GAO finds FCC Lacks Comprehensive Plan, Risk Management Contingencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey, (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, today released a report prepared at his request by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the nation’s transition to digital television, due to occur on February 17, 2009. The GAO report examines efforts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to educate consumers, implement a subsidy program for converter boxes for consumers, and make progress toward ensuring a smooth transition.

“While the FCC and the NTIA have both taken action to facilitate the digital television transition, the GAO found no comprehensive plan or strategy to measure progress or results,” Markey said. “Without a comprehensive plan that also addresses managing risks and mitigating against potential problems, tens of millions of consumers could be adversely affected and this important transition put needlessly in jeopardy.”

“Today’s GAO report provides the latest high resolution picture of the transition underway. Given the high stakes for consumers, public safety, and wireless innovation posed by this transition, the GAO’s call for the FCC and NTIA to develop an overarching strategic framework for success is one that these agencies would do well to heed,” Markey added.

In its report, the GAO observed that the FCC Chairman acknowledged that “no formal plan is publicly available.” Instead, the FCC Chairman asserted that various Commission orders over the last several years constituted the equivalent of a plan. The GAO disagreed, finding that while these documents may constitute a first step toward developing a plan, they did not meet the GAO’s recommendation for the kind of all-inclusive blueprint needed to guide the nation toward a successful transition.

“The GAO contends that simply providing a laundry list of completed regulatory tasks is not the same thing as having a comprehensive plan. I agree. The GAO is an arm of the U.S. Congress and I expect the FCC and NTIA to take the its recommendations with the utmost seriousness. The good news is that it is not yet too late to take concrete and corrective action along the lines recommended.”

The GAO report is available HERE.

December 11, 2007

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