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FCC’s new interference complaint process lacks urgency, clarity

When the FCC announced July 16 it was eliminating 11 of its 24 field offices, including the office in Houston, the commission assured it would establish new procedures for addressing interference complaints.  While its Aug. 27 public notice proclaims the enforcement bureau’s approach “enhances” procedures for public safety and industry interference complaints, many broadcasters are checking various dictionaries for definitions of “enhance.”

Under the new procedures, complaints will be submitted online at the FCC’s website and categorized as high, medium or low, but the notice doesn’t explain how such designations will be made. Complaints involving public safety will be given high priority, but the notice doesn’t define “public safety.”

The categorization of non-public safety complaints will depend on considerations such as which frequencies are affected or how badly and how frequently alleged interference is occurring.

And once complaints are categorized, those filing a complaint will be informed of which field agent has been assigned to address the problem, as well as a likely timeframe for investigation and action, but no timeframe for follow-up.  This is worrisome, considering so many field offices and agents have been eliminated.

To quell such concerns, the commission is instituting a so-called escalation procedure that will advance complaints to a regional director one week after the complaint was filed, and next to a field director two weeks after filing. But, again, there’s no timeframe for complaint managers to resolve a complaint.

Nor is there a deadline for even making the new complaint intake system operational.

The public notice states that the new complaint intake and case management systems’ procedures may be refined based on experience, resources and other enforcement priorities.  Broadcasters are encouraged to alert TAB if, once the new system is implemented, they find that serious interference complaints are not being handled effectively or expeditiously.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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