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Martin Seeks End To Industry-Paid Travel

Pointing out that the FCC accepted $260,000 from industry to pay for "important travel" in 2005, the FCC has asked Congress for a $235,000 increase in its travel budget so that it can "eliminate" industry-sponsored travel for all commission employees.

Chairman Kevin Martin made that request as part of his testimony to a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday. The FCC had already cut back on that travel in 2006 after the same committee had expressed concerns.

Martin also asked for $500,000 for an industry-outreach campaign on the DTV transition (that would be in addition to $5 million set aside for a government outreach campaign in the DTV hard date bill recently passed by Congress). He also wants $20 million from the Universal Service Fund.The FCC wants to take up to $20.4 million from that fund to cover monitoring for waste, fraud, and potential abuse. The government is considering expanding the contributors to the fund, which telecommunications companies pay into from their long-distance phone revenues to bankroll service to poorer or rural areas otherwise uneconomical to build out.

In all, the commission is asking for $302,542,000 for FY2007 ($1,042,000 would be a direct appropriation; the rest it would collect in regulatory fees). Martin told the committee it would need $298,266,000 to maintain the status quo, slightly less than it asked for in FY2006, but 2.9% more than the $289,761,000 it got. But he also wants another $4,276,000 to upgrade the status.

In addition to weaning the FCC from industry-paid travel and educating DTV consumers, the additional money would go for new equipment, vehicle and system upgrades.

The Universal Service Fund monies would be in addition to that $302,542,000.