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"The FCC Commissioners' Technical Resource Enhancement Act" March 31, 2010

One of the SBE's Legislative Goals is "To promote the maintenance or increase of technical expertise within the FCC to ensure that decision making by the FCC is based on technical investigation, studies and evaluation rather than political expenditures." The Society of Broadcast Engineers supports "The FCC Commissioners' Technical Resource Enhancement Act" as an extension of that goal.

Senate Bill S.2881 was introduced in December 2009 by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and co-sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia). This bill would authorize each FCC commissioner to add one staff assistant position to the three that are currently authorized. The proposed legislation, which would amend Section 4(f)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 154(f)(2)), explains that the "staff engineer" would provide each commissioner with technical consultation when appropriate and interface with the Office of Engineering and Technology, Commission Bureaus and other technical staff of the Commission for additional technical input and resources. The staff engineer would need to hold an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution of higher education in his or her respective field of expertise.

Subsequently, a companion bill (HR.4809) was introduced in the US House on March 10 by Representative Jerry McNerney (D) of California.. With a House bill now introduced, the legislation will hopefully move through the committee process in both chambers of Congress. Introduction of the resolution came after representatives of the Society of Broadcast Engineers met with McNerney's Washington staff on March 3. The SBE Government Relations Chairman, Barry Thomas, CPBE CBNT and General Counsel Chris Imlay, visited offices of several House members over two days to garner support for a companion to the Senate bill.

If passed, the new authorization would effectively undo a loosening of requirements for technical staff at the highest level of the FCC that began more than 25 years ago. The SBE's efforts in support are, among other things:

  • An effort to counter inaccurate or hyperbolic claims by providing technical expertise at the policy level.
  • To help the FCC avoid significant and expensive mistakes resulting from decisions made based on political instead of technical realities (for example, Broadband over Power Lines).
  • Enable better commissioner access for the extensive experience and expertise currently available at the FCC Bureaus.

The SBE's strategy is to provide education and information to its members and chapters so that they can engage in individual advocacy with their Senators and Representatives. The SBE will also submit materials and conduct meetings as necessary and will join with strategic partners in their efforts to support this legislation. The SBE encourages chapters to host meetings about this topic to educate and engage interested parties.

SBE members are specifically asked to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor and vote for HR.4809 and S.2881, respectively.

Sample letters are available here.

Letter to US Senators

Letter to Members of the House of Representatives

Please mail or email the SBE a copy of your letter, Send to:

John L. Poray, Executive Director
Society of Broadcast Engineers
9102 Meridian Street, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260

Some resources for further research are:

The text of Senate bill S.2881:

The text of House Resolution HR.4809:

Contact information for your U.S. Representative:

Contact information for your U.S. Senator:

The FCC:


Senate Bill S. 2881 would add technical expertise to FCC Commissioners' offices
(December 16, 2009)

House Companion Resolution Introduced to S.2881 (March 10, 2010)

Senate Bill S.2881 Clears Senate Committee (March 25, 2010)



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