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Is FCC Tech Center for Elite?

The agency says no, but one communications attorney questions the impartiality of product exhibits aimed at FCC staff

Earlier this week, we told you the FCC planned to open its Technology Experience Center, designed to give commission employees who don’t attend trade shows a chance to see the products being demonstrated on exhibit floors for themselves.

The tech center did indeed open this week and products from several radio companies are in the inaugural exhibit, including gear from iBiquity Digital, Livio Radio and Grooveshark. The agency relies on donations for the exhibits, which will be themed and changed out regularly. For example, the first exhibits represent “Innovation & Spectrum.”

Radio World asked the commission how it planned to avoid the appearance of influence or favoritism in presenting this gear.

An agency spokesman said the donation process would be scrutinized carefully and that a lot of companies would get the chance to participate. Indeed, in its press release it went further, stating donation of items to the TEC “is not contingent on and does not imply any expected benefits to the donor,” and acceptance of an item by the agency “does not constitute endorsement” of the item by the commission.

But in his company’s CommLaw blog, Fletcher Heald & Hildreth attorney Mitchell Lazarus disagrees, writing that donors must expect some benefit, since the presence of their products in the center, located in the FCC library, exposes those products to “Very Important Decisionmakers,” as he put it.

He also notes that many of the companies chosen for the initial exhibit are large, like Verizon, Samsung and Sony, and wonders how smaller companies might get to exhibit. According to the FCC, small companies donate their products for the exhibit the same way large companies do.

Planned themes will feature education (August), public safety (September), healthcare (October), small business (November), and energy (December).