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Five Major Takeaways From the FCC Oversight Hearing

The April 30 House Communications Subcommittee hearing gave Republicans a chance to grill FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, continuing to follow through on a pledge of muscular oversight of communications issues. It also gave Wheeler a chance to put some things on the record.

1. Wheeler promised that when the personally identifiable information (PII) has been scrubbed, the FCC will turn over to Congress all internal and external documents related to its decision to close two-thirds of its filed offices. Republicans, including ones with offices closing in their districts, expressed concern about the FCC's ability to monitor interference and tower issues.

2. Wheeler pledged that closing the field offices will not affect the FCC's 99% response rate on interference complaints related to public safety.

3. Wheeler said that Congress should get some process reform recommendations from his newly formed working group by the time they return from their August recess.

4. Wheeler said the current FCC rules permit a designated entity to bid on spectrum, then lease 100% of it to a nationwide carrier. But he pointed out that the rules that allow that are being reviewed (He has said slick lawyers should not be able to game the system).

5. Wheeler said that the nearly 8,000 cases the enforcement bureau had closed last year were mostly indecency complaints he had worked with FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly to resolve, helping clear the way for TV station license renewals.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.