FCC Launches New Economic Analysis Office

The FCC this week launched a new office aimed at enhancing the role of economic analysis in the commission’s work. After a party-line 3-2 vote, the agency announced its new Office of Economics and Analytics that would help ensure such calculations are “deeply and consistently incorporated as part of the agency’s regular operations.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai highlighted bipartisan applause outside the agency for this office, and he explained the organizational and operational changes intended to improve economic analysis in the agency and to make sure it has a real seat at the table in actual rulemaking. Pai also noted that he is interested in stirring a “culture of big-picture policy thinking” and making space for “unique opportunities for intellectual exchanges” by converging staff economists into one office.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn doubted the staff in the new office, most of whom would be re-assigned from elsewhere in the agency, would be objective in their work. Rather, she suspected “the majority will continue to mix and bake this deregulatory feeding frenzy, with the new office serving as icing on the cake.” Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, however, welcomed the change and said, “We are establishing an office that has the potential to take this commission in a more solid and defensible direction.”

Of note, the FCC also this week put out for public comment a proposed rulemaking that would eliminate a nearly 80-year-old requirement that broadcasters must regularly submit paper copies of contracts and a number of other ownership and operations documents. Commissioner Brendan Carr, highlighting the use of online filing, welcomed the proposal. He said this would be a good test case for his suggestion of a “Dunder Mifflin Rule” (referencing The Office TV series). Under that guideline, he suggested, “If the only beneficiary of a regulation is the paper supply industry, the regulation is void.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: February 2, 2018

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