FCC considers such unfinished business as can be finished

26 November 2016 by Steve Blum
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There’s one more open meeting on the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 schedule, and the agenda will be limited to relatively minor and generally innocuous policy decisions. That’s in keeping with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s sudden pullback ahead of the November meeting and his stated hope that decisions on controversial items would be “addressed after the transfer of leadership from this agency“.

Wheeler released a preliminary agenda for the 15 December 2016 meeting just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. It included two scheduled items and five possibles. On the for sure, tentatively list are new rules regarding support for real time text information, as a replacement for decades old teletype technology that hearing impaired people rely on when using the phone system, and improvements to the Emergency Alert System.

The maybes include updates to satellite and freedom of information rules, a couple of company-specific proceedings and an assessment of how well prepared (or not) mobile network operators are to cope with natural and other disasters. It was launched as a follow up to the post mortem on telecoms problems resulting from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Those items are being circulated privately amongst commissioners and could be approved without a public vote.

The same is theoretically true of the two items of unfinished business – new rules for set top boxes and tighter regulation of wholesale broadband services. But those are exactly the sort of issues that republican lawmakers told the democratic majority on the FCC to back away from. Wheeler heeded those instructions and gutted the agenda for November’s meeting, and he’s holding to that course for December. Given the backgrounds of the men on the Trump transition landing team dispatched to the FCC and the longstanding opposition of the two current republican commissioners, it’s a fair bet that it’ll a long while before those two proceedings see the light of day again, if ever.