Copps: We're Unprepared for Terror Strike


New Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin got a little unsolicited advice from fellow commissioner Michael Copps Monday on priorities for the agency, including the warning that the industry and the FCC are not prepared for another large-scale terrorist attack.

In a luncheon speech to the Federal Communications Bar Association, Copps suggested that one commissioner be designated as the agency's point person for pushing disaster preparedness planning (or what, before 9/11, was jokingly tabbed by some the "duck and cover commissioner"), a post once manned by Michael Powell.

"We are nowhere near ready for next time," Copps said.

"I don't want anyone to be able to say, if terror strikes again, that either the industry or the agency were asleep at the switch," he said. More needs to be done to ensure redundancy and interoperability among communications systems and more detailed action planning for a disaster, he said.

Copps said the FCC's other top action items should include . . .

  • setting public interest obligations for digital broadcasters
  • coming to grips with the impact of media consolidation by writing new ownership rules, and
  • accelerating the rollout and consumer adoption of high-speed Internet.

"Staring us in the face is a huge unfinished agenda," Copps said.

Martin attended the speech, held at the J.W. Marriott near the White House, but had no comment.

Martin has yet to lay out his own agenda, though he is making his first major speech as chairman next week at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in San Francisco.

Regarding broadband policy, Copps finds it unacceptable that the United States ranks only 13th among all countries for adoption of broadband. Last year the U.S. ranked 11th. "We are free-falling down the scale," he said.

When it comes to media policy, Copps said the FCC should fund new third-party produced economic studies on the impact of ownership consolidation on programming for minorities, children, small businesses and on the availability of independently produced programming.

He praised recently resigned FCC Chairman Michael Powell for pushing forward on the  technical "mechanics" of switching broadcasters to DTV, but said more needs to be done to determine whether stations owners should be required to offer public interest programming. "What does [the DTV transition] mean for listeners and viewers is a question that never got answered."