WASHINGTON-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt’s selection of Regina Keeney to head the new Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is looking better every day.
Especially since Nov. 8, the day voters shook the political landscape by handing Congress over to Republicans and put President Clinton on notice that his Democratic administration may be the next to go.
While there weren’t any major misgivings about the Keeney appointment when it was announced in August as part of the FCC reorganization, some lobbyists and Commissioner James Quello vocally shared Private Radio Bureau Chief Ralph Haller’s disappointment over not getting the nod for the new post.
But even while disappointed in Haller’s loss, many of those same people have had nothing but good things to say about Keeney, 39, who since 1985 has served as Republican counsel on the Senate Commerce Committee. Two years before that, she tackled common carrier tariff issues at the FCC.
Keeney worked closely in the Senate with John Danforth, R-Mo., who is retiring from Congress this year after establishing himself as one of the most influential Republicans in Congress over the past two decades. That makes Hundt’s choice of Keeney for the key post-which will put her in the spotlight perhaps more than she likes-seem almost prescient.
Hundt, a Democrat with close ties to the White House, will need every bit of Keeney’s vast knowledge of communications issues and her familiarity with the inner workings of Congress when dealing next year with a Republican Congress that is expected to scrutinize FCC policies and its fiscal 1996 budget request.
Keeney, noting lawmakers considering telecommunications issues tend to divide along geographic rather than political lines, is optimistic the Democratic-led FCC will work well with the new Congress. “One of the real major goals will be trying to encourage competition” and “to be as unbureaucratic as possible in doing it,” said Keeney in an interview with RCR. “Our mission as a bureau,” she added, “is to speed the delivery of services and to serve our customers, which are the industry, the commissioners, Capitol Hill and consumers, as well.”
Auctions are helping the FCC meet those objectives. Soon after Keeney arrived at the FCC, the agency sold 30 regional narrowband personal communications services licenses for $395 million. Counting the 10 nationwide narrowband PCS licenses, auctions have raised more than $1 billion for the government.
But, as Keeney has found out, life at the FCC these days is intense. There is the precision planning and frenetic fanfare surrounding narrowband PCS and broadband PCS auctions. Like other FCC officials, Keeney has learned auction diplomacy.
“I think we all have the feeling that we’re making history,” said Keeney. “You can’t ignore that big money is coming into the treasury, but it’s not the FCC’s job to make big money. It’s the FCC’s job to get spectrum out there, to get licenses out there and to get services out there as quickly as possible.”
While PCS takes up much of the spotlight, Keeney must also deal with prickly policy matter, including 800 MHz specialized mobile radio application processing, wide-area 800 MHz and 900 MHz SMR regulations, below-512 MHz refarming, Form 600 (the new mobile radio application) and proposed wireless vehicle monitoring systems.
“I think any time you have a transition it’s difficult.” Regarding auctions, Keeney said, “It’s not easy … If we’re changing rules, exactly when is the cutoff?”