On March 11, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 3675, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act. The Act is intended to increase transparency and predictability at the FCC. The FCC recently released its own Report on FCC Process, which focuses on improving its operations.
Highlights of this bipartisan legislation are:
- H.R. 3675 requires the FCC to make certain changes to its rules within one year, with the goal of improving agency processes and making the FCC more transparent, efficient, and accountable.
- The bill requires the FCC to seek comment and adopt rules that:
- Set minimum comment periods for rulemaking proceedings;
- Allow time for public comment by eliminating the practice of placing large amounts of data into the record on the last day of the public comment period;
- Increase transparency regarding items before the commissioners;
- Require publication of the text of proposed rules; and,
- Set timelines for FCC action on certain types of proceedings.
- The bill also requires the FCC to conduct an inquiry into reform of more complex issues such as commission review and voting procedures and whether it is feasible to publish text of items to be considered before they are voted on.
- Both the rulemaking and the inquiry require the FCC to set expected timelines for certain proceedings and to report to Congress annually on whether it met the timelines. This gives the public a sense of what to expect from the FCC while retaining the FCC’s flexibility to set realistic goals.
- The bill also provides mandatory transparency into the FCC’s business by requiring publication of certain documents on the FCC’s website and mandating a searchable online database for consumer complaints.
- The bill makes changes to the Government in the Sunshine Act to allow more than two commissioners to meet privately when certain safeguards for transparency are met. This change would not take effect until the FCC completes the other requirements for process reform.
- The bill also includes a waiver of the Antideficiency Act until the end of FY 2016 for the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. The fund has been subject to yearly waivers since its creation, which have routinely been granted. This waiver makes the process more efficient.
There are a number of proposed reforms that are shared by both H.R. 3675 and the FCC’s report. Areas of agreement are:
TMI has covered this issue for you in previous Blog postings: