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House Dems Diss FCC Process Reform Bills

House Energy & Commerce Committee Democratic staffers panned the majority's FCC regulatory reform proposals in a staff memo on the Nov. 16 hearing on the bills in the Communications Subcommittee.

While they said some of the proposals reflected Democatic input, on balance the bills have the potential to undo decades of court precedent under the Administrative Procedures Act, and could create uncertainty and confusion for the FCC and interested stakeholders going forward.

The bills (HR 3309 and 3310) were introduced two weeks ago by Republican committee leaders, including Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and follows a discussion draft issued last spring.

The bills would, among other things, create shot clocks for action; require the commission to launch inquiries before proposes rules; always print the text of orders before adopting them, essentially requiring the FCC to hew to deadlines and stricter standards of justifying and implementing regs, including market and cost-benefit analyses; and make the regulatory standard more about preventing harms than an "indeterminate" public interest standard.

The Democratic staffer argue that the bills make changes that it will take the FCC and courts years to figure out and implement, including how the FCC decides a new reg would be a "burden on industry or consumers," and define "actual consumer harm" and "specific market failure" or what constitutes "adequate time" for consumers to vet a proposal before being to vote on a proposal.