UPDATED: FCC web architect departs amid grumbling about revamped site

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Managing Director Steve VanRoekel is leaving the agency to join USAID, FCC spokesman Neil Grace confirmed to The Hill.

He is expected to depart his position next week.

VanRoekel, who oversaw a comprehensive overhaul of the agency's website launched last month, has decided to accept the new opportunity at a moment when complaints are flaring up about FCC.gov. 

The overhaul has received a particularly poor reception among private sector lawyers tasked with filing documents through the online system. 

"You can’t find what you are looking for. And if you have enough time on your hands to figure out where something is, it will take you multiple clicks to get there. If you put the old and new websites side-by-side, you can see it is so much easier to navigate the old site. It’s kinda like old vs new coke.  While the old site wasn’t perfect, it worked much better than the new one,” one industry lawyer said. 

The website overhaul was aimed at furthering the agency's data transparency agenda, and is expected to undergo updates in the coming weeks that could allay some of the complaints. Complaints when a website changes are not untypical. 

VanRoekel has a two decade history in management and IT, previously working at Microsoft in the Windows and Tools division. His Microsoft tenure also included a stint as an assistant to founder Bill Gates.

UPDATE 3:25 p.m.: 

VanRoekel addressed some of the frustrations about the website in an interview with The Hill. He said the changes aimed at improving the experience of lawyers and regulatory personnel are not yet available, but will be up and running within a month or two. 

He said he expects they will feel better about the site after these new features—to be available at my.fcc.gov—are launched. It will allow users to personalize the website to their needs. He said that until that is launched, he purposely made it easy for lawyers to continue accessing the old website. 

Industry lawyers are only one percent of the users of the site, so the overhaul focused on improving the experience for the 99 percent of users who consist of members of the public, according to VanRoekel. 

"We're not only not going to leave the lawyers and transactional people behind, we're going to make their experience even better," he said.

Several FCC officials and staffers noted that they enjoyed working with VanRoekel. Former FCC official Blair Levin, who led the team that created the National Broadband Plan, commended VanRoekel's work on the broadband plan website. 

"Steve is one of those guys who does his work away from the cameras, but those of us who have known the institution for decades could see that in a quiet way, he made a big, positive difference. The government needs more folks like him—all of whom could be making much more money and having a much easier life in the private sector—to help our institutions take advantage of the new opportunities the technologies empower," Levin said.