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TAC is Back!

On October 21, FCC announced the returns of its only technical advisory committee, the Technological Advisory Council. The last meeting of the TAC had been July 20, 2006. The next meeting was cancelled on short notice and without any explanation. Rumor has it that Chmn. Martin was offended by a reported comment from one TAC member at an obscure IEEE conference and then questioned the “loyalty” of the TAC. FCC asked for nominations for its dormant TAC on April 8, 2009 and again on August 31, 2009. So almost 14 months after the second request the membership was named and the first meeting scheduled for November 4th.

The new chairman is Tom Wheeler, best known for having been head of CTIA. 38 other members were also named. Many hold the CTO title in their firms. It is somewhat difficult to classify precisely the background of each member since limited information was given. Certainly the Fortune 500 gang is well represented with people from Apple, HBO, Time Warner, Motorola, Fox, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Verizon, Intel, Comcast, AT&T, and Loral. 3 venture capitalists are represented. 6 academics are on the committee. On the political correctness front, there appear to be 2 women. It is hard to tell about minorities although the rumor mill indicated that was a priority. No one with an obvious East Asian name, but one possible South Asian.

There are several people from modest firms in the ISP and Internet-related equipment area. Surprisingly no one from the small to moderate sized wireless technology firms. This is especially odd when you really that most of the technical regulation at FCC is actually in the spectrum area, not in the Internet area.

We hope they look at the mess the NTIA CSMAC has made recently with its reports to date.

But the key question will be what will the TAC do this time around. In the past, certain top FCC officials were afraid to ask it anything about pending policy issues for fear it would detract from their own power. Thus the previous TAC was an intellectual debating society about irrelevant future issues. I hope that the Commission will ask it to address parts of policy issues that really have explicit answers. For example, is it possible for TDD to operate next to FCC mobile bands without harmful interference? How should one test cognitive radio units to see if they cause interference to conventional units? What will be the technical impact of repacking the TV bands?

I also urge members to read the definitive book from The Brookings Institution on how other agencies use technical advisory committees. Amazon has used copies for under $10.

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