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FCC Reform in the Next Administration - Part 1

Since it is clear now that FCC will get a new chairman shortly and several new faces on the 8th floor, it is timely to start a dialogue about how FCC should change to be more responsive to the current state of its jurisdiction as well as the desires of the new administration. This will be first in a series of posts to raise ideas for consideration. Feel free to post comments to any of them. I promise to post all nonobscene relevant topics regardless of their viewpoint.

These posts will focus on spectrum policy issues and innovation. While net neutrality, privacy and competition are key issues, many others speak on them and they will not be addressed here.

For the first posting let me point out the spectrum policy recommendations that have been made by IEEE-USA, the US arm of the transnational electrical engineering society that covers all the technical aspects of FCC jurisdiction. These are in a document entitled
"Improving U.S. Spectrum Policy Deliberations in the Period 2017-2021". Although they focus on FCC, some also address related NTIA federal spectrum management issues because FCC's §301 jurisdiction is so closely connected to NTIA's delegated authority of §305. The recommendations are in 3 different areas. Below offer the areas and the basic commendations in each. More discussion is in the IEEE-USA document.

Process Improvement:

  • FCC and NTIA should explicitly acknowledge the role of Section 7 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the intent of Congress to encourage new communications technology and services. These agencies should adopt transparent procedures for determining which innovations are subject to this statute and should make readily available information on such proceedings. The FCC and NTIA should recommend changes in the statute in a timely way, if the current terms of Section 7 are deemed not practical.

  • Petitions for rule changes and clarifications are key issues in the regulation of the dynamic telecommunications industry. FCC should act on such petitions in a more transparent way, and make available information on petitions and their status on a consistent timely schedule.

Improved technical resources for FCC and NTIA to improve decision making:

  • In selecting presidential appointments to FCC, NTIA, and the State Department in communications policy functions consideration should be given to individuals with experience in information and communications technology (ICT), to balance the backgrounds of the officials in these key positions.

  • FCC commissioners should consider appointing individuals with experience in information and communications technology (ICT). as one of their three assistants, allowed by law.

  • FCC and NTIA should supplement their existing Technological Advisory Council (TAC) and Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC), which consist mainly of representatives of major communications firms, with a new advisory committee that serves both agencies and focuses on independent review of options for resolving spectrum conflicts and identifying outdated policies. The new group should be modeled on the EPA Science Advisory Board and the NRC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and members should have the necessary security clearances to deal with issues involving classified federal government spectrum users, if so requested.

  • FCC and NTIA should have the resources to contract with the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council (NAS/NRC), Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) and private analysis contractors, to supplement their internal staffs on novel technical policy questions where they lack the appropriate internal resources.

  • The NTIA and FCC technical staffs are key to the long-term success of U.S. spectrum policy. Recruiting and developing the careers of these personnel should be done using the best practices of other agencies involved in technical policy development.

Other Issues to Stimulate Innovation:

  • The executive branch should act to review and implement the recommendations for federal spectrum management reform in Sections 5.2 – 5.6 of the July 2012 President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report, “Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum,” to facilitate the reallocation and sharing of federal spectrum for private sector use.


  • FCC should complete action in a timely way on Docket 09-157, which deals with wireless technical innovation.
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