House Panel Again Pursues FCC Reform

The Communications Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee this week renewed its pursuit of improving FCC operations. A subcommittee statement worried that while “[t]he communications marketplace is one of this country’s most vibrant sectors…. Poor process at the FCC… can produce flawed decisions and chill that vibrancy, particularly in this economy.”

Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) seeks to advance again The FCC Process Reform Act and The FCC Consolidated Reporting Act, both of which were passed by the House last Congress, only to be halted in the Democrat-controlled Senate. These bills are intended to prescribe rules for publication of, performance measures for, and a “shot clock” to act on FCC orders, as well as simplify reporting requirements.

“The last thing that we want to do is stifle an industry that is continually growing and innovating. Yet that is exactly what could happen if the FCC is not held to certain standards of decision-making,” stated Chairman Walden during a hearing on these bills. “The industry deserves an efficient and effective regulator we can truly call ‘expert,’ just as the public deserves a transparent and accountable federal government. These reforms are a good place to start.”

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), top Democrat on the full Committee, led Democrats in opposing the bill.  “It still undermines the ability of the FCC to act quickly and efficiently by putting in statute a dozen new mandatory process requirements, with each one subjecting the FCC to new court challenges,” he argued. “And it still alters fundamentally the agency’s authority to impose conditions during its transaction review process, effectively eviscerating the public interest standard that has guided the FCC for nearly eighty years.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 12, 2013