FCC Takes Case Against Budget Cuts To Senate Panel
September 11, 2013 at 5:43 PM (PT)
Acting FCC Chairwoman MIGNON CLYBURN led her FCC colleagues in testimony before a Senate appropriations subcommittee TODAY, arguing for the Senate not to cut the COMMISSION's budget.
Touting the COMMISSION's work on public safety networks and innovation in communications services, CLYBURN warned that "if AMERICA is to continue as a worldwide leader in communications and technology, we should not compromise the funding that supports the COMMISSION’s mission. Because we have been operating under a Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013, we started last year well below our request of $346,782,000. With sequestration, we lost five percent of that reduced CR number, or $17,096,193 – leaving us with $322,000,000. So how exactly are these budget cuts impacting the FCC?" Noting that the FCC has "dramatically reduced spending," the cuts so far have caused the COMMISSION to have to choose between things like replacing essential tracking vehicles in order to fund other programs.
"Less funding has led to routine shortages in equipment and supplies, the cancellation and reduction of contracts, continued use of outdated and failing engineering equipment, and bare-bones travel that falls short of addressing core mission objectives," CLYBURN testified. "We also have less to spend on important programs such as Tribal consultations and reduced funds have even led to the early shut down of the FCC Headquarters’ air conditioning system, adversely affecting those working late hours in the peak summer heat."
Asked by Sen. TOM UDALL (D-NM) how cuts proposed by the House would affect the FCC, CLYBURN said that the COMMISSION is already cutting corners and the sequester has caused the need to siphon funds from the collected user fees that pay for the budget, and the processing of applications has become slower.
Commissioner JESSICA ROSENWORCEL's written statement to the panel said, "We are proud of doing more with less. But if we are prudent, we must also acknowledge that over time this has consequences: reduced outreach, delayed decision making, and fewer resources to address hard and persistent problems—like service on Tribal Lands. Consider, too, that the FCC now processes 16,000 equipment authorizations a year. Over the last decade, the number of applications has increased by 400%. Then think about how much more innovation and opportunity we could unleash if we update our labs, hire more engineers, and process these applications faster."
And Commissioner AJIT PAI's statement voiced disappointment over auction revenue but cited "real progress" on the auction program and reallocation of spectrum for mobile broadband. He reiterated themes that he has raised in previous trips to CAPITOL HILL, calling on the FCC to be "more accountable to the public and to CONGRESS about how long it takes the COMMISSION to do its work. We need to establish more internal deadlines, such as a six-month deadline for acting on waivers and a nine-month deadline for ruling on applications for review and petitions for reconsideration. We should also codify our informal 180-day shot clock for reviewing transactions -- a deadline we too often honor in the breach. We should handle applications for review akin to the way the U.S. SUPREME COURT handles its certiorari process; this would help the FCC dispose of pleadings more efficiently. Additionally, we should report to CONGRESS and the public about how we are doing in meeting those deadlines." He also voiced his support for the bills before the HOUSE and SENATE consolidating the reports the COMMISSION needs to file with those bodies.