*Revised 5/13/2011

Times are tough. This is true even for the federal government, which is struggling with a massive budget deficit. In fact, the budget deficit is so great that the government is “going after money wherever they can,” said Jeffrey Katz, enterprise IT consultant for PSEG Services Corp., who spoke on the topic this week at the Utilities Telecom Council’s conference in Long Beach, Calif.

That includes the Federal Communications Commission, Katz said. While Congressional appropriations and spectrum auctions generate most of the FCC’s operating budget, the commission in 2009 collected about $55 million in fines that resulted from 4,500 enforcement actions. That was a record amount, which is expected to be broken this year and next, according to Katz, who also is UTC's immediate-past chairman.*

“The FCC is out there, and ignorance is your enemy,” he said. “They have a zero-tolerance attitude, even for minor infractions. They’re going after this hot and heavy.”

According to Katz, the FCC can impose fines up to $16,000 for each infraction, up to a maximum of $112,000.

“No one budgets for these types of expenditures, and no insurance can be bought for this,” Katz said. “It’s an out-of-pocket expense that should be avoided.”

The good news is that avoiding FCC violations usually isn’t that difficult. Katz said the first step is to become familiar with the commission’s rules and regulations. He added that the best place to access such information is the FCC’s Web site.

“There are lots of sources, but their interpretations aren’t the law,” Katz said. “Go to the original source.”

Another useful tip is to make sure that the license application properly describes the system that will be deployed. While this might seem simple, it’s really not, according to Katz. Each piece of equipment, its location and the output power it will use has to be listed as a separate line item on the application. Because one can list a maximum of six locations on each application, larger systems will require multiple applications.

Such thoroughness will pay off handsomely should the FCC conduct an audit, Katz said. “It’s easy to comply — as long as you don’t take shortcuts” he said.

Next: More tips for avoiding FCC violations.

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