One of the longstanding problems noted but not generally addressed before in FCC policy has been how to get the word out to folks not already plugged in as insiders to file comments. Traditionally, the FCC (like most federal agencies) has taken a very passive attitude. (Indeed, the FCC has traditionally been ahead of the curve. Many federal agencies have made it downright difficult for members of the public to find out what has been going on, or to file comments.)

In the last few weeks, the FCC has taken a number of steps forward on this. It started modestly with Twitter. Then came the the blog, including a video blog of Chairman Genachowski. As if that werent enough, last week the FCC launched a slew of social networking and crowdsource tools including an RSS feed, a crowdsourcing platform, and a site to track all the social media tools, such as the FCCs Facebook and Youtube pages. And, perhaps more important from the perspective of actually considering the public comments, FCC Spokesperson Mark Wigfield stated that comments on the blogs will become part of the official record.

All of these are tremendous steps forward and worthy of applause. Yes, there is still lots to do on making things like the electronic comment system or the Universal Licensing Service more usable. But folks at the FCC have acknowledged this time and again, and deserve credit for doing the things they could do quickly first. Steps forward deserve encouragement, especially when they keep on coming.

Which brings me to the unexpected surprise in my email box today. I received an outreach email from the FCC, with a request that I pass it on to anyone I think interested.

Think about that, the FCC doing outreach. Not just making it easy for anyone already interested, but trying to get the word out to those who might otherwise never even hear about a relevant FCC proceeding until too late.

It is easy to remain cynical about whether the FCC is really looking for new ideas or just putting on a show before going down the usual time-worn route of caving to the incumbents. Certainly we here at PK have not hesitated to make our opinions known when we see something weighted too far to industry or when the Administration bows to industry pressure. At the same time, we should recognize when the FCC makes extensive efforts to bring the public in and take them at their word that they want new ideas and real evidence from a variety of disciplines.

Mind you, we still have to make our case. But I am operating on the assumption the folks at the FCC are actually listening.

Heres the FCCs outreach letter. Feel free to spread it around.

On August 27, the Federal Communications Commission released two Notices of Inquiry (NOIs) seeking public input on questions related to innovation and competition in the wireless communications industry. We invite you to file comments in one or both of these proceedings. There is no obligation to respond, but the FCC hopes to receive ideas from a broad range of interested parties. Please share this information with your colleagues.

One NOI seeks comment on innovation and investment in the wireless industry and on concrete steps the FCC could take to support and encourage further innovation and investment. The full text of this NOI is available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-66A1.pdf. For additional information regarding this NOI, please contact Peter Trachtenberg at (202) 418-7369 or [email protected]

The other NOI seeks comment, data, and input on competition in the mobile wireless industry, including the vertical relationships between providers in different segments of the mobile wireless market, such as service providers and device manufacturers, and the effects of such relationships on competition. The full text of this NOI is available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-67A1.pdf. For additional information regarding this NOI, please contact Chelsea Fallon at (202) 418-7991 or [email protected]

The deadlines for filing comments in both of these proceedings have been extended. Comments are due by Wednesday, September 30, 2009, and reply comments by Thursday, October 15, 2009.

Instructions on how to file comments are included at the back of each of these NOIs and in public notices available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-73A1.pdf

and http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-72A1.pdf.

Additional information on how to file and access comments can be found on our website at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/.

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Federal Communications Commission