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Sens. Have Issues With FCC Office Closures

In a letter to chairman Tom Wheeler, three senators from New England, Republicans and a Democrat, have told the FCC they are worried that his plan to close two-thirds of its field offices and cut almost half of the field agent staff could "jeopardize the agency's ability to prevent spectrum interference."

Signing on to the letter were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D), both New Hampshire, and Susan Collins (R-Me.).

Not surprisingly, they are particularly concerned about the FCC closing the Boston office, which serves New England.

Wheeler proposed the closures and centralizing of their functions in the FCC's 2016 budget as a way to save money that he said would increase efficiency and not compromise the FCC's important interference monitoring.

They invoked emergency response, police and FAA issues that field office staffers were well positioned to address quickly.

"Reducing and relocating Boston's agents could disconnect the FCC from local incidents, potentially challenging the FCC's ability to maintain the 24-hour response standard," they wrote.

They did not ask Wheeler to reverse the decision, and said they supported his attempt to "update and modernize" the agency,  but they did say they had "reservations" about it, and urged the commission to "reach a balanced solution that safeguards local area knowledge and public safety in New England and throughout the country."

Broadcasters also have major issues with the plan, given the spectrum monitoring the FCC will need to do as it remakes the broadcast band to accommodate wireless operators.

“CTIA greatly appreciates and shares the concern expressed by Senators Ayotte, Shaheen and Collins," said CTIA-The Wireless Association VP of government affairs, Jot Carpenter. "Field staff play a critical role in the timely resolution of interference issues, something that is of vital importance to our carriers and, ultimately, to the consumers who rely on mobile voice and broadband services.”

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.