Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced an agreement with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to amend plans to close Enforcement Bureau field offices.
“The revised plan will keep 15 of the FCC’s 24 field offices open, ensure better rapid response capabilities for the West, provide a mechanism for escalating interference complaints, improve enforcement of the FCC’s rules against pirate radio operators and prevent the commission from transferring field office jobs to the FCC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology also cancelled a hearing on the “Oversight of FCC Field Offices” that had been slated for June 11, which was intended to address concerns about the closures.
In March, the news broke that the commission was planning to close as many as 16 of its 24 field offices, and reduce the number of field agents from 63 to 33.
“Today, I circulated to my fellow commissioners a modified plan to modernize our field offices,” Wheeler said in a statement on the commission’s website. “These changes create the opportunity for the FCC to be more efficient with its resources while actually improving 21st century field activities. The updated plan represents the best of both worlds: rigorous management analysis combined with extensive stakeholder and Congressional input.”
Wheeler went on to thank the lawmakers as well as the National Association of Broadcasters for their input in crafting the proposal. He then urged his colleagues “to approve this revised plan with dispatch.”
The announcement did not address whether the number of field officer positions would be reduced in the amended proposal. An FCC spokesperson told Radio World in an email that they could not discuss the issue further until the commissioners had finished deliberating.
“Communities across America will continue to be served even as the commission becomes more efficient,” Upton said. “It also demonstrates how much we can accomplish when we work together to tackle the many tough issues we face.”
“These changes will keep field offices open in strategic locations and help ensure that the commission can fulfill its responsibilities to the public and public safety communities,” said Walden. “This agreement strikes a balance between the important work of FCC field agents and streamlining field operations to ensure the efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”
The NAB also weighed in: “NAB thanks the many members of congress who expressed concern over proposed cuts in FCC field offices, and we applaud Chairman Wheeler and his staff for resolving this issue in a manner that better protects against airwave interference.”