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Students Help Draft Recommendations Adopted by FCC Committee

2L Marko Radisavljevic and Kyle Welch '14 help draft important FCC consumer proposals

2L Marko Radisavljevic and Kyle C. Welch '14, are feeling proud of the work they accomplished as legal interns at California Western's New Media Rights clinic recently for the Federal Communications Commission's Consumer Advisor Committee.

In March, the committee approved an important recommendation to modernize and improve the way high-speed broadband is brought to classrooms and libraries around the country. Radisavljevic and Welch, during his third year, as well as New Media Rights Executive Director Art Neill, were directly involved in the research, drafting, and proposal of this recommendation.

The consumer committee also recently approved recommendations that Radisavljevic and Neill researched and helped to draft that would create a searchable online database to enable the public to view consumer complaints filed with the FCC—a system and level of transparency that doesn’t exist in the FCC today.

The FCC receives hundreds of thousands of consumer complaints about wireless service, television and radio program content, and other issues regulated by the agency.

What happens to the data collected on these complaints? How, if at all, is the FCC limited by regulation in its ability to release consumer complaint data? How does the FCC’s approach compare with other federal and state regulatory agencies? What would more transparent consumer complaint data reporting look like?

Those are among the questions Radisavljevic investigated in his research. As it turns out, citizens can’t find out much.

“If you go to the FCC website and want to find information on consumer complaints you really won’t find any useful information,” says Radisavljevic. “A lot of complaints that come in are for content on TV shows and radio programs. However, what if I have an issue with a wireless phone company’s billing practices and I want to know if other people are having the same issue—especially other people in my zip code? The current reporting process does not allow you to figure this out. Our recommendation to the FCC was to give consumers the access to the complaint information in a machine-readable format that they can sort through and organize using a variety of tools.”

In March, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Tom Udall (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging him to adopt the online consumer database recommendations that Radisavljevic researched and helped to draft.

“I was thrilled to see that Senators are actually getting behind our cause and urging the FCC to take action,” said Radisavljevic. “It's one thing for them to be on the same side of the cause but it is another for them to directly reference and cite a recommendation I wrote in their letter to the head of the FCC. It makes me feel good knowing all the research and hard work Art Neill and I did on this is not going to go to waste.”

“It's exhilarating to see the policy suggestions we've made receive positive attention,” said Welch. “The letter from Senators Nelson and Udall shows that prominent government officials are paying attention to the work New Media Rights does.”

Radisavljevic and Welch also worked along with Neill to draft recommendations encouraging the FCC to modernize and improve the 18-year old E-rate program for the 21st century— the program provides funding for high-speed Internet access to schools and libraries.

“I researched the E-Rate Program extensively to craft a set of recommendations for the FCC,” said Welch. “The goals were to modernize the program for the 21st century and provide kids and communities universal high-speed Internet access, so the United States can remain competitive in an increasingly connected world. The CAC adopted our recommendations unanimously, with FCC Chairman Wheeler complimenting the recommendations we made.”

“Marko and Kyle each did a fantastic job helping craft two recommendations that provide critical guidance to the FCC as it tries to regulate communications in the 21st century,” said Neill. “Through this work, they’ve had an opportunity to go beyond understanding and applying the law and actually shape the law and policy priorities based on direct observation and extensive research, another critical role of the modern lawyer.”