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FCC Finalizes Enforcement Field Op Changes

Will close 11 offices, require electrical engineering expertise

The Federal Communications Commission adopted a plan to modernize field operations within its Enforcement Bureau. It includes the closing of 11 offices.

“The proposal will improve efficiency, better position the agency to do effective radio interference detection and resolution and meet other enforcement needs, and save millions of dollars annually after implementation is complete,” it stated.

Plans to scale back had generated controversy and strong reactions in the industry, and the plan has been modified since it was first floated.

It will require all field agents to be electrical engineers. Six compliance specialists will lose their jobs as a result.
Field offices will continue in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbia (Md.), Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland (Ore.), and San Francisco.

Closing down will be offices in Anchorage, Buffalo, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Norfolk, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Juan, Seattle, and Tampa.

“The Enforcement Bureau will maintain a field presence in Alaska and Puerto Rico and field agents will also rotate periodically through Kansas City. In addition, three offices will relocate to FCC-owned properties nearby to better utilize agency resources.”

Rapid deployment “tiger” teams will be stationed in Columbia (Md.) and Denver to “supplement the enforcement efforts of other field offices when necessary and support high-priority enforcement actions nationwide.”

The commission said the current structure of field operations is over 20 years old, “during which time significant technological changes have taken place and available funding has decreased.” It said the new structure was adopted after the Enforcement Bureau, Office of the Managing Director and outside consultants studied the problem. Some including the Society of Broadcast Engineers have criticized the openness of that process.

Interference concerns also have been a common theme among critics of the original proposal. But in announcing the vote, the FCC stated: “The field reorganization plan adopted by the commission today aligns the field’s structure, operations, expenses, and equipment with the agency’s priorities such as radio frequency interference. It also prepares the field to address future enforcement needs in an ever more complex spectrum environment, and aligns field operations to support this mission. Through this plan, the commission is maintaining a commitment to respond in a timely manner to interference issues anywhere in the nation, including responding to all public safety spectrum complaints within one day.”

The NAB issued a statement saying it “appreciates the work of both the FCC and Congress in forging a compromise FCC field office proposal that keeps open many more enforcement offices than was originally proposed” and thanked all the commissioners for taking note of “a need to better enforce prohibition against pirate radio stations.”

Chairman Wheeler had been pushing the plan; he voted in favor, as did his Democratic colleagues Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel. Republican Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly opted to concur and issue statements expressing some concerns. We’ll post those shortly.

Read what Pai and O’Rielly said.