Senators Seek FCC Online Complaint Database

A pair of senators has asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to create a publicly searchable online consumer complaint database. They have even done some vote counting for him that suggests he already has three votes for the move.

In the letter to Wheeler, a copy of which was supplied to B&C by the office of Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) (Sen. Bill Nelson [D-FL] was the other signatory), they asked him to move expeditiously to create the online database.

"Although the Commission annually receives about 400,0000 consumer complaints and other public inquiries through its website and other means, complaint data are only made public on a very limited basis," they said.

They pointed to a 2009 GAO report that concluded that FCC complaint number might be low because consumers are unaware of the process, and that the FCC "lacks measure to effectively resolve problems through its consumer complaint process."

They said a searchable, user-friendly complaint database would "enhance transparency, help the FCC empower consumers," and even "spur greater innovation in the telecommunications marketplace."

They had already done the math on votes based on public statements. They pointed to responses from commissioners at a Senate hearing on Sept. 11, 2013, saying they believed it represented bipartisan support: "Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that helping consumers is a top priority and that improving the complaint process could benefit consumers.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote that the commission could upgrade its consumer complaint process and "should consider making its data more open, in machine-readable formats, and if possible, with API's and common metadata tagging schemes."

Commissioner Ajit Pai further recommended that the commission publish an online dashboard that, among other things, allows consumers "to evaluate how well the commission resolves complaints."

They also pointed out that the FCC's own Consumer Advisory Committee recommended an online complaint database.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.