Panel Questions FCC Implementation of Telecommunications Act
Shafroth, Frank, Nation's Cities Weekly
"Implementation of the Act [the Telecommunications Act of 1996] in a procompetitive and timely fashion is the FCC's Principal task," testified Chairman Reed Hundt of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance last week.
The subcommittee held this hearing, attended by all four FCC Commissioners, in an effort to oversee the FCC's implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act).
While recognizing the extraordinary demands on the FCC in a short period of time, members of the subcommittee expressed concern over the manner in which the FCC has thus far implemented the 1996 Act. In particular, several members of the subcommittee questioned the FCC's preemption rules of local zoning laws and similar regulations. Noting that Congress had distinguished between small and large satellite dishes in the 1996 Act, Ranking Minority Member John Dingell (D-Mich.) challenged the FCC's preemption of all local zoning laws and similar regulations without consideration of the size of the satellites.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) conveyed the concern of many local governments and NLC that broadcast spectrum is being auction without considering the public safety needs of local communities. Early last week, at a conference, the NLC held in Portland, Ore., the FCC's intention to consider the allocation of a portion of UHF television channels 60-69 for use by public safety. Chairman Hundt reaffirmed that the proposal was under consideration by the FCC. Allocation of these channels would address only part of the public safety spectrum needs of local government.
NLC President Gregory Lashutka submitted testimony on behalf of NLC and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to provide the local perspective on the implementation of the 1996 Act by the FCC. The testimony expressed apprehension that the current implementation will lead to significant new, unfunded federal mandates and the preemption of traditional local authority over land use and zoning. …