Regulatory News Update
The FCC has conditionally approved requests by five wireless companies for extra time to more precisely determine the location of people calling 9-1-1 from mobile telephones. Verizon, Sprint, Nextel, AT&T and Cingular said they had trouble obtaining the technology and equipment necessary to meet an October 1 agency deadline to begin offering enhanced 9-1-1 location capability.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell said he is "disappointed and unsatisfied with the progress we have made, thus far ... I know and respect that carriers have made concerted strides in this area, but those efforts must be redoubled."
The FCC has cleared the way for public television stations to sell advertising on some of the additional airwave capacity provided by digital TV. In a 3-1 vote, the commission allowed public broadcasters to show ads on secondary digital TV data or subscription services. But it said a "substantial majority" of airwave capacity "should still go to noncommercial, educational purposes."
Chairman Powell said the decision "in no way" compromises the "soul of public broadcasting ... Additional revenue streams, beyond those employed today, have become essential for public television to successfully make the transition to digital television."
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has reaffirmed President Bush's plans to allow Mexican trucks to begin operating on all U.S. roads Jan 1, 2002. But he told an Aug. 22 U.S. - Mexico trade summit in Edinburg, Texas that the date could be pushed back to ensure that adequate safety programs are in effect. Mineta declared, "We won't sacrifice safety for the implementation of" NAFTA. Mexico won the right to greater access to U.S. highways under NAFTA. Mexican trucks are now restricted to a zone within 20 miles of the border.
Chairman Billy Tauzin of the House Commerce Committee has urged the FCC to drop a regulatory cap on the amount of spectrum that wireless carriers can hold. In a letter to FCC Chairman Powell, Tauzin said the cap--first imposed in 1993--is "antiquated and undermines the effective delivery of services." Tauzin said "vibrant" competition by carriers and the skyrocketing number of wireless users justify the cap's removal.
According the industry estimates, there are now more than 120 million wireless subscribers and at least six viable carriers in the United States. The cap limits the amount of personal communications service, commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) and special mobile radio service spectrum that a carrier may own in a U.S. market.
President Bush has chosen a Kansas City attorney to oversee the government's efforts to ensure fairness in regulatory compliance. Michael Berrera will lead SBA's Office of the National Ombudsman, which has the authority to receive and investigate complaints from small businesses about federal regulatory enforcement and compliance actions.
Berrera co-founded two law firms and managed two family-owned restaurants in Kansas City. His legal experience includes service as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Jackson County, Missouri.
SBA Administrator Hector Barreto says Berrera "has a crucial job to perform in reducing the federal regulatory stranglehold upon small businesses. He will ensure that federal regulatory enforcement and compliance actions are fairly applied to save time and burdensome expense for small business owners."
The Labor Department has postponed the announcement of its plan of action on ergonomics. It said the delay is dictated by the September 11 terrorist attacks. The department noted that OSHA has been heavily involved in rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "which has prevented the department from devoting full attention to this important issue."
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao had originally hoped to disclose by September whether she would pursue a new OSHA ergonomics regulation--or recommend voluntary guidelines. In July, the department conducted three forums--in Virginia, Illinois and California--to solicit public comments. President Bush has vowed to address ergonomics concerns in ways that are less burdensome to businesses.By Don Fulsom, former UPI White House reporter.