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Lawmakers Want Answers on Planned FCC Closures

House Republicans give FCC until May 7 to turn over consultant material on field offices

House lawmakers have given the FCC until May 7 to turn over material related to the proposal to close two-thirds of the Enforcement Bureau field offices and reduce the number of field agents by just over half.

House Energy and Commerce Committee GOP leaders say that in testimony before the committee in March, Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins pledged to submit a consultant’s report to the committee.

“Your proposal to shutter 16 of the commission’s 24 field offices raises significant challenges and concerns,” write committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), in a letter to the FCC.

They’ve asked for all the material related to the closure plan and say the proposal to reduce the geographic footprint of the agency “appears to ignore the impact this might have on the commission’s public interest goal.”

Chairman Tom Wheeler and Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc told NAB Show attendees the plan came about as the agency modernizes its processes and grapples with changing priorities and more limited resources.

“This is a situation of new realities demanding a reassessment of how we do business,” Wheeler said in explaining the planned closings. It costs some $10 million a year to keep all the field offices open, two to four times the cost it would be to have more centralized offices, he explained, calling the overhead costs “ridiculously high.”

Broadcasters are extremely worried about what the plan would mean for RF interference mitigation and enforcement.