President Clinton’s second term brings turnover at FCC
On May 27, FCC Chairman Reed Hundt announced that he had sent a letter of resignation to President Clinton. Hundt intends to leave the commission when his successor is confirmed by the Senate.
Hundt’s letter said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and children. Accepting that reason at face value, and then looking beyond it, one could say that Hundt has achieved most of his objectives_or the White House’s_and the remainder of his term through June 30, 1998, might have seen diminishing returns and increasing controversy.
For example, probably the lion’s share of proceeds from wireless communications spectrum auctions already has been garnered. The decision was made not to auction high-definition TV channels, worth an estimated $70 billion. Many of the regulatory changes stemming from telecommunications reform legislation have been enacted.
The Clinton administration focused on using the FCC to collect billions of dollars to offset part of the federal budget deficit. As a result, the Hundt commission was mostly unresponsive to spectrum requirements for land mobile radio, including small SMR system operators and the business, industrial and public safety users of private radio.
Together with Hundt’s departure, new appointees will fill four of the five commission seats.
Democrat James Quello’s term expired June 30, 1996, and he remains in office until a successor has been confirmed. William Kennard, the FCC general counsel, was nominated on May 24 for the four years remaining in the five-year term.
Republican Rachelle Chong’s term expired June 30, 1997, and she is likely to remain in office until a successor is confirmed. Michael Powell, chief of staff of the Justice Department antitrust division, may get the nod for a five-year term.
To fill out the remainder of Hundt’s term, and perhaps a five-year term to follow that, White House economic adviser and former FCC Common Carrier Bureau chief Kathleen Wallman has been mentioned. So has Ralph Everett, a partner in the Washington law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walter and a former chief counsel and staff director for the Senate Commerce Committee under Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC).
Democrat Susan Ness will provide continuity as she continues in a term expiring June 30, 1999. A Republican seat previously occupied by Andrew Barrett has been vacant since he left in 1996. Economist Harold Furchtgott-Roth was nominated on May 24 to fill the office for the three years remaining in that five-year term.
Contenders for the chairmanship include Kennard, Ness, Wallman and Everett. The change in commissioners will bring in new advisers. (Each commissioner has three.) It would not be surprising to see a reshuffling among bureau chiefs and other staff, either. It will take some time before the agency regains the momentum it will lose during the transition.
It would be wonderful to predict improved regulation for SMR and private radio under a new chairman. If the White House directs the next chairman the same as it has Chairman Hundt, though, the effort required to advance the needs of SMR system operators and private radio users is one thing that won’t change. -Don Bishop
Chairman Hundt accomplished many of his objectives at the helm of the FCC, and certainly facilitated the development of the wireless age for the American public. However, during his tenure, not much was necessarily accomplished for the private wireless industry. Perhaps if he had stayed longer, we would have had our day in the sun. With the pending leadership changes at the FCC, ITA anticipates that some critical proceedings may be delayed. Other than the recent gains made in the refarming proceeding, which by no means is out of the woods as yet, we still deserve attention and closure on a number of other proceedings. We also deserve a fair hearing in the pending reallocation of the 746MHz-806MHz bands. -Mark Crosby, president, Industrial Telecommunications Association
The wireless industry has undergone more change during Chairman Hundt’s tenure than at any other time in its history. Unfortunately, most of the change has been detrimental to small businesses in telecommunications. SBT hopes that the next chairman won’t view spectrum solely on the basis of how much money it can raise, but will be more sensitive to, and considerate of, the needs of small business, private operators and the public interest in general. -Lonnie Danchik, chairman, Small Business in Telecommunications
Under Chairman Hundt’s leadership, the FCC has finally paid attention to public safety communications needs and has begun the critical process of finding spectrum to reallocate for public safety agencies. In particular, Chairman Hundt has led the charge to open up TV channels 60-69 for possible reallocation. We hope that the new chairman will follow Chairman Hundt’s lead and finalize a reallocation of 24MHz of that spectrum for public safety. -Ronnie Rand, executive director, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International
Chairman Reed Hundt has done an exemplary job in overseeing the modernization of the Federal Communications Commission, streamlining its processes and meeting all of the FCC’s Congressionally mandated deadlines. -Jay Kitchen, president, Personal Communications Industry Association