Photo courtesy of the Creative Commons License via jeanbaptisteparis from Flickr.

The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC) has initiated a Technical Inquiry into reforming the FCC’s technical regulations. Comprised of very smart industry engineers, academics, and other technological leaders who provide technical advice to the FCC, the TAC aims to provide useful guidance to the FCC on its technical rules and the status of emerging technologies. The issue it aims to address in the Technical Inquiry is the FCC’s constant struggle with the question of how to provide for fast regulatory approvals of new technologies, while still meeting its statutory obligation to protect the public interest, including the well-being of consumers and the efficient use of spectrum.

The Technical Inquiry is focused on obtaining feedback about technical rules that are obsolete or in need of updates or consolidation, and necessary changes to better reflect the current needs of the industry. It seeks general comment on how the FCC’s regulatory process “can be made more efficient and timely,” and poses specific questions on whether a mediation-type process could be created to more quickly address conflicts between parties. It also raises questions about how the FCC can better handle a growing issue of how to deal with the frequent changes in technical specifications made by private standards setting bodies. Many FCC technical rules specify compliance with particular industry standards, which often are updated soon after the FCC has adopted a rule specifying that standard, leaving the FCC rule “outdated” in that it requires compliance with an outdated standard.

The TAC is a federal advisory committee, which means that its work is only advisory in nature and the FCC does not need to accept its recommendations. But in this instance, the FCC, especially in recent years, has worked very closely with the TAC; both to set its agenda of issues to study, based on the areas where the FCC requires industry input, and to implement many of the TAC’s ideas and suggestions.

We here at CommLawBlog are hopeful that this latest initiative will generate good ideas that truly will speed up regulatory approvals of new technologies.

Comments are due Oct. 31, 2017 in Docket No. 17-215.