House E&C Skeds Markup of FCC Reform Bills

The House Energy & Commerce Committee has scheduled a full-committee markup for its FCC reform bills, The Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act (H.R. 3309), and the The Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act (H.R. 3310).

The Republican-backed bills passed the Communications subcommittee in November along party lines.

Republicans are pitching the bills  as a way to improve the FCC by "increasing transparency, predictability, and consistency as part of Republicans' ongoing effort to ensure the commission's work encourages job creation, investment, and innovation."

Democrats argue that the reforms, which put a shot clock on FCC decisions, require cost-benefit analyses subjected to a judicial review, limit those merger conditions and much more and are a boon to business special interests rather than consumers.

According to a committee summary the bills:

- "Require the Commission to survey the state of the marketplace through a Notice of Inquiry before initiating new rulemakings to ensure the Commission has an up-to-date understanding of the rapidly evolving and job-creating communications marketplace.

- "Require the Commission to identify a market failure, consumer harm, or regulatory barrier to investment before adopting economically significant rules. After identifying such an issue, the Commission must demonstrate that the benefits of regulation outweigh the costs while taking into account the need for regulation to impose the least burden on society.

- "Require the Commission to establish performance measures for all program activities so that when the Commission spends hundreds of millions of federal or consumer dollars, Congress and the public have a straightforward means of seeing what bang we're getting for our buck.

- "Apply to the Commission, an independent agency, the regulatory reform principles that President Obama endorsed in his January 2011 Executive Order.

- "Prevent regulatory overreach by requiring any conditions imposed on transactions to be within the Commission's existing authority and be tailored to transaction-specific harms.

- "Enhance consistency and transparency in the Commission's operations by requiring the FCC to establish and disclose its own internal procedures

- "Empower the Commission to operate more efficiently through reform of the "sunshine" rules, allowing a bipartisan majority of Commissioners to meet for collaborative discussions subject to transparency safeguards.

- "Consolidate eight, separate congressionally mandated reports on the communications industry into a single comprehensive report with a focus on intermodal competition, deploying communications capabilities to unserved communities, eliminating regulatory barriers, and empowering small businesses."

John Eggerton

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.