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FCC's International Overhaul

To many the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a behemoth of an organization charged with enforcing Congress' communications laws over the air and through telephone and cable lines.

So it might come as a surprise to some following the commission's yearly budget meeting last week, when Michael Powell, FCC chairman (in addition to asking for $278 million to fund 2003 operations), announced the overhaul of many of its bureaus, including the international bureau.

The FCC plans for an overhaul to its international division, beefing up the staffing needs for the bureau and creating new offices. To date, the bureau has been a relatively dated (by Internet standards, anyways) one with a planning and negotiations division, satellite and radio communications division and telecommunications division.

Powell wants to streamline these divisions to more accurately reflect the bureau's "work on international policy and spectrum issues and the commission's role in bilateral, regional and multilateral organizations," a statement read.

To do so, the FCC chief proposes three newly-named divisions that more accurately reflect this new policy, one of more quickly opening and deploying U.S. businesses worldwide in wake of the country's recent downturn in the economy: policy, satellite and strategic analysis & negotiations divisions.

With so many concerns that need addressing in the U.S., why worry about what happens overseas? A lot, according to Donald Abelson, FCC international bureau chief.

"These changes will enable the Bureau to best serve the Commission and the public in authorizing satellite and international telecommunications services and in leading the world in developing pro-competitive and transparent regulatory approaches," he said.

A quick breakdown of the new division's goals:

  • Policy division -- This division's goal is to speak for U.S. phone companies by setting international telecommunications policies that provide a competitive market. This involves getting the best rates for international facilities and services, as well as ruling on international spectrum issues.

  • Satellite division -- Open up the satellite market in the U.S. by pushing as many systems through the regulatory environment as possible, done by minimizing regulations and developing new regulations to speed the process. The division works with foreign governmental regulators to promote "U.S. interests in international coordinations and negotiations," the division's charter reads.
  • Strategic Analysis & Negotiations Division -- The FCC mouthpiece at international and regional ruling and standards bodies like the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The division also looks at foreign telecom polices and determines their implications to U.S. policy.