express their ideas in the course of FCC proceedings."