This Wednesday afternoon, roughly 36 hours have passed since American Congress reached a point in deliberation where everyone agreed to disagree. Unfortunately, unlike a civil gesture between two adversaries, this kind of disagreement has a widespread impact which has partially shutdown the government. Though this isn’t the first time the federal government has shut down, times have changed since the last fallout in late 1995. The effects felt will be a little different this time around and it is mostly due to technology.
As federal employees are responsible for national security, some are alarmed that there could be repercussions to safety. However, a shutdown doesn’t mean complete abandonment by officials nor does it mean imminent disaster. We’ll take a look at one particular agency, the FCC, which has a direct impact on communications and competition to see how this will affect both the department and American citizens.
The FCC Takes a Vacation
The FCC was originally formed as a result of the Communications Act of 1934 and then amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The goal of the agency is to regulate competition and communication infrastructures as well as play a role in security (think of the scary national weather announcements you hear on the radio or TV when it’s storming.) Due to the shutdown, this agency will be cutting back on operations.
It’s not as though all government entities will close up shop completely nor will the FCC completely abandon responsibilities. An orderly shutdown was announced for the FCC to avoid confusion and define job roles throughout this predicament. However, because of this situation, certain FCC functions will remain on hiatus until the government reconvenes.
In this time frame, the FCC will make modifications to the staffing to continue service for people and entities that rely upon their service. The breakdown is as follows:
- As many as 16 employees will be utilized to cover lifelines and estates. This portion will remain active non-stop but with much less staff than usual.
- There will be as many as 2 handling the emergency contact center. This includes the people who manage emergency broadcast like mentioned above.
- No more than one management official will collaborate with officials to oversee operations. Such a person will be the liaison for any sort of imminent threat.
- Eight will be the highest number allocated for interference detection. These are the people who report and sometimes intercept threats to national security.
- Two employees will be called upon as needed for consulting in multifaceted issues.
- A single employee will be on staff for treaty negotiations. A person in this position would be used in case the President would need to be discharged of power in such an issue.
- One associate will be full time as an assistant to the treaty negotiation official.
- Finally, four IT professionals will be utilized for networking and technology functions. One is designated part-time while the other three are mandated full time.
This essentially cuts down the FCC to 2% of regularly employed officials. This means others including (but not limited to) those who deal with consumer complaint and information; consumer safeguarding through local competition enforcement; certifications processes for mobile and fixed-line market; administration frequency spectrums; development of competitive applications and devices; certain public services and authorization for oversea technologies on American soil will halt.
What does this all mean?
More or less, the public will still have access to critical services. The longer the lapse of an active full government, the more bottle-necking of such services will occur. However, some of the most important processes will still be maintained so a major impact will not be felt immediately unless you are or supported by a federal employee.
Differences from American shutdown in the past
In this age, communication methods and law are already established. Private companies from Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and slew of others will continue to operate just as always. Because of modern platforms such as those in the realm of social media and accessible round-the-clock news reporting, the capability to resolve political issues is faster than ever.
Supporting staff for federal agencies considered “non-essential” are the only ones who will have a break from the hustle and bustle of government work. In the meantime, businesses and those in the primordial state will continue to innovate. Information systems and communication platforms are still active so production for the rest of the country will continue.
As no new contracts will be struck, those who work for third-party agencies that provide support for government systems will cease for a time. It doesn’t mean that in every case these companies will close. Rather, it is up to the employer to decide whether or not to continue services. Likely, most will continue doing so, at least for some time as a solution is already underway.
So even though American’s will not be able to spend all their downtime reading about new developments from NASA, the shutdown will not affect current communication except certain government portals. Sure, Twitter’s recent filing for an IPO will stall, but everything will remain in queue for future processing.