Wheeler Explains Enforcement Bureau Cutbacks

 FCC chairman Tom Wheeler defended the planned closure of Enforcement Bureau field offices at an FCC oversight hearing Thursday.

Communications Daily reported earlier in the week that the cuts in offices and staff were planned.

Rep. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), whose district includes a Tampa office targeted for closure, was concerned about the impact on Title II enforcement, while FCC commissioner Ajit Pai was concerned about the impact on monitoring interference.

Wheeler said the FCC had found it had more trucks than employees and one manager for every four, so there was room for finding new efficiencies by taking a "strike force" approach.

He said centralizing the process would save costs and that there were currently too many people doing too few things.

"Do I want to close the offices?" he asked, then did not answer by saying no, but by indicating that he was not looking forward to hearing from other members who might have offices closing in their districts, but that he had a flat budget, unfunded mandates by Congress, and was trying to operate more efficiently.

Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden asked Pai about the reports of the closures. He called those regional offices the core foundation of protecting against interference and said whatever the FCC did, he would work to protect the public interest in that protection.

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.