Sen. Heller Introduces FCC Process Reform Bill

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) has introduced FCC process reform legislation similar to a bill that passed in the House earlier this year.

Heller pointed out that the FCC last week held discussions about process reform at its open meeting. Process reform was high on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's "to do" list.

“These issues have won bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, and the Administration is acting as well. Unfortunately, there has been no action in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in recent years," Heller said. "The Commerce Committee should act quickly to take up either measure that I have introduced, as well as my colleagues’ ideas,” Heller continued.

Heller also introduced a Senate version of a bill consolidating a number of FCC reports.

Heller's just-introduced Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2014 would:

"Require the Commission to survey the state of the marketplace through a Notice of Inquiry before initiating new rulemakings to ensure the Commission has an up-to-date understanding of the rapidly evolving and job-creating telecommunications marketplace."

"Require the Commission to identify a market failure, consumer harm or regulatory barrier to investment before adopting economically significant rules. After identifying such an issue, the Commission must demonstrate that the benefits of regulation outweigh the costs while taking into account the need for regulation to impose the least burden on society."

"Require the Commission to establish performance measures for all program activities so that when the Commission spends hundreds of millions of federal or consumer dollars, Congress and the public have a straightforward means of seeing what bang we’re getting for our buck."

"Apply to the Commission, an independent agency, the regulatory reform principles that President Obama endorsed in his January 2011 Executive Order."

"Prevent regulatory overreach by requiring any conditions imposed on transactions to be within the Commission’s existing authority and be tailored to transaction-specific harms."

The bill would also promote transparency, Heller says, by requiring the FCC to disclose how it reviews and deliberates on orders, publish those orders before open meetings, allow a bipartisan majority to initiate items—the chairman currently controls the agenda—establish minimum review periods, establish shot clocks, and reform the sunshine rules to allow a bipartisan majority of commissioners to meet in nonpublic meetings subject to safeguards for transparency.

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.