Let’s go to the fair
The recently adopted Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act of 1998 (FAIR) is an interesting piece of legislation that became law on Oct. 1, 1998. FAIR requires the heads of executive agencies, like the FCC, to compile lists of functions performed by the agencies not purely governmental in nature, like the Office of Plans and Policy.
The FAIR lists are then published with the idea that the agency will outsource the function to private industry. Mind you, FAIR does not require that tasks be outsourced. FAIR only says that agencies have to publish the lists. The first FAIR list will be published in the third quarter of this year.
Because Chairman Ken-nard has his hands full with mega-mergers, interconnect- ion rates and trying to coordinate the lamps with the sofa in his new office at the Portals, he probably won’t have time to do this. Besides, maybe the first thing he ought to outsource is the compiling of the FAIR list. So, in the spirit of trying to help, here are some suggestions, by bureau, for the list.
Broadcast Broadcast regulations are all about “face time” before Congress. Congress gets letters from disgruntled TV viewers who are paying too much for cable, not getting enough educational programming for children, and who want strict standards for remote control manufacture so that we can get by with one clicker. They want someone to come up to Congress, look highly concerned and tell them that everything is going smoothly. FAIR could provide those witnesses.
Some dull-as-dirt bureaucrat engineer in an $89 suit is just bad casting, and it takes FCC workers away from the primary FCC job of trying to figure out how customers are going to pay for HDTV sets. I suggest that the job be given to Wilford Brimley and Michael J. Fox. They’re believable, give good face and offer a cross section of viewers, old and young. To ensure ethnic diversity, toss in Bill Cosby. He owns half of the networks and could liven up the Congressional hearing with stories about Fat Albert (step away from the buffet, Mr. Vice President.).
Common carrier The Common Carrier Bureau is primarily concerned with telephone companies and how they will merge to serve the needs of the new Exxon-Mobil company. This is really complicated stuff, with models and graphs and a language all its own. But mostly it’s about huge amounts of money-making it, faking it, moving it, merging it and keeping it stored in some inter-LATA piggy bank.
So who should take over the task of making sure that the dough always rises on RBOC balance sheets? How about Scrooge McDuck? I still remember all of those comic books that showed Scrooge McDuck battling the Beagle Boys and always coming out ahead. He’d wind up inside his vault with bags of cash marked with the $ sign so we’d know his bags weren’t filled with reams of pesky regulations. Who better to make sure that AT&T, GTE, SBC and MCI keep getting their ROI? And if the Beagle Boys of Congress get a notion that the antitrust laws have anything to do with the noble plans of the telephone companies, ol’ Scrooge McDuck will fly to the rescue, quacking about “reasonable rates of return” and “competitive forces in a global economy.”
Wireless telecommunications The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is quite busy trying to figure out how to make itself less busy. It has automated fees, electronic licensing, Web-based database research and computer-generated licenses. It has invested heavily in database entry systems and database retrieval systems, all carefully designed by people who don’t know a radio from a radish, so that the system leaves off little niceties like propagation studies, maps and radio engineering exhibits. FAIR was made for this bureau, which, if given the choice, would out-source everything.
Since the WTB has scrapped all decision making for GIGO approach to regulation, the choice for outsourcing is obvious: UNIBLAB. You don’t remember UNIBLAB, the robot that was always getting George Jetson in trouble? What a card! Remember the time Mr. Spacely wanted George to spy on Cogswell Cogs and he. Well, never mind. The point is that UNIBLAB would be great to take over the WTB, if he hasn’t already.
Private radio Given the disfavor with which the FCC views private radio-a petty annoyance created to help companies that shockingly don’t produce telecommunications goods and services as a primary business (they must be punished)-the choice is difficult. Outsourcing this function requires a special person who can deal with the challenges faced by the private radio licenses.
Some names spring to mind, however. There’s General George A. Custer, who displayed a management style that appears about right-John Brown might make a good choice. Whoever takes over the task should know that Gettysburg, PA, is likely a good spot for it unless the Alamo is available.
Auctions Now here’s a job that any fast-talking barker could do. We don’t need scores of people laboring over constant redesigns of software, process and procedure. I mean how much government is needed to utter the words, “whattaeyehearforthisspankin’ new EA license?!” But then, the agency isn’t going to outsource the job to a guy named Colonel Billy Jim Bob to belt it out at the Car Barn. The job must be handled electronically.
Give it to the Home Shopping Networks. It’s a natural. Right after the genuine zirconium rings and Hummel statuettes of a girl and her bucket, sell a few radio licenses to the American public. Why not? I can hear the call-in viewers now. “Oh, Mindy, last week I bought one of those sweet, little 400MHz jobs for my husband, Fred, and he just loves it!” And as a special bonus, make the auction operations system work only on IVDS systems. Now that’s FAIR.