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Walden Plans Hearing, Legislation On Reforming FCC

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden said Wednesday to look for a hearing and legislation on FCC reform.

The Oregon Republican and former broadcaster, speaking at the American Cable Association annual summit in Washington, did not talk about specific reforms, but he is very publicly on the record in opposition to the FCC's highest-profile rulemaking decision, the network neutrality rules passed last December.

Walden introduced a resolution, which passed the House, invalidating those rules, which he says the FCC did not have the authority to implement. Democrats have criticized the effort as a waste of time since the Senate is highly unlikely to follow suit and the President highly likely to veto it if they did.

But Walden said the FCC was a "creature of Congress," and suggested it was Congress' duty to keep that creature in check if it starts to run loose. "Failure to do that only gives them license to do other things they don't have the authority to do," he said.

He said FCC reform will be "serious topic" the FCC will be working on "diligently in the weeks ahead." He said discussions have already begun on the effort and the subcommittee is seeking input from "those who have an interest in FCC process. He said he thinks that commissioners from both parties agree that the process can be improved.

Republicans, notably Meredith Attwell Baker, have called for reviewing the FCC's merger-review process, for example, while Commissioner Michael Copps has been pushing for Congress' help in allowing more than two commissioners to meet privately, which FCC sunshine rules currently prohibit.

Walden said he thinks that reform can be achieved in a "positive and constructive way," likening it to Republican's rewriting of the House rules--Walden was chairman of the GOP transition team--to make it more "open, transparent and accountable" by requiring legislation to be online three days before a vote and reducing the size of bills. "I think we can do that at the FCC," he said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has made openness and transparency watchwords bordering on buzzwords for the commission already, but Walden's take was that: "We can create an FCC where you make the decision after discovering there is actually a problem rather than announce the rules, then build a case, then lose it in court." He did not say he was talking about the network neutrality rules he opposes, but that has been his and other Republican's knock on them.

"I think there is a better way to operate and we intend to move down that path," he said, before sending the small and mid-sized cable operators off to Hill visits with the advice to "take it slow" with their members since they know more about their issues than the legislators do.