Foundation

Big Changes Are Coming for the FCC

by Ari Boosalis / /

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai testified before the House Subcommittee on Financial Service and General Government recently on the agency’s FY 2018 proposed budget. To better understand the objectives of the budget, it is critical to understand the purpose of the organization and its overarching goals. The FCC regulates the telephone, radio, and television industries, as well as interstate communications. It is their duty to promote competition in the marketplace, encourage the development of new technologies, and use their authority to protect the communications infrastructure. To save taxpayers money, the budget requests $322 million for the FCC’s bureaus and offices – a 5.2 percent reduction from last year’s level.

FCC’s Budget by Bureau and Offices (Dollar figures in thousands)

 

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

 

FTEs

Actuals

FTEs

Enacted

FTEs

Request

Chairman and Commissioners

23

$4,270

16

$3,154

20

$4,048

Consumer & Government Affairs Bureau

150

$24,698

135

$23,456

126

$22,061

Enforcement Bureau

238

$43,063

204

$39,770

189

$38,609

International Bureau

109

$19,984

98

$19,043

92

$18,090

Media Bureau

168

$24,854

161

$24,712

149

$23,132

Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau

103

$18,800

100

$19,094

93

$17,726

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

211

$16,096

208

$19,022

192

$16,235

Wireline Competition Bureau

170

$31,371

167

$32,068

155

$29,927

Office of Administrative Law Judges

4

$480

4

$504

4

$503

Office of Communications Business Opportunities

9

$1,557

7

$1,282

7

$1,282

Office of Engineering & Technology

83

$14,909

77

$14,550

72

$13,807

Office of General Counsel

72

$15,674

77

$16,935

72

$15,982

Office of Legislative Affairs

11

$1,942

8

$1,492

7

$1,312

Office of Managing Director

203

$98,646

194

$123,934

178

$102,704

Office of Media Relations

16

$2,851

12

$2,326

11

$2,137

Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis

21

$3,300

16

$2,702

15

$2,538

Office of Workplace Diversity

4

$629

6

$913

6

$924

Office of Inspector General

44

$7,752

60

$11,751

60

$11,020

Total

1,639

$330,877

1,550

$356,711

1,448

$322,035

 

The Chair expressed that he would make some improvements within the organization, reduce regulatory burdens, implement new policies, and eliminate waste. The budget describes four strategic goals:

 

  • Close the Digital Divide. The FCC’s goal is to incentivize private corporations to create, sustain, expand, and improve their networks, which will be beneficial to all Americans. The FCC will provide billions of dollars from the Universal Service Fund (which is financed by an assessment on all telecommunications companies) to equip the entire nation with 4G LTE coverage. The FCC will remove regulatory burdens to broadband deployment, which will decrease costs and expand coverage to underserved areas.

  • Promoting Innovation. The FCC has started to focus on moving its licensing systems and legacy systems within the next ten years to the cloud. The agency will also expedite the introduction of new communication technologies and eliminate regulations that discourages investment into 5G networks.

  • Protecting Consumers and Public Safety. To promote safety, the FCC will target unlawful robocalling and allow law enforcement to attain emergency waivers that would give them the ability to check cell phone records. The agency looks to give support to first responders and police officers in order to strengthen public safety. Also, the FCC looks to increase the reliability of 911 services and provide citizens with critical information in cases of emergencies.

  • Reforming the FCC’s Processes. The FCC will strive to provide greater transparency to the public regarding pending matters and implement a regulatory reform agenda. The FCC will review its departments to improve effectiveness and efficiency, and will also conduct a thorough review of all regulations to determine if they are necessary. In addition, the agency will seek to reduce waste and fraud in the Universal Service Fund.

The budgetary savings are intended to streamline the agency as it moves forward with an agenda to reform its regulatory processes and to promote innovation in the telecommunications industry. In recent years, the FCC has used enforcement actions to create new regulatory requirements that circumvent the regular public notice and comment period that is required under the Administrative Procedure Act. Process reforms will restore due process rights and improve accountability over the regulators. The new Commissioner has already taken positive steps on transparency to release rules publicly in a timely manner before the Commissioners vote on them. And key to spurring innovation is Pai's support for rolling back "net neutrality" rules on internet providers. In 2015, the FCC approved rules to effectively regulate broadband as a public utility. These rules ultimately increase costs, reduce infrastructure investments, and stifle competition.

The FCC has listed ambitious plans for the next fiscal year, which could lead to big savings and potential investment opportunities for companies. It should be noted that technology will spur efficiency, savings, and productivity; this will not only affect the FCC, but all major federal branches as they update their departments into new technologies. The FCC plans to make much needed improvements that will lessen the burden on both taxpayers and businesses.

 


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