This blog could be a little formal and a little more technical than usual but I am going to take care of the formal and technical part by linking to a press release on the subject for the details. That would be HERE.
What we’ve got is regulatory change that affects MCAA members who make level probing radar instrumentation. Some four years ago a group of members contacted MCAA and asked whether they could work together to try to change the rules that governed these products and how they were regulated by the FCC. It took time and effort for the members to come to consensus. We hired an expert in the field, Mitchell Lazarus of the law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, who is adept at dealing with the FCC and understood the technology involved in the LPR issue (a rare combination!). There followed a somewhat byzantine path to our exciting news from January 15 2014 that the FCC is amending the Rules allowing level probing radars to operate anywhere in the country without a license. There were conversations, memorandums, information, examples, Notices, comments, replies and finally an Order. Excitement reigns at MCAA.
This was a fairly narrow issue of importance to a handful of companies. We learned that the US rules put us out of step with the rest of the world and that meant that companies had to make a different kind of instrument to sell in the US market (or make the determination not to sell this instrumentation at all in the US). That’s not good for manufacturers of instrumentation and its not good for the customers that we are trying to serve. Yes, it was a long process. But one company trying it alone would have spent more money and more time and might not have had success. At the bottom line, this is how a trade Association can help its members.
MCAA does not have a public affairs staff with a presence in Washington meeting with regulators and legislators. We have expressly avoided such a presence. In all honestly, while a native of Washington, DC, I really do not speak the same language and I don’t intend to learn. But MCAA found the right help in this matter in the form of legal counsel, Mitchell Lazarus. Mitchell not only understood the process of the FCC (based on his many years of dealing with their formal processes for review and change) but he also understood the technology involved. He had worked with some MCAA members on a waiver for a specific product. By broadening our scope and working together–finding consensus–MCAA and its members were able to put together a compelling argument for the FCC. We were allowed the opportunity to let them see our information and their technical staff took the initiative to press forward to amend the rules. It didn’t happen overnight because the FCC has to allow commentary from anyone with skin in the game and to make sure that they are seeing all of the ramifications of their decisions. There is a formal process for these matters and it just has to be allowed to work through the normal chain of events. But in the end, for the most part, the information that we shared with the FCC technical officials formed the basis for the new Rules which will go into effect in March.
We are still working to make changes in the Product Approvals Process. This month we hope to see the release of a Request for Information from the OSHA office that manages the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory program. That office will be setting into motion what we expect will be the adoption of the IECEx Scheme for Hazardous Location testing and approvals in the US. A huge step to harmonize with the rest of the world on HazLoc equipment. We have other issues. And we will be pressing forward on them throughout 2014 and beyond. Our experience with the FCC tells us that change can happen, we can help shape that change and that companies, working together, have considerably more abilities than individual companies on their own.