This Time It is $1,595 to Hear FCC Officials Discuss Telecom Policy
This Time It is $1,595 to Hear FCC Officials Discuss Telecom Policy
This Time It is $1,595 to Hear FCC Officials Discuss Telecom Policy

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    In June I wrote an entry here entitled “Should the Public Have to Pay $1149 to Hear FCC Officials Talk About Broadband Policy?”.  It did not get much response.  In a mere 6 months the price of the next Practising Law Institute event, “28th Annual Institute on Telecommunications Policy & Regultation” has increased to $1595!  The brochure clearly states “Q&A: FCC Commissioners and other senior officials will answer your questions”.  Probably worth the price of admission for this alone!

    Speakers include:

        * The Honorable Meredith Attwell Baker, Commissioner, FCC
        * The Honorable Mignon L. Clyburn, Commissioner, FCC
        * The Honorable Robert M. McDowell, Commissioner, FCC
        * Sharon E. Gillett, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, FCC
        * Ruth Milkman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, FCC
        * Julius P. Knapp, Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC
        * The Honorable Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

    Can’t afford to go? The brochure announces that “AudioCD/DVDs and related products are available for purchase”.  How much? No price is given but judging from comparable events, the CDs will be $797 and the DVDs will be the same $1595 as the seminar.  So heck, you might as well go and get the “free” lunch for the same price!

    Now I do not disagree that it is useful for public officials to meet in fine hotels with industry moguls, brief them on upcoming policy issues and answer questions.  The key question is whether the rest of us will find out in a reasonably timely what was said.  (Some of us might like to ask questions also, but that is getting off subject.)  I have previously proposed to the the FCC’s site that asks about “What are ways in which the FCC can better engage the public in open proceedings?”  that videos of such presentations be made available to the public at the normal FCC terms – free online, nominal charge for copying – within a few days of such an event. As with the other many suggestions received from the public via this site, this has not been resolved.

    My proposal could be implemented by establishing a clear and transparent policy that FCC officials can not accept such speaking invitations unless the sponsor agrees to provide the video within a few days and agrees to its public availability.  Clearly the PLI is making a video of the whole conference, so it should not be burdensome to make the FCC speakers’ presentations and discussion available to the public in a timely way. 

    Since the seminar attendees will be able to ask FCC commissioners questions, I hope someone who can afford the $1595 admission asks them when they will improve the transparency of these types of seminars.

    “The FCC should be a model of openness, transparency, and a fair, data-driven process.”
    Julius Genachowski’s confirmation hearing for FCC chairman before the Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Committee
    (Emphasis added)