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Industries Nervous About Potential FCC Field Office Closures

Wireless, broadcast, public service communications could potentially be affected

Broadcasters as well as the wireless industry and public service communications such as police and fire agencies depend on the FCC field offices, though how much varies. Several that have heard about the FCC’s proposal to close many of its Enforcement Bureau field offices are worried.

Field agents “serve a valuable role, particularly in interference situations,” said one broadcast source in a market where the field office is slated for closure.

Another broadcast source downplayed how much stations have contact with the Enforcement Bureau, because of volunteer inspections and self-certification, notwithstanding the occasional fence or public file fine. Where the field offices really come into play, according to this source, is refereeing interference cases, with many of those related to nonbroadcast industries, like wireless, or wired phone, or public service communications.

Indeed, a wireless industry source from a market where the field office is slated for closure said his industry relies on the FCC a lot for interference mitigation. “Only they have the enforcement credentials to shut down interference we get into our wireless base stations,” he tells Radio World, noting that the issue is “prevalent” with the amount of cellular booster devices, blocking devices and amplifiers in the market. Many of these devices are sold for U.S. consumer use in their homes to improve cell service, however the devices can generate interference if they’re not properly installed, causing interference to base stations he tells RW.

Several broadcast engineers who contacted RW are worried about the effect that closing some field offices would have on the agency’s effort to track down pirates; agents have special movable, direction-finding equipment for that. Such gear “is probably going to be missing from some markets. I don’t know what their plan is to tamp [pirate activity] down if that equipment is taken away,” said one broadcast source in a market slated for field office closure.

Representatives of some of the affected industries are discussing their next step, such as potentially lobbying Congress to keep the field offices open, Radio World has heard.

FCC Possibly Downsizing Enforcement Field Offices