Federal Communications Commission Can Further Improve Its Licensing Activities

RCED-83-90: Published: Apr 26, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) processing of applications for new common carrier, broadcast, and private radio licenses to identify changes to make these operations more efficient and productive.

As a result of continued technological improvements and an increasing demand for communications services, the FCC application processing work load has increased and is likely to continue to increase. Congress has noted that, while FCC has tried to improve license processing speeds, it still takes too long to get a license.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not consider comprehensive broadcast legislation during the 99th Congress and is unlikely to address the issue in the forseeable future. Broadcast legislation is very sensitive politically and it is difficult to get consensus agreement on proposed legislation.

    Matter: If Congress determines that competition in telecommunications markets has developed to the extent that market forces eliminate the need for regulatory intervention, Congress should repeal the provisions of section 307(b), which requires FCC to distribute licenses among states and communities, so as to provide a fair, efficient, and equitable distribution of radio service, but which may no longer be necessary in a competitive market.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not consider comprehensive broadcast legislation in the 99th Congress and is unlikely to address the issue in the forseeable future. Broadcast legislation is very sensitive politically and it is difficult to get consensus agreement on proposed legislation.

    Matter: Congress, to overcome the delay caused by mutually exclusive applications, may want to consider authorizing FCC to use a licensing procedure in which a license would be granted to the first qualified applicant who applied.

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not consider comprehensive broadcast legislation during the 99th Congress and is unlikely to address the issue in the forseeable future. Broadcast legislation is very sensitive politically and it is difficult to get consensus agreement on proposed legislation.

    Matter: If Congress determines that competition in the telecommunications markets has developed to the extent that market forces eliminate the need for regulatory intervention, Congress should amend section 309(d) of the Communications Act of 1934, as it pertains to applications for new station licenses to require that FCC not accept petitions to deny based on allegations of economic injury to existing licensees, as well as other allegations unrelated to technical interference issues.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FCC made improvements in developing reliable speed of service data. However, FCC still has concerns about the accuracy of these data and will continue to try to refine the accuracy of its statistical data.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should improve procedures for monitoring license processing activities by developing reliable speed of service data for broadcast and common carrier services.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FCC believes that the flexibility to redirect resources is nearly exhausted, but will continue to consider redirecting resources to license processing. FCC has decreased resources across the agency, but the decrease in license processing has been relatively less than in other areas.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should determine, as part of the FCC evaluation of resource savings that may result from changes planned in other FCC program areas, whether these resources can be used to alleviate or avoid undesirable license processing backlogs.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FCC developed for its staff detailed procedures on cost-benefit analysis. It also developed a set of forms for bureaus to use to justify costs. However, FCC does not characterize this as being a thorough cost-benefit analysis of all prospective computer system applications.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to effectively plan and manage FCC information resources and increase license processing efficiency, should develop specific information requirements, including feasibility and cost-benefit analyses, for all prospective computer system applications included in the 5-year automatic data processing (ADP) plan.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FCC has implemented a computer performance measurement system and hired a contractor to establish a system capacity profile. These have been used to plan fiscal year (FY) 1985 through FY 1987 computer resources. However, FCC has not developed a formal work load management policy.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to effectively plan and manage FCC information resources and increase license processing efficiency, should develop and implement a computer capacity and work load management policy to address FCC short- and long-range data processing needs.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to improve FCC license processing procedures, should evaluate, as part of the Commission's planned proceeding to determine whether construction permits for common carrier stations are still necessary, the benefits of retaining construction permits and substituting a simpler notification form for the license application.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FCC believes that: (1) the rules are not applicable to the Mobile Service Division; and (2) it is premature to consider how applications for microwave services could be applied differently until it completes a study on the use of an on-line application processing system. FCC is concerned about the legal ramifications of allowing applicants to have access to a FCC database.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to improve FCC license processing procedures, should evaluate, in the Commission's proposed proceeding to revise the rules for fixed common carrier services, methods for consolidating information on microwave systems that must be now filed separately on each of the applications for individual stations included in the systems.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to improve FCC license processing procedures, should evaluate the merits of changing the FCC rules for processing amendments to applications or existing licenses to allow certain minor amendments to be approved via notification and to reclassify additional amendments as minor.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to shift some of FCC licensing tasks to applicants, should initiate a Notice of Inquiry to develop a system for providing the public with direct remote access to FCC databases.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FCC Mass Media Bureau does not agree with this recommendation. However, the FCC Private Radio Bureau supports and encourages the use of independent engineering contractors and, in some cases, relies heavily on the findings. FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry on expanding the role of frequency coordinators in the area of Private Land Mobile Services.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to shift some of FCC licensing tasks to applicants, should evaluate: (1) the use of an independent engineering certification system to eliminate the need for FCC verification of technical data included in license applications; and (2) the potential for expanding the use of frequency coordinators in existing and forthcoming licensing services.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FCC Mass Media and Common Carrier bureaus have adopted stricter return policies. The FCC Private Radio Bureau has not adopted a strict return policy on the grounds that it is speedier and more cost-effective to work with the applicant in clearing up application deficiencies.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, to shift some of FCC licensing tasks to applicants, should establish criteria for determining when an application is defective and experiment with the use of a strict return policy in selected licensed services to determine effectiveness.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, as part of FCC ADP planning, should evaluate the feasibility of providing licensing divisions that currently lack on-line access to FCC antenna databases with such access, thereby, providing them with up-to-date antenna clearance data.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  12. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The FCC Mass Media Bureau believes that the comparative licensing process needs to be maintained in order to further the FCC goal of media ownership diversification.

    Recommendation: FCC, in addition to using lotteries to decide among mutually exclusive applications in private radio, common carrier, and low-power broadcast services, should use lotteries for full-power broadcast services where such action is consistent with the promotion of media ownership diversity.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FCC is consolidating microwave databases into one database. This project is planned for completion in the fourth quarter of FY 1986. However, physical consolidation of microwave and land mobile staff functions is not planned because FCC believes that the costs would exceed the benefits.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should evaluate the costs and benefits of consolidating land mobile and microwave licensing functions as FCC reevaluates its regulatory policies and procedures for these services.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

 

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