The Forest Cutting Commisson (FCC)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is misnamed. It ought to be called: The Forest Cutting Commission (FCC). Here’s why:
In 2000, some local pilots, business owners and the county board of commissioners decided it was time to do something about the lack of aviation weather information west of Colorado’s Continental Divide. A $25,000 automated weather observation system (AWOS) would help prevent weather-related accidents.
So, the pilots asked for some of their aviation fuel taxes back in the form of a grant from the state. In addition they dug in their pockets for $4,000. The county agreed to help with trenching for cables and hiring of an electrician. The pilots also contributed the stoop labor needed install the 32-foot sensor tower. This was one of those Code of the Old West “barn-raising” projects that makes us all proud.
All went well until the day the radio used to transmit the weather data to aircraft was turned on. Ugh. The radio frequency nominated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and approved (after a five-month application process) by the FCC, was already in use by another FAA facility. The radio transmitter had to be shut down until the FAA could nominate a new frequency (hopefully, not already in use) and until the FCC could approve the use of the new frequency.
Now, we come to why the FCC should be called: the Forest Cutting Commission. The original application for the first radio frequency was filed in August 2000, on a relatively simple two-page form. Five months later, it was approved.
But, for some reason, the two-page form that worked wonderfully well in August 2000 was no longer suitable. So, in November 2000, the FCC replaced the two-page form with a 30-page main form along with Schedules A through L. Altogether, the new form is over two-inches thick. Where are the tree-hugging environmentalists when you need them?
A month after the new main form and several of its schedules were submitted, the FCC wrote back saying that one additional schedule was needed. No matter that the information required by the additional schedule could already be found on the forms previously submitted. Hello. It was a simple matter of the substitution of one radio frequency for another. Nothing else had changed.
But the FCC won’t just accept the additional schedule. The entire packet must be resubmitted to include the 30-page main form which is almost entirely instructions on how to fill out the main form and how to complete whichever schedules are appropriate to the application. Can you hear the trees falling in the forest?
So, the entire packet was redone (more paper required) and resubmitted. But wait, there’s more. In the interim, the FCC changed the main form again. Thus, after another month’s wait, the FCC wrote back saying it would take no action on the application for the replacement frequency until the packet was resubmitted with the new main form included.
Evidently, the FCC revises it forms faster than it can review and approve them and then the FCC turns down applications because they are not submitted using the form the FCC created while one’s application is still in the FCC’s ponderously slow review and approval process.
This is the kind of Catch 22 that drives taxpayers nuts. All we are trying to do is save lives by eliminating the major cause of fatal crashes and aircraft accidents in the Rocky Mountains by providing pilots with the weather data they need to avoid such accidents and fatalities. Apparently, the FCC (Forest Cutting Commission) is more interested in cutting down our forests for paper pulp than it is in aviation safety.
Michael Powell, the son Secretary of State, Colin Powell, now heads the FCC. He has pledged to get rid of some of the FCC’s Mickey Mouse regulations and ways of doing business. You can bet a copy of this column is on its way to FCC Chairman Powell.
William Hamilton, is a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today and the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn.
©2001. William Hamilton.