Sequestration Will Require Patience at FCC, FTC

Reports, decisions, initiatives could take longer than usual

Despite the rhetoric in Washington, no one really knows what effect the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts will have on the economy, consumers and business in general. But it's hard to believe that advertisers, media and telecommunications companies won't notice some differences at the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, agencies that have jurisdiction over their businesses.

Post-sequestration, the best advice for companies that do business with the FCC and FTC is to have some patience. Reports are bound to take longer and decisions are bound to drag on.

The FCC, which is already nearly three years late on updating media ownership rules, called the $17 million in cuts to its $342 million budget "very significant." Though no personnel layoffs or furloughs are anticipated, the FCC said staff is already the lowest it has been in nearly 30 years.

The sequestration cuts "will harm vital agency missions including public safety and homeland security, law enforcement, universal service, spectrum and consumer protection," the FCC said in a statement.

FCC officials are worried that the cuts could slow efforts to free more spectrum for wireless services (the agency is planning to conduct the world's largest auction of spectrum in 2014) or slow the processing of broadcast licenses.

The FTC, which has jurisdiction over consumer protection and deceptive ad enforcement, is facing a $16 million cut to its $314 million budget. In its statement, the agency said it has made strategic decisions that have positioned it to be able to "sustain sequestration cuts" such as reshaping its workforce through voluntary early buyouts in order to "absorb these reductions."

"The FTC anticipates that it will be able to operate without significant impact to its mission to preserve competition and protect American consumers without the need to furlough its employees," the agency said.