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IRIS 2010-4:1/42

United States

FCC’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Estimates

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Alexander Malyshev

Stern & Kilcullen

Recently the Federal Communications Commission (the “FCC” or “Commission”) submitted its Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Estimates to Congress. The Commission requested a budget of roughly USD 350 Million. While a precise comparison with the entire Federal budget is not possible – in part because the Federal budget has a deficit of roughly a trillion dollars – it is fair to say that the Commission’s budget is a small fraction of the Federal budget. The Commission chose to highlight four areas of funding that it considers critical for its mission in its submission to Congress: (1) support for the “Commission’s cyber-security role”; (2) implementation of the “Broadband Plan”; (3) an overhaul of the “Commission’s data systems and processes;” and (4) a general modernization of the FCC by “ushering in 21st Century tools and expertise.”

Allocation of Funds:

The Commission set out six strategic goals as part of its performance plan for the next five years that account for the entire budget. These strategic goals are: (1) Broadband at USD 88 Million (25%); (2) Consumer Protection at USD 38 million (11%); (3) Competition and Innovation at USD 109 Million (31%); (4) Continual Improvement at USD 51 million (15%); (5) Public Safety and Homeland Security at USD 43 million (12%); and (6) International issues at USD 22 million (6%). For the most part, the four critical goals articulated to Congress would fall within the strategic goals that are allocated the most money.

Specific Goals of the Budgeted Items:

The goals of the Broadband section, the second largest budget item, are to: (i) enact the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan to broaden the deployment and adoption of broadband technologies to all Americans; (ii) ensure that the US broadband infrastructure advances job creation, public safety, consumer benefits, energy efficiency and the availability of health services (among others); (iii) ensure a “harmonized” regulatory treatment of competing broadband services; and (iv) encourage and facilitate an environment that stimulates “investment and innovation” in broadband technologies and services.

The Consumer Protection section aims to: (i) promote pro-consumer policies, by ensuring that consumer interests are considered in all Commission policy and rulemaking activities; (ii) enforce existing Commission rules that benefit consumers, by (a) defending against challenges to the Commission’s policies that promote the competitive provisions of the 1934 Act, (b) ensuring, through litigation if necessary, that consumers are protected from “anticompetitive practices” and (c) sharing information about enforcement investigations with State and Federal regulatory agencies; (iii) work to inform American consumers about their rights and responsibilities in the competitive communications marketplace; and (iv) the Commission will ensure that consumer protection policies apply consistently and reasonably across technologies and platforms.

The Competition and Innovation section, by far the Commission’s largest budget item, aims to: (i) develop media rules and policies that achieve the Commission’s statutory objectives in light of significant changes to traditional media services; (ii) enforce compliance with media rules by, among other means, participating in international organizations such as the ITU (“International Telecommunications Union”), CITEL (the “Inter-American Telecommunication Commission”), APEC (the “Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation”) and OECD (the “Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development”) to establish pro-competitive regulatory frameworks; (iii) promote access to telecommunications services for all Americans by defending legal challenges to its policies and increasing enforcement of USF (universal service) enforcement actions; (iv) ensure that consumers have a choice among “multiple reliable and affordable” communications services; (v) manage the nation’s broadcast spectrum “efficiently and effectively”; and (vi) enforce the Commission’s spectrum regulations and policies.

The Commission’s goals for its Continual Improvement are to: (i) be data-driven in its policy and decision making; (ii) ensure effective communications with consumers, Congress, the industry, and other enforcement agencies; (iii) foster public participation in reform and rulemaking by better dissemination of information using the FCC’s web presence and the use of workshops and focus groups to solicit input; and (iv) create an internal organizational culture that encourages “diversity, innovation, accountability, and continual improvement.”

Public Safety and Homeland Security, which shares its name with an existing FCC bureau, aims to: (i) promote the “reliability, security, rapid restoration, and survivability” of the communications infrastructure; (ii) facilitate the deployment of public safety technology; and (iii) maintain an information hub for the public safety community by (a) increasing awareness of the Commission’s activities in the area, and (b) gathering and disseminating public safety communication information.

Finally, the Budget’s smallest fraction is devoted to greater International engagement and cooperation to: (i) promote “sound policy” worldwide by (a) actively participating in bilateral and multilateral discussion to foster sound communications policies, and (b) work with other U.S. agencies to participate in international studies that track the status of global communications; (ii) advocate U.S. spectrum interests in the international arena; and (iii) promote pro-competitive and universal access policies worldwide. It is noteworthy, however, that while the commission allocated only 6% of its budget to specifically “International” purposes, the Competition and Innovation portion of the budget, at 31%, includes an allocation to participation in international organizations. Therefore, the allocation of funds to this area is likely higher than 6%.


Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Estimates Submitted to Congress - February 2010 EN