FCC Seeks Slight Increase in FY2010 Funding

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps is asking Congress for a slight increase in funding for fiscal year 2010.

Copps seeks $318 million to maintain 2009 service levels in fiscal year 2010, an increase of about $6 million over fiscal year 2009. The slight increase is needed to offset the inflationary increases for salaries, benefits, leasing costs, utilities, and other contractual services, he told the Financial Services Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee this week.

Copps also hopes to get $15 million to upgrade the commission’s IT infrastructure. The agency would use the funds to upgrade and integrate its IT systems to make the agency’s processes more transparent and easier for the public to access, he said in written testimony. Some of that money would be used to modernize the commission’s “antiquated” phone system that results in some expensive long distance phone bills and for a more unified licensing system, one now spread out among various bureaus on separate databases.

The commission is requesting an additional $1 million to hire more staff. It’s lost a professional expertise because of retirements and other separations, he said. The agency is particularly looking for engineers and economists, but also legal, policy and other professional staff.

The agency’s “Mobile Digital Direction Finding Vehicles,” used to bust pirates and others who interfere with broadcast and police, fire department, and emergency medical response communications systems, need an upgrade. Copps is seeking $900,000 to buy ten such vehicles.

The agency needs new digital television equipment; the current analog video equipment used for public outreach at open meetings and field hearings is a decade old, he said. One million dollars would go towards the FCC’s continued DTV efforts. Even after the transition for full-power stations takes place on June 12, the commission anticipates an ongoing need for DTV efforts, not only to handle the aftermath of the full-power transition but to begin addressing the “next” DTV transition—the transition of the thousands of low-power and TV translator stations across the country that are still broadcasting in analog.