Accept the Internet for EEO “Widely Disseminated Rule”

When i have said previously, I believe the web is the greatest man-made invention in my lifetime. We spend a considerable amount of time and effort on the Commission determining how best to get rid of barriers to its deployment, studying and reporting its speed and availability, scolding broadband companies for not doing enough and, in some cases, offering American ratepayer subsidies to ensure it will reach all corners of our nation. Therefore , it comes as a surprise – and a disappointment – that we do not embrace it when it comes to compliance along with existing Commission rules. I earlier highlighted that the Internet was the suitable vehicle for providing broadcast competition rules, and the Commission has been upgrading our regulations accordingly, but the Web may be just as important for communications businesses trying to attract a diverse workforce.

The Commission’s Similar Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules require broadcast and cable companies to distribute information far and wide—and provide evidence of such outreach—when they have open positions to be filled. Specifically, the rules require broadcasters with 5 or more, and multi-channel video programming distributors with six or more, full-time employees to cast a wide net to recruit minority and woman applicants for all full-time job vacancies. These employee search efforts have to be part of companies’ public files, which are either currently online or probably in the near future, and are subject to random Commission audits to ensure compliance and analyze performance. And companies are subject to adjustment actions when EEO rules aren’t followed.

The Commission’s application of one of its EEO rules is based on a remarkably outdated assessment of Web deployment and access in the United States. Specifically, the Commission reaffirmed recently in an enforcement action that using the Internet (and word-of-mouth referrals and walk-in applicants) to widely disseminate information and recruit prospective employees is not sufficient to comply with the Commission’s EEO rule, specifically section 73. 2080(c)(1)(i). This is because, at the time of adoption in 2002, the Commission relied on a 2001 NTIA report that suggested 50 percent of U. S. households had Internet service, and only a slightly bigger percentage used the Internet from any location. So based on an estimate of Internet availability circa 2001, companies are now forced to duplicate their own recruiting efforts using other less efficient technologies and outreach strategies just to stay in compliance. This additional effort and cost for little to no benefit should result in the Commission to reconsider its previous position.

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting in any way that we alter or alter our overall EEO requirements. I wholeheartedly agree that wide dissemination of information about job opportunities could be one key element to assembling a diverse applicant pool. However , we have to recognize the current marketplace realities with regards to what types of communication should qualify since “widely disseminated. ” The Internet had been certainly available when this EEO rule was last revised in November 2002, but even the finest technological skeptic can accept that Internet deployment and availability possess changed significantly over the last 12-plus many years. In fact , in 2002, the Commission stated that it “will continue to keep track of the viability of the Internet like a recruitment source and will consider petitions seeking to demonstrate in the future that situations have changed sufficiently to warrant a change in our policy. ”[1]

The great information is that Internet use and accessibility have continued to increase since the earlier 2000s. The FCC’s 2014 Access to the internet Services report found that overall Internet connections (both wireline and wireless) increased by 12 percent on the previous year to reach 296 mil in 2013.[2]And this quantity is already a year old, meaning it really is even larger today. NTIA’s information further highlights the vast growth over the years, finding that as of December thirty-one, 2013, “99 percent of Us citizens have access to wired and/ or wifi broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and one 5 Mbps up. ”

Equally important, the Commission has invested billions and vast amounts of E-Rate dollars (with even more to come) – subsidies paid for by American ratepayer – in our nation’s libraries to transform them in to community information hubs with high-speed Internet connections. Note that the percentage of public libraries that offered general public Internet access increased from 95 percent in 2002 to 98. nine percent in 2005; since 2011, it has been 100 percent. And according to a study by the American Library Association, almost 100 percent of public libraries offer “workforce development training programs, online job resources, and technology abilities training” and 98 percent offer free public access Wi-Fi. We all can’t embrace the ubiquity and benefits of Internet connectivity in public your local library to serve local communities similarly, and on the other hand reject it as insufficient to reach enough possible job applicants. We simply can’t ignore the pervasiveness of library Internet access when reviewing Commission rules.

Moreover, just think of how the Internet is promoting the job listing and application procedure. Employment websites, such as Monster. possuindo, Indeed. com, Careerbuilder. com and many more, are now actively used by both general public and private employers to reach applicants. Additionally , we must be mindful of the large number of other sites that offer recruiting equipment, such as LinkedIn and craigslist. Overall, these technologies have allowed employers to expand the potential talent pool, as well as reduce their overall costs. The Internet has become a central component in personal networking and job identification. In fact , many, if not most, job opportunities in America require applicants to apply on the net. Even the FCC requires applicants to utilize online unless it would be a difficulty.

At the same time, traditional way to advertise job openings have flattened. For instance, the Commission has a complete record as part of its media ownership proceedings from 2010 on the altering local newspaper industry. Suffice it to say, local want ads are suffering for numerous reasons and shouldn’t be looked upon as widely available in many communities, as the number of daily newspapers continues to shrink or, in fact , move to online distribution. The same applies to newsletters of media trade groupings and probably for a number of other earlier relied-upon recruitment methods.

In practice, the application of the EEO rule, and its anti-Internet bias, does not seem to help potential applicants. Most companies possess expansive job-related information and program procedures on their websites. When businesses are required to use other means to promote job openings, they simply direct interested parties to their websites. Contact a toll-free number? See a flier at a job fair or get a mailing? The instructions invariably direct the applicant to a website.

In the past, a number of state broadcast associations petitioned the Commission to modify our EEO rule to allow Web distribution of job openings coupled with aggressive notification to referral organizations that have affirmatively demonstrated they want to perform a meaningful role in referring applicants to media companies along with job openings. This would seem to create a lot of sense in today’s industry and given advances in Internet access over the years. Chairman Wheeler’s past article stated: “The communications sector can never stop changing and evolving. The FCC is committed to updating the policies and processes to facilitate and accelerate these advances to increase the benefits for the American people. ” An update of the EEO rule would be a great next step in the modernization process the Chairman has performed.

[1]Review of the Commission’s Broadcast and Cable Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies, Second Report and Order and 3rd Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, November 7, 2002, ¶99

[2] Internet Access Services: Status as of December 31, 2013, Industry Analysis and Technology Division, Wireline Competitors Bureau, October 2014

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