House Passes FCC Reform Bill

The House today (March 11) voted to approve H.R. 3675, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, a bipartisan FCC process reform bill that passed unanimously out of the Energy & Commerce Committee. There was no recorded vote. The bill was instead approved on suspension, which is a suspension of the rules in order to pass noncontroversial bills.

Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who was one of the bill's primary backers, said it the vote moves an important piece of FCC reform forward.

The legislation, among other things, gives the FCC a year to set minimum comment periods, establish procedures for putting specific language of a proposed rule in notices of proposed rulemaking, and coming up with performance measures for evaluating the effectiveness of rules.

It also gives the FCC a year to complete an inquiry into a number of other changes, including allowing a bipartisan majority of commissioners to put items on the FCC agenda—currently only the chairman can do so, and setting deadlines for disposing of license applications.

The FCC under new chairman Tom Wheeler has made reform a priority as well.

“We welcome chairman Wheeler’s dedication to improving operations at the commission," said Walden said in a statement, "but legislation is still necessary to get the reforms on the books. Without codifying the reforms into law, there is no protection from a future chairman who may not appreciate the need for such transparency, predictability, and accountability."

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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.