The House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican members are introducing what they bill the "trifecta" in legislation to improve FCC transparency, and say they have lined up FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and process critic Michael O'Rielly to testify at a hearing on the bills April 30.
The committee has had a long-standing interest in FCC process reform, but it was peeked by the chairman's refusal to break with tradition and publish his draft of new network neutrality rules, a decision O'Rielly and House Republicans criticized as less than transparent.
Wheeler suggested that to change that horse in midstream would require following procedures that would have delayed the imposition of new rules to fill the gap left by the court's decision to invalidate his predecessor's efforts at an Open Internet order.
The bills would: 1) "[R]equire the FCC to publish a list of items that are placed on delegated authority — that is, decided at the bureau level in lieu of a commission vote." It is being introduce by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio). 2) "[R]equire the FCC to publish the draft of a rulemaking, order, report or any other action when it is circulated to the commissioners for a vote [the chairman or commissioners could make changes after that, but the idea is for the public to see what the chairman has proposed." It is being introduced by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). 3) A bill from Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) would "require the FCC to publish new rules on the same day that they are adopted."\
“This common-sense legislation is crucial to ushering in much-needed transparency at the FCC. By requiring the FCC to publish approved rules on their website within 24-hours of passage, we are holding this commission of unelected bureaucrats accountable for the policies they advance," said Ellmers of her bill.
“The bottom line is that the public has a right to know what policies the FCC is enacting. Today’s legislation puts an end to the agency’s standard excuses and delays when it comes to openly publishing their policies and instead strengthens accountability at the FCC.”
"[W]e’ve got a trifecta for transparency. These bills are excellent next steps for our #CommActUpdate as we continue work to reform the FCC,” said Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). The committee is planning to get down to business on communications law reform this Congress after laying the groundwork through a series of white papers and hearings. “At our hearing next week, Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner O’Rielly’s testimony will help shine the spotlight on current commission practices as we take a look at three commonsense proposals to improve transparency at the FCC. At the end of the day, more transparency is always better.”
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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.