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GOP Reps Seek More Info on FCC Office Closures

The heads of the House Communications and General Government subcommittees say they need more information from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler on his proposal to close two-thirds (16 of 24) of the FCC field offices.

That came in a letter to Wheeler Tuesday from Communications Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and General Government chair Ander Crenshaw (R-Fl.).

It was a follow-up letter to one from members of the full Energy & Commerce Committee, including Walden, after a hearing last week at which legislator concerns were raised about the impact of the closures on the FCC's responsibility to prevent interference between spectrum users. Broadcasters have registered similar complaints with the FCC given the upcoming post-incentive auction station repack and the interference issues.

In response to that initial letter, the FCC provided information including a memo from the chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, but Walden and Crenshaw said that significant questions remained about how the FCC would carry on that core interference monitoring function.

They point out that the FCC has promised to respond to 99% of interference complaints related to public safety within 24 hours. They says they are concerned the closures will inhibit its ability to do so.

They have asked for answers to some key questions by May 12. They include how much the FCC expects to save by the closures, how it will keep the 24-hour pledge, how it will balance the use of response teams and staffed field offices, and what regions have the highest rates of interference.

They also point out that the FCC, in its FY2013 budget request, had asked for money for eight new vehicles and mobile direction finding equipment, but testified recently that the FCC had "more trucks than agents."

They want to know if the FCC bought those vehicles and, if so, when and at what cost.

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.