FCC Votes to Make it Easier to Flag, Eject Wrongdoers

The FCC is trying to prevent rotten apples from slipping back into the bunch.

The commission voted unanimously Friday (Nov. 22) to launch a rulemaking to allow the FCC to more quickly and easily remove bad actors from its Universal Service Fund (USF) broadband subsidy program, as well as the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Fund, and the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program.

Trying to weed out waste, fraud and abuse from its programs is a prime directive for the commission.

The new rules would allow the FCC to consider "a broader range" of misconduct and to immediately suspend parties from the program. USF and other participants would have to verify that they were not excluded from government programs, and that they will not enter into new deals with excluded third parties.

They would also apply the "suspension or debarment" by the FCC of those bad apples to other federal agencies, and vice versa.

FCC chair Ajit Pai said he was optimistic that the change will make it easier for the FCC "to flag and eject wrongdoers from our programs."

"This would keep bad actors out of Commission programs and help prevent bad actors from using other companies to shield them from accountability and let them access federal support," the FCC said.

The vote came the same day the FCC voted to exclude Huawei and ZTE from USF funds as it worked to secure 5G networks from potential national security threats.

The item also asks if bad actors should be debarred from sitting on FCC advisory committees, something commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel had sought.

John Eggerton

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.