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McDowell on Reforms: Buoyed by Potential Bipartisanship

Former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell is coming to Friday's House Communications Subcommittee hearing on FCC process reforms with a laundry list he has been compiling, and advocating for in various venues, for years, including numerous Hill hearings.

McDowell is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a partner at Wiley Rein, but says in his prepared testimony he is speaking for himself.

And speaking for himself, he said he was encouraged by the bipartisan effort — bills from Republicans, Democrats, and one from both, have been offered up — and said that whatever the Congress does, it should be based on "sound due process, transparency, accountability, fairness and efficiency."

To those points, he outlined his list of proposals compiled after more than half a decade on the commission, delivered with a plug for a broader rewrite of "creaky" communications laws. They include that:

1. "Forbearance authority should apply to all platforms and industries, not just traditional telecom services regulated under Title II;

2. "The Commission should be required to justify new rules with bona fide cost benefit market analyses;

3. "New rules should sunset after a defined period and their renewal should be justified from scratch in new proceedings with public notice and comment;

4. "The Commission should be required to complete merger reviews within a defined period (a true “shot clock”) unless it meets the burden of making an extraordinary showing that more time is needed for the review;

5. "Congress should consider adopting a statutory requirement that the public interest requires the Commission to justify every transaction approval condition and then tailor any condition narrowly;

6. "The assessment of regulatory fees, among many other initiatives, should be reviewed and reformed."

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.