Tuesday, December 16, 2008

US Congress Investigates "Dysfunctional" FCC

We were right all along. Or at least that's the conclusion of a Congressional investigating committee, which confirms serious malfeasance at the US Federal Communications Commission.

Their new majority report paints a picture of an opaque FCC, with a culture of fear and a tendency to suppress data conflicting with politically motivated decisions. Gee, this sounds quite a bit like many other parts of the Bush administration, does it not?

Here are some relevant parts of a news report posted to the ARRL web site:

On Tuesday, December 9, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce -- the congressional committee that oversees the Federal Communications Commission -- released its majority staff report "on the bipartisan investigation of the FCC's regulatory processes and management practices." The report -- Deception and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Kevin J. Martin -- stated that the investigation was prompted "by allegations to the effect that [FCC] Chairman Kevin J. Martin has abused FCC procedures by manipulating or suppressing reports, data and information."


Representative John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce echoed Stupak's concerns: "Any of these findings, individually, are cause for concern. Together, the findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC has operated in a dysfunctional manner and Commission business has suffered as a result. It is my hope that the new FCC Chairman will find this report instructive and that it will prove useful in helping the Commission avoid making the same mistakes."

But the best parts concern the FCC's deliberate ignoring of data that conflicted with its allegedly prejudiced decision on Broadband over Power Lines (BPL):

Concerning BPL, the report alleges that FCC officials "ignored complaints of radio frequency interference caused by BPL high-speed Internet technology, delayed an enforcement investigation for two years and improperly withheld engineering data regarding BPL from the public."

The report found that in October 2004, as then-Chairman Michael Powell issued his final rule "defining BPL access and setting technical and administrative requirements to protect licensed radio operators from harmful interference," the FCC "withheld from the public certain engineering reports on which it relied in promulgating the rule" from the final rule and order.

Even though the BPL rules were adopted during Powell's tenure, the report found that "it was under Chairman Martin that the Enforcement Bureau and the General Counsel continued to withhold the redacted engineering reports and insisted on doing so in the course of the ensuing litigation [with the ARRL]."

Farther down, Martin is accused of lying to Congress:

The report also showed instances of where Chairman Martin "manipulated, withheld or suppressed data, reports and information," and said Martin's "manipulation [of another report] may have damaged the credibility of the Commission, and certainly undermined the integrity of the staff. Moreover, it was done with the purpose of affecting the congressional decision-making, in that it was issued as a report to Congress."

It is certainly everyone's hope that a new broom in Washington can sweep away some of these wannabe communication lobbyists who have so damaged the FCC.

Full story is at ARRL.org.