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The FCC’s $410.7 Million Budget Request Is Reviewed on Capitol Hill

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel highlights the commission's recent work

In an appearance before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel laid out the agency’s strategic plan during a review of the commission’s budget request for the 2024 fiscal year.

The FCC earlier this year handed in a formal budget request of $410.7 million, and the hearing afforded Rosenworcel the opportunity to review the commission’s recent work and map its goals for the next fiscal year.

The funding request will pay program expenses and salaries of 1,600 full-time staff at the commission. The FCC is a fee-funded agency and collects the vast majority of its budget through regulatory fees from the industries it regulates. The agency is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.

Rosenworcel in her opening remarks to the subcommittee on Tuesday detailed the challenges of following the agency’s statutory mandates — consumer protection, universal service, competition, national security and public safety — while keeping pace with ever-changing and advancing technologies.

“Communications technologies power one-sixth of the nation’s economy, and everyone needs access to these technologies to have a fair shot at 21st century success,” Rosenworcel told the subcommittee in prepared comments.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the FCC’s revised methodology for collecting regulatory fees adopted in August that “aligns the assessment of regulatory fees more closely with the burden of the work being performed by commission employees in each category.” In turn that gave some financial relief to U.S. broadcasters, as Radio World has reported.

The FCC’s work against pirate radio has taken a significant step forward thanks to the implementation of the Pirate Act, Rosenworcel told senators on the subcommittee, which included a $5 million budget increase to its base appropriation to help cover enforcement measures.

“In addition to tougher fines on those who violate the spectrum rights of broadcasters, the law requires the FCC to conduct periodic enforcement sweeps, and grants the commission authority to take enforcement action against landlords and property owners that knowingly permit illegal pirate radio activity on their properties,” she told the subcommittee.

Rosenworcel reported that in March the FCC proposed over $2 million in fines against violators; and in 2023 so far, the agency has issued 24 notices to property owners warning them of apparent pirate radio broadcasts from their property.

“At the current spending level approved by this subcommittee, we will be able to continue this important work,” she said.

The commission has taken significant pirate radio enforcement actions in New York City and Miami so far this year, according to the FCC.

The chairwoman also spoke about the FCC’s recent efforts to improve the reliability and resilience of broadcast and wireless networks during emergencies, and reduce cyber threats against public warning infrastructure. Rosenworcel detailed her strategy of deter, defend and develop: “Deter bad actors, defend against untrusted vendors and develop a market for trustworthy innovation; the commission has taken a number of actions to protect our networks from national security threats.”

Rosenworcel also noted how the FCC’s spectrum auction authority lapsed six months ago. She told the subcommittee she hopes it will be restored soon.

“Restoring this authority will provide the United States with the strongest foundation to compete in a global economy, counter our adversaries’ technology ambitions and safeguard our national security,” she said.

Over the past three decades, the FCC has held 100 spectrum auctions and, in the process, raised more than $233 billion for the United States Treasury, according to Rosenworcel.

The FCC’s funding request of $410.7 million for FY2024 represents an increase of about $20.5 million or 5.3 percent from the FY2023 appropriated level.

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