D.C. NOTES

As a procrastinator from birth, I’m usually not one to point fingers at slackers. During my school years, long-term projects were put on the back burner until the night before they were due. Even in college, when my humanities professor declared at the beginning of the semester that anyone who did not take the entire term to finish the one major assigned project would fail, I beat the odds. The night before the arts notebook was due, I photographed, compiled, wrote, edited and produced what turned out to be an A-plus effort.

I’ve been lucky. But I’ve always been deadline-oriented-a good thing, considering the line of work I’m in. Not so at the Federal Communications Commission. Having just read the sunshine agenda for this Thursday’s meeting, I wonder if what I constantly hear at every FCC interview, reporters’ briefing and monthly meeting is true-that FCC employees work ’round the clock, on weekends and without vacations to keep the wheels of regulation moving. Again, no pending wireless items are scheduled for a vote, although numerous dockets have been on tap for months, nay, years.

The American Mobile Telecommunications Association has been pushing the commission to get a move-on regarding the second half of the 800 MHz SMR rules on which the agency has been ruminating since December 1995. We know that it has been circulated on the 8th Floor for weeks, and AMTA would like to have something favorable to report at its Leadership Conference next week. A number of siting issues need attention as well as rulings concerning “covered” SMRs, E911 compliance, RF exposure reconsideration, wireless resale reconsideration, wireless policies that affect the hearing impaired and the Adarand telecom diversity study.

The FCC can move quickly when it wants to, but it appears that only the sexier issues-the ones that can garner the most ink or the most broadcast sound bites-are put on the fast track. Who hasn’t heard about the commission stance on Joe Camel, TV show ratings, liquor advertising, wiring schools for the Internet and telecom reform? In fact, liquor advertising is on this week’s agenda, over the protests of outgoing Commissioner Rachelle Chong.

When Congress mandates the dates, as it did for certain milestones of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC makes itself comply. What can be done to ensure a date-certainty for all dockets? Maybe what the FCC needs is the same incentive reporters follow-Hit deadline or you’re fired.

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