Thursday, November 13, 2008
Yesterday I attended a seminar at George Mason University in nearby Arlington. The speaker was Prof. William Webb, Head of Research and Development and Senior Technologist at Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator in the United Kingdom. (I had previously publicized this event here.) The talk was a good presentation of recent trends in the UK in spectrum policy. The speaker carefully credited US developments that were the early foundations for some recent UK policies. The seminar was well attended by industry officials and students. But the real surprise was not noticed by many because it was a little subtle: about 10 FCC employees were present.
A few years ago this would have been normal and unremarkable. But for the past several years such attendance by FCC employees has required explicit a priori approval of the Chairman's Office which was hard to come by and indirectly discouraged.
The FCC employees present were vague about the change so it is unclear if the Chairman's Office has changed their policy or just whether after the election no one cares anymore. Someone from industry commented that everyone in the Chairman's office may be too busy sending out resumes to care about such issues.
In any case I applaud this change and hope that the FCC never returns to a policy that inhibits staff from listening to new ideas. Reasonable management controls on public speaking by staff on policy issues makes sense and is a long tradition at FCC. But centralizing authority on both speaking and listening in the Chairman's Office was excessive and showed a lack of trust in FCC staff and managers.
Posted by MJM at 8:24 AM