The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC is charged with regulating all non-federal government use of the radio spectrum (including radio and television broadcasting), and all interstate telecommunications (wire, satellite and cable) as well as all international communications that originate or terminate in the United States. The FCC’s jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.
The FCC’s mission is to “make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” The Act furthermore provides that the FCC was created “for the purpose of the national defense” and “for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications.”
The FCC is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairperson. The Chairperson is the chief executive officer. The Chairperson delegates management and administrative responsibility to the Managing Director. The Commissioners supervise all FCC activities, delegating responsibilities to staff units and Bureaus.
The FCC is organized into seven Bureaus and ten Staff Offices.
The responsibilities of Bureaus include processing applications for licenses and other filings, analyzing complaints, conducting investigations, developing and implementing regulations, and participating in hearings. The following are the seven Bureaus:
- Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau – educates and informs consumers about telecommunications goods and services and engages their input to help guide the work of the Commission. CGB coordinates telecommunications policy efforts with industry and with other governmental agencies — federal, tribal, state and local — in serving the public interest.
- Enforcement Bureau – enforces the Communications Act, as well as the Commission’s rules, orders and authorizations.
- International Bureau – represents the Commission in satellite and international matters.
- Media Bureau – regulates AM, FM radio and television broadcast stations, as well as cable television and satellite services.
- Wireless Telecommunications – oversees cellular and PCS phones, pagers and two-way radios. This Bureau also regulates the use of radio spectrum to fulfill the communications needs of businesses, aircraft and ship operators, and individuals.
- Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau – addresses public safety, homeland security, national security, emergency management and preparedness, disaster management, and other related issues.
- Wireline Competition Bureau – responsible for rules and policies concerning telephone companies that provide interstate, and under certain circumstances intrastate, telecommunications services to the public through the use of wire-based transmission facilities (i.e., corded/cordless telephones).
The FCC’s Offices provide support services to the Bureaus. Even though the Bureaus and Offices have their individual functions, they regularly join forces and share expertise in addressing Commission issues. The following are the ten offices:
- Office of Administrative Law Judges – presides over hearings, and issues Initial Decisions.
- Office of Communications Business Opportunities – provides advice to the Commission on issues and policies concerning opportunities for ownership by small, minority and women-owned communications businesses.
- Office of Engineering And Technology – allocates spectrum for non-Government use and provides expert advice on technical issues before the Commission.
- Office of The General Counsel – serves as chief legal advisor to the Commission’s various Bureaus and Offices.
- Office of Inspector General – conducts and supervises audits and investigations relating to the operations of the Commission.
- Office of Legislative Affairs – is the Commission’s main point of contact with Congress.
- Office of The Managing Director – functions as a chief operating official, serving under the direction and supervision of the Chairman.
- Office of Media Relations – informs the news media of FCC decisions and serves as the Commission‘s main point of contact with the media.
- Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis – works with the Chairman, Commissioners, Bureaus and Offices to develop strategic plans identifying policy objectives for the agency.
- Office of Work Place Diversity – advises the Commission on all issues related to workforce diversity, affirmative recruitment and equal employment opportunity.