Testimony of Commissioner Clyburn, FCC Oversight Hearing
Statement of FCC Commissioner Mignon L. ClyburnSenate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Good afternoon Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison, and
members of the committee.
When I last appeared before you, I was still within year one of my current tenure
at the FCC. Since then, the Commission has, without question, experienced two very
dynamic and productive years. We’ve issued an impressive number of rulemakings and
have engaged in an incredible amount of industry and intergovernmental collaborations,
resulting in a more thorough and inclusive decision-making process.
It has been said, at times, that agency over-regulation can lead to undue intrusion,
which could interfere with the vibrancy of the global free market. We have been told that
American ingenuity and innovation will be stifled by unnecessary and poorly targeted
government rulemakings. Let me firmly state for the record that I agree with both of
those assertions. In my opinion, however, one of the best ways that this regulatory body
can prevent this from occurring while not abandoning our public interest obligations is by
promoting robust competition throughout all communications industry sectors. The
greater the number of viable competitors, the more incentives those competitors may
offer consumers through better services, more product offerings, and yes, more
marketplace discipline. In other words, the more robust and competitive a marketplace,
the less need there is for regulation.
But the plain truth is that this marketplace nirvana does not always exist. There
are times when the communications ecosystem fails to properly address current, key
consumer interests. And when that occurs, the Federal Communications Commission is
here to play a vital role. We encourage industry to respond, in collaborative ways, to
address consumer harms when appropriate, and we codify regulations through
rulemakings when that pathway is warranted. I am not resistant to industry-led,
voluntary solutions in some cases, because that type of engagement has the potential to
give the marketplace greater flexibility to respond to evolving consumer needs in our
technologically fast-paced environment. But I am also not ashamed of stating for the
record that I am an advocate for smart, targeted regulatory action when necessary to
promote meaningful competition in order to ensure that basic consumer protections are in
We have joined hands with industry and public interest advocates in tackling
significant reforms of the Universal Service Fund. We are lowering the barriers to
broadband adoption by partnering with industry and grass roots organizations, and we
have worked with the wireless association and others to tackle consumer bill shock
issues. And most recently, thanks to you and both wireless and broadcast stakeholders,
we are now better equipped to address America’s appetite for more mobile broadband
The Commission is moving forward to promote and encourage competition and
we recognize that one of the best ways to achieve this is to repurpose more spectrum for
mobile broadband services. In 2010, we adopted rule changes to allow mobile broadband
service in the 2.3 GHz band. This year, we proposed changes that can similarly repurpose
40 MHz of Mobile Satellite Service spectrum for terrestrial mobile use. Our staff is also
working diligently to implement the historic voluntary incentive spectrum authority that
you gave us in February.
For me, however, the greatest example of our collaboration can be found in the
implementation of the landmark 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility
Act, or CVAA. In conjunction with industry and consumer stakeholders, bipartisan
drafters in the House and Senate put together a comprehensive bill that works toward
ensuring that there is digital and technological parity for people with disabilities.
This is the most important piece of disability legislation since the passage of the
Americans with Disabilities Act. It affords us stronger authority to adopt rules that will
offer greater access to video programming and the most advanced voice and data services
on the market, irrespective of the communications platform being used, to deliver vital
services to those previously denied.
Congress provided the roadmap, then handed it off to the FCC to further
coordinate and collaborate with private industry and consumers on how best to
implement the parameters in a way that minimally burdens stakeholders. CVAA is an
example of collaboration among Congress, the FCC, consumers, and industry at its best,
and the result will be communications access to emerging technologies for 54 million
Americans with disabilities.
Over the past two years, the Commission has had a number of important public
safety achievements. In September of last year, the Commission initiated a rulemaking,
to modernize the current voice-based 911 system to a Next Generation 9-1-1, or “NG-9-
1-1” system so that the public will be able to send texts, photos, videos, and other data to
emergency call centers. The FCC improved the reliability and continuity of
communications by adopting outage reporting requirements for VoIP networks, and the
agency is collaborating with broadband Internet Service Providers to learn more about the
technical issues associated with the outages that the customers of those providers may
experience. The current top priority related to public safety policy is implementing the
specific mandates that Congress imposed with regard to establishing the Technical
Advisory Board for First Responder Interoperability, and transitioning public safety
spectrum to the First Responder Network Authority.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today, and I look forward to answering
any questions you may have on how the FCC can continue to promote greater access to
communications technologies and services for all Americans. Thank you.
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