Senate Sets Markup on Technical Resource Enhancement Act

Bill would allow FCC commissioners to add technical advisers to staff teams

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a markup for
March 24 on a bill to give FCC commissioners more up close and personal time
with engineers.

The Technical Resource Enhancement Act, which was introduced
last December by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), would amend the Communications Act
to allow each commissioner to add a technical advisor to his or her team, so
long as they know their stuff.

According to the language of the bill: "Each
commissioner may also appoint an electrical engineer or computer scientist to
provide the commissioner technical consultation when appropriate and to
interface with the Office of Engineering and Technology, Commission Bureaus,
and other technical staff of the Commission for additional technical input and
resources, provided that such engineer or scientist holds an undergraduate or
graduate degree from an institution of higher education in their respective
field of expertise."

Currently, the commissioners can appoint three assistants,
as well as an administrative assistant and a secretary. It does not preclude
any of the three assistants from being an engineer, but currently those posts
are already filled by advisors, usually attorneys, to advise on wireless,
wireline, broadband, media and other issues, as well as serve as chief of

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the FCC needs to
boost its engineering/tech expertise to meet the demands of the increasingly
digital media world. Those demands just got more immediate with the March 16 unveiling
of the National Broadband Plan
, which is essentially the beginning of a
years-long process that will require numerous tech-heavy decisions by the
commission on issues like spectrum and network management.