FCC cancels meeting
Amid criticism from members of Congress, the FCC has announced that the open meeting scheduled for Thursday has been canceled, putting an item regarding wireless E911 location benchmarks and the rest of the agenda in limbo.
Cancellation of the meeting came in the wake of a letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), which expressed concern about the makeup of the FCC’s agenda for Thursday’s scheduled meeting. In the letter, Rockefeller and Waxman—the next chairmen of the Senate Commerce committee and the House Commerce committee, respectively—asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican, to focus the agency on the digital-television transition that is scheduled for Feb. 17.
“At a time when serious questions are being raised about transition readiness, it would be counterproductive for the FCC to consider unrelated items, especially complex and controversial items that the new Congress and new administration will have an interest in reviewing,” the letter states. “We strongly urge you to concentrate the commission’s attention and resources only on matters that require action under the law and efforts to smooth the transition to digital television.”
The most controversial item on the FCC agenda included consideration of a proposal advocated by M2Z Networks that would allow commercial operators to bid on 2.1 GHz spectrum under rules that would allow winning bidders to offer free wireless broadband access throughout the nation. The matter has been a source of contention in the wireless industry, with the greatest objections being raised by T-Mobile, the carrier that owns the adjacent spectrum and has expressed concerns regarding interference to its operation from the proposed free network.
After receiving the Rockefeller-Waxman letter, the FCC decided quickly to cancel the meeting.
“In light of the letter, it does not appear that there is consensus to move forward and the agenda meeting has been canceled,” FCC spokesman Robert Kenney said in a statement. “The items will remain on circulation and the commissioners can still vote on them.”
When an item is on circulation, FCC commissioners can vote electronically on the item, which becomes an official action of the commission if enough votes are cast. Typically, the commission has dealt with most controversial matters during open meetings, not on circulation.
For public safety, the most notable item on the agenda was consideration of new 911 location-accuracy rules for wireless carriers. The proposed rules would require the carriers to meet location-accuracy benchmarks for emergency calls on a countywide basis, as opposed to the current rules that allow them to meet the requirements on a statewide or regional basis, said Robert Gurss, director of legal and government affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).