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FCC Calls for Agencywide Restructuring

Washington -- The Federal Communications Commission issued
a report to Congress last week outlining a five-year plan to restructure the agency for
the next century, officials said.

The report, issued by chairman William Kennard, called for
a streamlined FCC that would revamp the agency's infrastructure, ensure access to
technology, promote competition and manage spectrum.

After holding forums with industry, consumer and government
officials, the agency will create two new bureaus to consolidate dispersed enforcement and
public-information functions, officials said.

"In the next five years, we are going to have to
transform ourselves," said a senior FCC official speaking on the condition of
anonymity. "[We need to] shift from an agency that has traditionally been a regulator
to a market facilitator."

The report came after congressional lawmakers called for
sweeping changes to the agency earlier this year. The FCC, which was created by Congress
in 1934, has been without formal authorization since 1991.

Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who chairs the House Commerce
Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, called the report a
step in the right direction, but added that more needed to be done.

"Reorganizing the agency isn't enough,"
Tauzin said in a prepared statement. "Our subcommittee plans to introduce
comprehensive FCC-reform legislation designed to restructure the agency and rein in much
of its 'perceived' authority."

Tauzin, who hinted in March that the FCC should privatize
some operations, said he still wants to limit the commission's authority over
telecommunications mergers, free airtime mandates for political candidates and microradio

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Commerce
Committee, said through a spokesperson that he will review Kennard's plan with a
great deal of interest, but he still plans to unveil his own FCC-reauthorization
legislation in September.

Officials said the agency's plans will not cost many
workers their jobs. "In order for us to carry out this mission, we need to maintain
our resources and our people," said one senior FCC official who asked that his name
not be used.

Existing employees will be expected to work harder, he
added. "We're setting performance measures that are purposefully
aggressive," the official said. "I think it is clear ... we are going to be
doing more with less."

Kennard, who was in South Africa last Thursday, said in a
prepared statement that he looked forward to working with Congress on FCC reauthorization.

"With this plan, the FCC is meeting the challenge of
reinventing itself to keep pace with the rapidly changing communications-industry
landscape," he said.

States News Service