Issues Concerning Licensing of Telecommunications Engineers and Technicians

RCED-90-106FS: Published: Mar 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information regarding states' licensing of radio and telecommunications engineers and technicians after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminated its program for licensing operators of certain telecommunications equipment.

GAO found that: (1) FCC reasoned that competitive market forces and economic self-interest would adequately ensure that owners of FCC-licensed facilities would employ competent operators and technicians; (2) several private organizations started their own certification programs after FCC terminated its program; (3) between 1981 and 1989, six states attempted to enforce professional engineering statutes against individuals working in the telecommunications industry, typically in response to complaints triggered by the individuals' use of the terms engineer or engineering in advertisements and directories; (4) states responded to challenges regarding their jurisdiction over telecommunications engineers and technicians by dropping the cases or proposing changes to professional engineer statutes; (5) a professional organization, claiming that states should not be involved in licensing telecommunications engineers and technicians, proposed federal legislation that would assign FCC a coordinating and oversight role in the licensing of telecommunications engineers and technicians; (6) FCC maintained that it only licensed operators, and had never licensed engineers; and (7) while other professional organizations cited some problems regarding state attempts to regulate telecommunications operators and technicians, they generally did not support the proposed legislation.

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