FCC’s new comment system upgrades legacy program

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The Federal Communications Commission officially launched its newest version of the Electronic Comment Filing System Monday, giving the dated program a streamlined and modern design.

The new system, known as ECFS 3.0, gives commenters a simple way to either file or search for comments, such as litigation of formal complaints or petitions for rulemaking, an FCC blog post said. The new system is built with on a commercial cloud platform, which will help deal with moments of high usage.

[Read more: What the FCC can teach other feds about moving to the cloud]

“Today, the public expects to be able to easily submit comments in digital form and to have convenient access to all the other input received by the Commission, and the Commission needs a robust system capable of meeting the public’s expectations,” the blog post said.

After several months of beta testing and four online tutorials, the updates went live at 8 am with no issues, FCC Deputy Press Secretary Will Wiquist told FedScoop. Now, the FCC also working to transfer 20,000 older files into the new system as soon as possible.

It’s a much needed upgrade, too, FCC said. The commission used the same commenting system since its creation in 1996, only occasionally updating which type of filings were allowed, while the framework lagged behind.

The system’s age made it completely unable to handle heavy traffic — it could only deal with 10 to 500 comments at time.  The ECFS notoriously crashed in June 2014 when host John Oliver urged his viewers to submit comments on net neutrality. Viewers sent so many comments, they caused the website to collapse.

With Monday’s update, the ECFS layout was completely revamped to be simple and practical, while allowing the public to see filings in their native format, instead of the usual PDF file. FCC also provides the Application Programming Interface, which would allow “outside groups the ability to submit and pull comments in bulk…” the FCC website said.

Accessibility is another big addition to ECFS 3.0, which includes text-to-speech, dyslexia fonts, and voice navigation.

[Read more: Inside the FCC’s risky IT overhaul]

So far, the FCC has been one of the more dedicated agencies for IT updates, and spent last year simplifying networks, removing legacy systems, and updating software. The commission is also accepting feedback or bug reports on the new system too, looking for improvement.

In fact, if you would like to file a comment about the new comment filing system, you can email ECFSfeedback@fcc.gov. 

Contact the reporter on this story via email: Jeremy.Snow@FedScoop.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyM_Snow. Sign up for the Daily Scoop — all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning — here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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