Tuesday, November 17, 2015

FCC Process Reform Act of 2015

November 17, 2015

The House of Representatives just approved legislation, the FCC Process Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 2583), to increase "transparency, efficiency, and accountability of the Federal Communications Commission" (FCC).

The FCC has not been transparent, efficient or accountable. I recently interviewed a staffer at the Government Accountability Office who referred to the FCC as a "dark hole."  

For example, in June, 2012, Microwave News reported that is common for the FCC to issue a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to gather public input about an issue and then fail to act on this input in a timely manner:

"The commission is under no obligation to take any further action after issuing the NOI, or any other step along the way. To put the process in perspective, the last time the FCC proposed amending its RF [radiofrequency] rules was back in 2003 and that was to fine-tune some relatively non-controversial issues like measurement protocols. In other words, the FCC's 2003 amendments are still pending nearly ten years after they were first proposed. Nearly completed drafts of what will soon be issued have been languishing on the FCC's back burner for about five years. And those were refinements on the original rules released in 1996 when the number of cell phone subscribers in the U.S. was a tenth of what it is today and people used them, on average, less than four minutes a day."  

Some twelve years later, the FCC has yet to act on this 2003 NOI regarding radiofrequency measurement protocols.

Thus we should not expect the FCC to act soon on the far more important 2013 NOI, "Reassessment of Federal Communications Commission Radiofrequency Exposure Limits and Policies" (ET Docket Number 13-84) and "Proposed Changes in the Commission's Rules Regarding Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields" (ET Docket Number 03-137).

In response to the 2013 NOI, the FCC has received more than 900 submissions regarding cell phone radiation regulations originally adopted in 1996. The preponderance of these submissions documents cell phone radiation health effects and calls upon the FCC to strengthen regulations and warn the public about cell phone radiation. For an index to these submissions see "Part I: Why We Need Stronger Cell Phone Radiation Regulations--Key Testimony Submitted to the FCC."

If H.R. 2583 becomes law, I question whether it will benefit public health or whether it will help the powerful corporate interests. The basis for my concern is a recent analysis by Norm Alster, an investigative reporter who spent a year at Harvard while he wrote a book which reveals that the FCC has been captured by the industries it regulates (http://bit.ly/FCCexposed):

"Currently presiding over the FCC is Tom Wheeler, a man who has led the two most powerful industry lobbying groups: CTIA and NCTA. It is Wheeler who once supervised a $25 million industry-funded research effort on wireless health effects. But when handpicked research leader George Carlo concluded that wireless radiation did raise the risk of brain tumors, Wheeler‘s CTIA allegedly rushed to muffle the message. ”You do the science. I‘ll take care of the politics,” Carlo recalls Wheeler saying."

"As a captured agency, the FCC is a prime example of institutional corruption. Officials in such institutions do not need to receive envelopes bulging with cash. But even their most well-intentioned efforts are often overwhelmed by a system that favors powerful private influences, typically at the expense of public interest."

In the documentary film, Mobilize, John Walls who was Vice President of the CTIA at the time, asserted:

"I bet our people, our organization have had 500 meetings with the FCC over the past year on 25 different topics. So the fact that we would ever go to the FCC, if somebody thought that unusual they don’t understand what’s going on in regard to the give and take in the formation of policy."  http://bit.ly/MobilizeTranscript

In sum, the FCC Process Reform Act of 2015 does not go far enough in reforming the FCC and may result in increased threats to public health.

For more information about this bill: