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CBO Scores FCC Reform Act at $10 Million

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with its estimate (so-called "scoring") of how much H.R. 2583, the FCC Process Reform Act, will cost to implement--$10 million over the next five years--but it points out the FCC can pay for that by raising its fees to regulated entities.

The FCC pays for itself out of those fees.

"Under current law, the FCC is authorized to collect fees sufficient to offset the cost of its regulatory activities each year. Therefore, CBO estimates that the net cost to implement those provisions of H.R. 2583 would not be significant, assuming annual appropriation actions consistent with the agency’s authorities," CBO said.

As to the additional fees on users, like broadcast and cable operators, CBO suggested they could handle it.

"If the FCC increases annual fee collections to offset the costs of implementing its additional regulatory activities, the bill would impose a private-sector mandate on some commercial entities regulated by the FCC," it said. "Based on information from the FCC, CBO estimates that the cost of the mandate would be small, and fall well below the annual threshold established... for private-sector mandates ($154 million in 2015, adjusted annually for inflation)."

The bill, among other things, requires the commission to publish draft orders when they are circulated to the other commissioners, publish orders within 24 hours of a vote, and publish a list of the potentially precedential or important items voted on delegated authority — at the bureau rather than commission level — "a full" 48 hours before the decision.

It gives the FCC a year to set minimum comment periods, establishes procedures for putting specific language of a proposed rule in notices of proposed rulemaking, and comes up with performance measures for evaluating the effectiveness of rules.

In addition, it would require the FCC to provide an accounting of the status of petitions and other items, would require the publication of FCC policies and procedures for dispensing with items, and publish any changes to those, and require the FCC to work with the Small Business Administration to insure that those small businesses — often minority and women-owned — have more equal access to FCC process.

It also extends the FCC's exemption from "pay as you go" requirements that it has Universal Service Money on hand for subsidizing advanced telecom for schools and libraries.

It passed out a divided House Energy & Commerce Committee in June but has not gone to the floor.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.