Commissioner Clyburn FCC Oversight Hearing Statement
Mignon L. Clyburn
Federal Communications Commission
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Energy & Commerce
Subcommittee on Communications & Technology
Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission
December 12, 2013Chairman Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo, and Members of the
Committee, thank you for the opportunity to share my comments and perspective
with you today.
Since the last time I appeared before this body, I had the incredible
opportunity to serve just over five months as Acting Chairwoman of the FCC.
During that time, we had several challenges facing us, but I am glad to note that
with the support of my colleagues and the assistance of a skilled and dedicated
staff, we were able to move a number of important items, which we believe clearly
advance the public interest and inure to the benefit of consumers.
We kept the essential, but often overlooked, day-to-day functions of the FCC
in operation until our distinguished Chairman, Tom Wheeler, could take the reins
of the Agency. And for that opportunity, and for the support from Members of this
Committee, I remain grateful.
This hearing comes at a critical stage in our communications policy
continuum. We are experiencing tremendous technological change that affects
every aspect of our lives, and the quality of our lives as well. Just a few days ago,
I had the opportunity to participate in the FCC’s inaugural MobileHealth Expo,
where two dozen companies – both large and small – displayed communications
systems, equipment and applications devoted to helping Americans use
communications technology to improve personal health outcomes.
I was particularly impressed by the high level of technological innovation
and harmonization with existing wireless, online and wire line applications. Also
noteworthy was the support many of these companies have received from average
consumers, who are seamlessly adopting these technologies to meet their critical
As we look ahead to the challenges of tomorrow, I believe it is important to
understand the terrain over which we travelled yesterday to arrive at where we are
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, with your indulgence, I would
like to point out a few highlights of what our agency accomplished during the
transition, all of which we can be proud.
We reached a voluntary interoperability industry solution in the lower
700MHz band to address an issue that, for years, had been impeding the
deployment of valuable spectrum;
We launched a proceeding to modernize the FCC’s schools and libraries
program, known as E-rate, to ensure that our children have the resources and
connectivity they need to support digital learning and become the leaders of
We adopted an Order to address rural call completion, because it is
unacceptable in today’s world that calls to non-urban areas are not being
We adopted an Order to reform inmate calling services to finally provide
relief to millions of families and 2.7 million children who have been paying
unreasonably high rates to stay connected with incarcerated loved ones;
We adopted a declaratory ruling on Consumer Proprietary Network
Information (CPNI) data to better protect consumer data on mobile devices;
We improved the service for those with speech disabilities to communicate
through telephone networks and empowered those with disabilities by
implementing the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility
We enabled the H Block spectrum auction and the AWS-3 proposal to take
major steps forward on government and commercial spectrum sharing, and
moved forward on the special access data collection;
We adopted reforms to the FCC’s Form 477, which will streamline the
broadband data collection initiated by NTIA to populate the National
We approved the Softbank-Sprint-Clearwire merger;
We took significant steps with the Connect American Fund to extend
broadband to all Americans with the second round of CAF Phase I, which
will bring broadband to consumers in 44 states and Puerto Rico, and made
progress with the cost model and implementation of Phase II;
We adopted procedures and set the date for Tribal Mobility Fund I;
We made ongoing reforms to Lifeline and proposed significant forfeitures to
companies not following the FCC’s rules,
And not insignificantly, we adopted and released over 2500 items, many of
which were under the radar.
I look forward to my continued work with Chairman Wheeler, and my
fellow Commissioners, to build on the progress we have made thus far.
As the Chairman has made clear, the voluntary incentive auction proceeding
will continue to be a top Commission priority. Congress directed that the incentive
auction of broadcast television spectrum should have three major pieces: (1) a
“reverse auction” in which broadcast television licensees submit bids to voluntarily
relinquish spectrum usage rights in exchange for payments; (2) a reorganization, or
“repacking” of the broadcast television bands to free up a portion of the ultra-high
frequency (UHF) band for other uses, and (3) a “forward auction” of initial
licenses for flexible use of the newly available spectrum.
For those broadcast TV licensees who want to continue to use their spectrum
to provide those services, the Act mandates that the Commission make all
reasonable efforts to preserve the coverage area and population served of each
broadcast television licensee.
The Act also had clear directives for the proceeds from the forward auction.
It requires that the incentive auction results in proceeds that are greater than the
sum of the following: (1) the compensation the Commission must pay successful
bidders in the reverse auction; (2) the cost of administering the incentive auction,
and (3) the estimated amount of the relocation cost reimbursements.
The first $1.75 billion of the proceeds would go into a fund to repay costs
that broadcast TV licensees reasonably incurred pursuant to the need to change
frequencies as a result of the repack process. The rest of the proceeds would be
deposited in the Public Safety Trust Fund to fund a national first responder
network, state and local public safety grants, public safety research, and national
I believe the public safety goals of the Act are important. When Congress
created the FCC in 1934, it made one of the Commission’s foundational
obligations “the promotion of safety of life and property through the use of wire
and radio communications.” We may not be able to prevent natural disasters, but
we can, and we must, improve our nation’s ability to respond to these events.
Doing our best to make First Net successful would go a long way toward
enhancing our responses to these crises.
Congress also gave the Commission authority to promote the use of
unlicensed spectrum. The Act allows the Commission to implement guard bands
that are technically reasonable to prevent harmful interference between licensed
services outside the guard bands. The statute also permits the use of such guard
bands for unlicensed use. I believe it was important for the NPRM to propose a
band plan with an appropriate balance of unlicensed and licensed spectrum.
Unlicensed spectrum plays a critical role in advancing more efficient use of
spectrum, and commercial wireless carriers are increasingly using unlicensed Wi-
Fi services and small cell architecture to offload their smartphone traffic.
I expect that the Commission will keep moving carefully, but expeditiously,
to comply with both the spirit and plain language of all the mandates in the Act. I
also appreciate that the Commission staff has been proactive in seeking the
engagement of the public and all stakeholders.
They began conducting webinars and workshops even before Congress
passed the Spectrum Act, and they plan to hold several more such events
throughout this proceeding. In addition, FCC staff members have been trying to
implement these statutory directives with the same bipartisan approach that
resulted in Congress passing the Act.
In September 2012, the Commission unanimously adopted a Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking which sought comment on the full range of procedural and
technical rules that the Commission would have to adopt to conduct the voluntary
In addition to spectrum, Chairman Wheeler has announced that the
Commission will consider an Order at the January 2014 Commission meeting to
launch trials regarding the ongoing technology transitions. Technology transitions
hold tremendous promise to deliver innovative new services and opportunities to
consumers, and will allow the Commission to evaluate how best to modernize our
I do believe that trials, if structured properly, can produce helpful insights
into how best to approach reform, and I will be keeping a keen eye on how the
trials and future reforms affect all consumers.
As has been noted earlier, the process of reform is where we have the
opportunity to develop an even more efficient agency — one which is better
equipped to respond to the expanding needs of consumers and industry.
Thus, with regard to our much-maligned Sunshine rules, I have a particular
interest in potential tailor-made revisions to the way in which we interact. As the
Committee considers the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform
Act of 2013 (H.R. 3675), I am pleased that the proposed modifications to the
Sunshine Act would facilitate federal Commissioners’ participation on the federal-
state Joint Boards and the Joint Conference. This is something that the National
Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) –the national body
representing state commissioners, and I previously have endorsed.
The Joint Boards and Joint Conference have federal and state representation,
and each is involved in the Commission’s policymaking process with respect to
their subject matter focus in the areas of universal service, jurisdictional
separations and advanced services. Under current law, three or more
Commissioners may not participate in a Joint Board or Joint Conference meeting
unless it is open to the public and has been properly noticed. Currently, federal
Commissioners must take turns participating in our in-person and conference call
meetings making it difficult for constructive and efficient deliberations when it
comes to Joint Board Recommended Decisions.
I appreciate the fact that H.R. 3675 has included language to extend the
proposed Sunshine Act exemption to cover these situations.
As you consider FCC process reform, I would also encourage you to
consider looking at the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), and how it could be
improved to take into account how agencies now engage with citizens. Like so
many consumers today, agencies are also taking advantage of the technological
For example, the FCC is using its website to inform consumers and industry
of our proceedings, and is providing facts on communications issues and tips on
how consumers can resolve any problems they may encounter. Yet, to obtain
voluntary feedback on our website, its usefulness, and how it should be improved,
the PRA requires OMB approval to do so. As a result, the Commission cannot be
as nimble and responsive to users without engaging in a lengthy OMB approval
As you can see, Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the
Committee, we have both challenges and opportunities ahead, and I look forward
to working with each of you to address our evolving communications landscape.
I appreciate your attention, and would be glad to answer any questions you