August 2011 Meeting of the FCC Consumer Affairs Committee (Recent NAMAC Blog post)

Published at NAMAC

As a recently appointed Tribal representative on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Consumer Affairs Committee (CAC), I was pleased to attend the committee’s first meeting in Washington on August 17, 2011. As the only Native American on the committee, I will represent rural and underserved Native American populations for the next two years on this committee.

The FCC established the CAC in November 2000 in order make recommendations regarding consumer issues and to encourage the participation and involvement of consumers, including people with disabilities and underserved populations, such as Native Americans and persons living in rural areas, in proceedings before the Commission.

This committee addresses consumer protection issues and education on topics like cramming, slamming, consumer friendly billing, detariffing, bundling of services, Lifeline/Linkup programs, customer service, privacy, and telemarketing abuses.  The committee also addresses accessibility issues for people with disabilities, including telecom relay services, hearing aid compatibility, video description and closed captioning.  Finally, this committee also looks at the impact of new and emerging technologies, including access, availability and convergence of emerging technologies and media.

The committee is made up of thirty-one members, with representation from academia, consumer interest groups, disability groups, tribal/low-income/minority groups, government and industry representation. The CAC meetings are public and take place quarterly, with at least two live pleanary meetings per year in Washington DC.   Subcommittee’s are established and meet regularly, reporting to the larger committee.  The first meeting with new two-year appointee’s to the committee took place at the FCC on August 17, 2011.  This one-day meeting (available on video here), was the first time many of the committee members met. While there were a number of re-appointments (industry folks and disability representation), some of us were new, but still knew each other from other coalitions.  Indeed, the work of several prominent consumer interest groups was well represented, including appointees from MAG-net / Center for Media Justice (Amalia Deloney), Media Literacy Project (Andrea Quijada), Benton Foundation (Cecilia Garcia) and of course Native Public Media.

As the first meeting of our new committee, it was largely informational.  In addition to remarks from the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Michael Copps, there were numerous presentations from the various bureaus in the FCC.  The morning addressed topics included an update from the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, the Office of General Council, an overview of the Need for Speed Notice of Proposed Rulemakeing, an overview of the recently published Samknows Report, a Lifeline/Linkup update,  and a review of Cramming.  A working lunch and the afternoon included a presentation on consumer complaint trends, the Emergency Alert System and an update from the Office of Native Affairs and Policy.  One of the highlights of the day included a visit to the FCC Technology Experience Center, although, I was disappointed when I learned that I had most of the gadgets in the room, I had hoped to see some new items.

While the meeting was informative, it was also redundant. My colleagues and I are very familiar with these offices and topics. All of us are seasoned participants in the FCC process.  What I look forward to is the work on the subcommittee’s, which has yet to take place.  As a Tribal representative to the CAC, I am honored to be a part of this committee and look forward to bringing tribal voices to this process.

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