House Attention to FCC

Members of Congress this week had an opportunity to weigh in on the workings of the Federal Communications Commission.  In fact, the full House of Representatives started the week with a vote on the FCC Process Reform Act (H.R. 2583). This bill, which was approved with broad, bipartisan consensus, included several measures aimed at improved Commission transparency and efficiency. Among them were provisions that would lead to new timelines for FCC proceedings, publication of proposed rule texts, required online disclosure of more FCC documents, and a searchable online database for consumer complaints. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), one of the chief sponsors of the legislation, stated, “While there is still much work to be done on reforming the procedures at this sometimes broken agency, this bill represents a vital first step in the process. The communications industry and more importantly, the American people, deserve a transparent and accountable federal agency, no matter who is in charge.”

Rep. Walden also chaired an FCC oversight hearing in the Communication & Technology Subcommittee this week.  All five Commissioners sat before the panel and fielded questions on a wide range of issues, including pirate radio, FCC enforcement proceedings, the use of online platforms by international terrorists, and the upcoming auction of television broadcast spectrum.  On the latter, Chairman Walden sought FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s “assurance that the FCC will fully and faithfully implement the law, that broadcasters will not be forced to participate, and that the Commission will make all reasonable efforts to preserve broadcasters’ coverage areas so that consumers can continue to enjoy over-the-air viewing.” 

Also, high on the minds of a number of subcommittee members was the net neutrality order. Notably, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) asked Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly if they thought the new government regulation of the Internet was sending a poor signal abroad, particularly to repressive regimes.  Both Commissioners agreed that it was.  This subject is one NRB has raised on a number of occasions, including through a Resolution approved by the NRB Board of Directors earlier this year that warned the heavy-handed net neutrality order could “send a poor signal to nations that have or are considering more state governance of the Internet.”

More details about the FCC Process Reform Act are here, and the full hearing video and written testimony are available here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

 

Published: November 20, 2015

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