Congress to Investigate FCC Enforcement Cuts

A one-two punch on Capitol Hill for the FCC’s plan to decimate its field enforcement presence. The chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce chair Fred Upton (R-MI) dropped a letter on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler April 23rd demanding all agency documentation, “including all drafts, memos, emails analyses, PowerPoint slides, interim reports, and the final report related to your proposal to close FCC field offices,” as well as “all internal communications and internal analyses, related to the Enforcement Bureau and Office of Managing Director joint recommendtion to the commission to close the FCC field offices.”

The FCC has until this Thursday (May 7) to respond. At present, Congress is working on the same stuff leaked to the public earlier this month. Read More

Document-Dump Details FCC Enforcement Cutbacks

All hail Michael Marcus: one of the policy-fathers of wi-fi and Bluetooth (and a man with unimpeachable FCC bona-fides) has released a compendium of documents regarding plans for the FCC’s radical shrinking of its Enforcement Bureau.

The cache has three parts: a letter from FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to Greg Walden (R-OR), a member of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce; a memorandum to FCC field staff from Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc and FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins; and a PowerPoint slide summary of the outside consultant’s work, conducted by Oceaneast Associates and Censeo Consulting Group.

Here’s what it tells us: Read More

FCC Enforcement Cuts: The Fine(ish) Print

More details are trickling out about the proposal to dramatically slash the FCC’s enforcement presence in the field. To recap: two-thirds of the FCC’s 24 field offices would be closed, and staffing would be cut in half. To make up for the cuts, the FCC would establish a “tiger team” to descend on enforcement hot-spots, using pre-positioned equipment. Where the FCC cedes the field entirely, it seeks to establish relationships with private-sector interests to help with its job.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill last week on the FCC budget, Chairman Tom Wheeler attempted to explain the cuts. He said this is the first time the agency’s examined its enforcement activities in such depth in more than 20 years. They found the FCC’s “field footprint” to be “too large and inefficient.” His prepared testimony casts this as dispassionate math: simply put, the cost-per-employee out in the field is much higher than it is back at headquarters. Read More

FCC: Democracy is a Bug, We’re Working On It

It’s always a little happy-sad to watch the FCC solicit public comment on an issue and then be surprised and self-defensive when the public responds in force. This time, the cycle involves the FCC’s consideration of rules involving network neutrality: more than a million comments were filed during the initial round of feedback. That’s a new record for public participation in a single FCC policy proceeding. (Now you have until September 10 to submit reply-comments.)

There would not have been such an upwelling of public comment on media policy were it not for the Internet, so it’s only fair that an Internet policy proceeding now holds the crown for citizen input. Similarly, the FCC’s apparent inability to cope with this input tells us much about the state of policymaking in the United States. Read More

AM Revitalization Initiative Unleashed: All Digital Transition On the Table

And sooner than expected: the FCC will soon open a comment window for a plethora of proposals to assist beleaguered broadcasters. Paul Riismandel at Radio Survivor has a decent breakdown of the agency’s primary suggestions, and also notes that there’s "nothing on the all-digital question." If only this were true.

Just because the all-digital idea is not sharply delineated in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking doesn’t mean the agency’s not interested in it. Policy studies necessitate close reading. For example, the agency notes its permissiveness with all-digital AM-HD experimentation as one of several "discrete changes" it’s made over the years "designed to further enhance the AM service" (p. 5). Read More