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Engineers Work With Federal Government

Well-known to a certain segment of the broadcast engineering profession, the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers recently held its annual meeting in Annapolis, Md. Radio World spoke with new AFCCE President Eric Wandel about the organization, where it’s been and where it’s going.

Radio World: What is the AFCCE?
Eric Wandel: The Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers was founded in 1948 as a professional association of communications engineers practicing before the Federal Communications Commission. Typical areas in which AFCCE members engage in practice include engineering consulting for broadcast stations in the AM, FM and TV services, for microwave, cellular radio, PCS, paging systems, cable systems and for satellite.

AFCCE has two main classes of membership: full members are registered professional engineers engaged in the practice of consulting engineering before the FCC. Our associate members work in allied companies including consulting firms, equipment manufacturers, service providers, government agencies and communications law firms. We’ve recently begun growing our student membership.

Radio World: What is its mission?
Wandel: The purpose of the Association is to aid and promote the proper federal administration and regulation of those engineering and technical phases of communications which are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, to uphold the honor and dignity of engineers before the Federal Communications Commission, and to provide for the mutual improvement and social intercourse of the members of the Association.

In a primary function, AFCCE monitors the technical policy of the FCC to ensure that the agency’s regulations coincide as closely as possible with sound engineering principles. When the FCC proposes technical rule changes, AFCCE participates in the rulemaking process, offering its comments and counterproposals for the public record. AFCCE stresses high standards of professional ethics among its members, providing for their mutual support and professional improvement. A scholarship fund, supported by its members, permits the AFCCE to assist future communications engineers with college tuition.

Radio World: You recently had an annual meeting. What came out of that?
Wandel: AFCCE recently held its annual meeting, which is open to all members to meet and to discuss the business of the association and to socialize and participate in cultural and technically-oriented tours and events. This year’s meeting was held in historic Annapolis, Md., and included business meetings, a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy, a Saturday evening banquet (held at the USNA Officer’s Club) and free time for attendees to tour the historic city. Of special note, as the annual meeting coincided with the ARRL Field Day weekend, AFCCE deployed a Field Day station(FCC amateur call sign K3A) at the Historic Inns of Annapolis for members to operate.

Board members ending their terms of service this year included full members David Snavely, who also served the past two years as AFCCE president, and Rich Biby along with associate members Ron Chase, who has served as treasurer, and Gary Cavell. Newly elected board members were announced at the annual meeting and included full members Bob Weller and Mark Fehlig, and associate members Ron Chase (reelected for another term) and John Lyons.

Radio World: Who are the new officers?
Wandel:The outgoing 2014–15 AFCCE officers were: President David Snavely, Vice-President Eric Wandel, Secretary Steve Crowley and Treasurer Ron Chase.

Officers for the coming term (which runs from July 1, to June 30, 2016) are: myself as president (president and principal engineer, Wavepoint Research Inc.); Bob Weller, vice president (VP Spectrum Policy with the National Association of Broadcasters); David Layer, secretary (senior director, Advanced Engineering with the National Association of Broadcasters); and Ron Chase, treasurer (retired engineer, formerly with the Federal Communications Commission).

Radio World: What’s new with the organization? What are some upcoming plans?
Wandel: AFCCE is currently working with the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society (BTS) on a joint scholarship project. AFCCE and IEEE BTS have enjoyed a close relationship for many years, but this current collaboration is shaping up to be something very significant. Stay tuned on this one for a more detailed announcement in the coming months.

We are always working to support our members in the area of professional development, and related activities include:

· Monthly technical luncheons featuring timely and relevant topics and presenters

· Working on better ways to support Professional Engineer (PE) attainment of current Associate members who have an interest

· Promoting PE attainment as a goal to engineering students. Attaining a PE is a two-step process that first requires passing a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which can be taken at around the time of graduation from an undergraduate program. Passing the FE at graduation leaves only the field specific PE exam remaining.

Upcoming AFCCE events include: AFCCE Luncheons on Sept. 25, Oct. 30 and Nov. 19, at our traditional location, the Holiday Inn Rosslyn in Rosslyn, Va. For our Oct. 30 event we’ll have an afternoon symposium along with our Fall Social Dinner. On Nov. 19 we’ll be at the National Press Club for our FCC Reception, Holeman & First Amendment Lounges, 4–7 p.m.

Radio World: What are the biggest issues facing the AFCCE?
Wandel:Some of the current issues AFCCE is addressing include: Reducing and mitigating all noise to AM and FM radio, television and other consumer devices and the impact in terms of interference resulting from rapidly changing communications technologies; and identifying and supporting young engineers with an interest in choosing the field of communications and broadcast engineering as a career.

Radio World: How closely does the AFCCE work with the FCC and other interested agencies?
Wandel: AFCCE closely follows matters before the FCC and strives to provide thoughtful and technically significant comments in order to assist the FCC with their stewardship of spectrum use.

As an example, AFCCE was the first organization to express concern about an internal FCC proposal to close two-thirds of its field offices. We filed a letter with the FCC that, together with the support of other organizations and Members of Congress, urged the commissioners to refrain from voting on that item until adequate opportunity for public comment was provided. As a part of AFCCE efforts we also occasionally engage in meetings with FCC staff, such communications indeed being intended to ensure that the FCC is able to obtain information necessary for making expert decisions. AFCEE members also follow the activities of other agencies and organizations that may have an impact on the regulation of communications and broadcasting facilities, such as the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the U.S. Congress.