FCC Closures – Bad timing

courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/
It appears that the FCC's plan to close two thirds of their field offices has both broadcasters and other stakeholders pretty worried. As reported by both Radio World and Inside Radio, the FCC would reduce the number of field agents from 63 to 33 and the number of directors from 21 to five, as well as cutting support staff. The number of field offices would shrink from 24 to eight. The only field (RF spectrum enforcement) offices remaining operational would be those in New York City, Maryland, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Complainants range from broadcasters and the cellular wireless industry to agencies relying heavily on communications such as police and fire agencies. Many of them are worried that interference cases will fall by the wayside with the FCC not able to keep up with mitigation issues.

One seemingly odd complaint of the broadcast industry was the effects that the closures would have on the agency's ability to track down pirate broadcasters! Surely that is not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things? Responding to this odd complaint, the new FCC enforcement chief, Travis Leblanc, issued a strange policy statement saying that he would take a "new" approach when it came to pirates by doing what is needed to keep pirates from even getting on-the-air in the first place! No details of this puzzling solution were forthcoming.

It would seem to me that most public broadcasters would be delighted at the thought of having less FCC oversight. At a time when more and more broadcasters appear to be "forgetting" to switch to nighttime power levels (lower) or to change antenna patterns, surely the FCC downsizing will lead to even more rogue behaviour.

Amateurs relying on any help in mitigating local interference issues, power line noise and complaints from neighbours will also be swept-away in the downsizing.

Unless more funding from Congress is forthcoming, it appears that the closures may really happen. Radio World reports that some of the affected industries are discussing potentially lobbying Congress to keep the field offices open but it appears the focus is on getting the agency to do things more efficiently and opponents argue that the FCC was able to run their offices under last year's budget.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out but if the closures go ahead, it won't be good for any of us ... unless of course, you're a pirate.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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