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House Republicans Draw Up FCC Reform Bill Outlines

House Republicans Draw Up FCC Reform Bill Outlines

House Communications Subcommittee majority staffers have come up with a discussion draft of proposed FCC process reform legislation that would include a shot clock and cost-benefit analysis on any new rules, allow more than two commissioners to meet outside of public meetings, and require new reports to Congress on the state of the industry and of the FCC's efforts to speed its rulemaking process.

The bill would also address some of the Republican concerns about the FCC's vetting of mergers and application of conditions.

One provision would require and conditions to be narrowly tailored and confined to things the FCC could otherwise impose through its rule making authority. Fred Upton (R- Mich.), chair of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) were both critical of the network neutrality condition placed on the Comcast/NBCU deal, which applies even if the court rules the FCC did not have the authority to adopt its network neutrality rules.

And the new legislation could change the balance of power at the commission by allowing a bipartisan majority of commissioners to put items on the FCC agenda, something that can't happen now (and a change the current chairman has not supported).

All that is according to a majority staff memo for the June 22 hearing on FCC reforms in the House Communications Subcommittee.

"Under chairmen from both parties, the FCC has fallen into practices that weaken decision-making and jeopardize public confidence," the memo reads. While giving current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski props for some of the reforms he has already instituted, the Republicans are looking for more, pointing out the suggestions, including shot clocks, commissioners offering agenda items, and other changes posed by some of the commissioners themselves at the May 13 hearing on reform in the same committee.

In addition to taking into account the input from commissioners at the May hearing, the memo cites as sources for the proposed changes H.R. 2183, the FCC reform bill authored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), former chair of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee, and introduced in the last Congress, as well as HR 1009, the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act, introduced in the current Congress by ranking Communications Subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Barton and others (it would allow commissioners to meet outside of public meetings) and reform recommendations from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (A NARUC witness will be a the June 22 hearing) and work by the Administrative Conference of the United States on agency rulemaking reform.