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FCC to add consumer advisor, but will anyone listen?

The FCC is creating a newly re-charted Consumer Advisor Committee to “advise” the commissioners on issues affecting the interest of consumers.

Though the committee is theoretically open to anyone who wishes to apply, applicants “should be recognized experts in the fields” that are able to pay their own travel and expenses for several meetings each year in Washington, D.C. Committee members receive no pay and have no genuine power to form policy.

The FCC wants applicants that represent both public and private organizations with expertise in consumer advocacy, disabilities, under-served populations (e.g., persons living in rural areas and tribal communities), telecommunications infrastructure and equipment, telecommunications services (including wireless), and broadcast/cable services.

Members must commit to a two-year term of service, must be willing to attend three one-day meetings per year in Washington, D.C., and to participate in deliberations of at least one working group.

The agenda will include consumer protection and education, with specific topics to be cramming, slamming, consumer friendly billing, de-tariffing, bundling of services, Lifeline/Linkup programs, customer service, privacy, telemarketing abuses and outreach to under-served populations.

Also on the table are disability issues including telecommunications relay services, closed-captioning, accessible billing and access to telecommunications products and services. The group will also review the impact upon consumers of new and emerging technologies including availability of broadband, digital television, cable, satellite and low-power FM radio.

Applications for membership must be received by the FCC no later than January 31, 2003, and should be sent to the FCC, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Attn.: Scott Marshall, via email, via fax at 202-418-6509, or via U.S. mail at 445 12th Street, S.W., Room 5A824, Washington, D.C. 20554. Due to security slowdowns of U.S. mail deliveries, the FCC said e-mail and fax submissions are preferred.

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