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State Telecom Regulators Urge ‘Sunshine Law’ Reform

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/FCC/States/Transparency by

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2010 — Federal laws designed to guarantee public access to certain data should be revised to allow members of the Federal Communications Commission to meet more often and work together more efficiently, a group of state telecommunications regulators told members of a House committee in a Wednesday letter.

The letter was addressed to the chairmen and ranking members of the Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

The state commissioners, including former National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Larry Landis of Indiana and Roy Baum of Oregon, are members of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.

The board also has seats for two FCC commissioners. But the “sunshine rules” prevent a third FCC commissioner from sitting in on a joint board meeting. For more than two members of the FCC to meet — even informally – there must be a series of public notices and a posted agenda a certain number of days before the meeting.

This structure was put in place to foster transparency and good government, but critics charge it has hampered the commission’s ability to conduct business and solve problems by limiting the occurrence of spontaneous discussions among commissioners. The commissioners say the rules have hampered the ability of the commission to act quickly when dealing with emerging problems.

The letter encourages the House members to approve the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act, H.R. 4167. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who announced this month he will not run for re-election. The bill corrects “systemic problems” with the sunshine laws, the state commissioners say, and would resolve “significant inefficiencies and delay in the FCC administrative process.”

Ex-MIT Researcher is Massachusetts' New 'Broadband Czar'

in States by

BOSTON, April 29, 2009 – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced Wednesday his appointment of former MIT researcher and state regulator Sharon Gillett as director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. The institute was chartered by Patrick in 2008 with the goal of bringing universal broadband service to state residents by 2011.

Gillett’s appointment was unanimously approved by the institute’s nine-member governing board. She has previously served as a Director of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable and has over a decade of experience with state telecommunications regulatory issues.

Governor Patrick’s choice was met with praise from Gillett’s colleagues in the state telecommunications community. “Commissioner Gillett is the perfect choice to lead the MBI at this critical juncture,” said California Public Utility Commissioner Rachelle Chong. Chong, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, called Gillett “one of the leading telecommunications experts in the nation.”

“Commissioner Gillett has been an invaluable member of the NARUC Telecommunications Committee,” said Oregon Public Utility Commissioner Roy Baum, who chairs the telecommunications committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. “Her keen intellect and in-depth knowledge of broadband issues will be sorely missed.”

Before her previous appointment, Gillett was a Principal Research Associate at MIT’s School of Engineering, where she specialized in broadband-related public policy. She served as chair of the Broadband Working Group for the industry-sponsored Communications Futures Program at MIT and was a member of the Boston Wireless Task Force established by Mayor Thomas Menino.

Gillett begins work at the MBI this Friday, May 1.

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