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Rep. Walden: Hoping For Bipartisan FCC Process Reform By Fall

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he hopes to be able to agree on bipartisan FCC process reform legislation sometime in the fall.

Walden is hoping to establish shot clocks, cost-benefit analyses and other FCC reforms, but has run into opposition from Democrats.

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute Tuesday (Sept. 17), he personalized the need for reform by pointing out that the FCC just this year granted his 10-year-old application to license a couple of radio translators. Walden, a former radio station owner, had sold the stations in 2007.

He pointed out that while the FCC had taken 10 years to grant the application, it had then given him only 10 days to perfect that application. "If the FCC is able to set shot clocks for licensees, surely it can set shot clocks for itself and report to Congress how well it is meeting them."

The Walden-spearheaded Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013, which combines a number of FCC annual reports into one report and gets rid of some others, passed unanimously in the House, a point noted by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who asked for applause for the accomplishment. The FCC Process Reform Act, which includes the shot clocks and analysis Walden seeks, made it out of the subcommittee along with the reporting act, but Democrats still had issues--the ones Walden hopes to work out this fall.

Walden emphasized the need for major telecom reg reform, but wasn't sure how that would be achieved, whether through a comprehensive telecom rewrite or in pieces, but he suggested that it could not all be accomplished in the reauthorization of STELA, the bill covering satellite and cable compulsory licenses. That bill appears to be the most likely venue for any retrans reform.

The government needs to get out of the businesses of subsidizing competition to private investment, he said, including via the BTOP and BIP Obama Administration broadband subsidy/loan programs. That is a complaint long lodged by cable operators who argue the money allows for overbuilding of existing service.

"While there are certainly valuable uses for programs like BTOP and BIP in truly unserved areas, lack of planning and analysis of projects have led to poor execution, and over building of private networks in many instances. As a result, there has being a significant waste of taxpayer dollars that discourages private investment and threatens existing services to consumers. When the private sector and government-funded projects compete with each other, nobody wins – least of all the American public – especially when the government has to borrow the money!"

Walden said his subcommittee would hold a hearing next month on the fate of copper wire in a world of Internet delivery. The transition from traditional phone service to IP delivery is a hot topic in Washington as the FCC considers how to ease that transition and what, if any, legacy regs--interconnection requirements, for example--should carry over.

"The last thing we want to do is stifle the unprecedented innovation of the Internet by subjecting it to the complicated outdated government imposed rules of the plain old telephone network," Walden said.