FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says that Republican FCC reform proposals would hurt, not help, his agency, delaying decisions and invite litigation.
That is according to Wheeler's prepared testimony for an April 30 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on a trio of Republican backed FCC process reform bills.
Those bills would require the commission to list the items that have been approved at the bureau level on delegated authority, to publish the drafts of rulemakings when they are circulated to the other commissioners by the chairman's office before a vote and to publish rules the same day they are voted on.
But Wheeler says those bills will not improve the FCC's ability to help consumers and the public interest of respond more efficiently to businesses that need the FCC to be efficient.
"I have reviewed the legislative proposals at the center of this hearing," he says, "and have serious concerns that these proposals fail that test. They would create burden without concomitant benefit."
He says the bills "single out" and "would hurt, not help, the Commission's work and mission." Rather than cut through red tape, he says, they would add new layers.
On the issue of singling out the FCC for special treatment, he said that "creating agency-specific processes has serious and negative effects. It would add additional procedural steps and would slow the decision-making process, risking paralysis when the FCC needs to be nimble to keep up with a sector that operates at Internet speed."
He also said they would increase litigation and complicate that judicial review, while discouraging innovation. To check out Wheeler's examples of the damage he thinks the legislative proposals could do to FCC process, go here.
Wheeler also plans to point to the reforms he has already instituted without the need for the blunt instrument of legislative mandates.
He says those include reducing "backlogged" requests from petitioners and licensees by 44%, closing more than 1,500 dormant dockets, resolving over 2,000 applications in the Wireless Telecom Bureau that were over six months old and reducing Media Bureau pending applications for review by 57%.
As to transparency, he points out that the FCC launched a new Consumer Help Center, is reworking its website to make it easier to navigate and search, has expanded online filing, and last month launched a task force staffed by the offices of all five commissioners to review FCC processes and make recommendations.
"We are moving ahead without legislation. In fact, a number of once hot topics, which were once the subject of legislative proposals, have been addressed through non-legislative process reforms, such as posting the Commission's budget on our website, establishing minimum comment periods, and including draft rules with Notices of Proposed Rulemaking," he said.
"The subcommittee's press release says that more transparency is always better, so I look forward to knowing more about who's lobbying members of Congress before these kinds of bills and discussion drafts are introduced," said Free Press Action Fund policy director Matt Wood. "In some respects, the FCC's current process is far and away more transparent than anything Congress does. Anyone can look at the FCC ex parte record to learn both who's meeting with the Commission and what they're saying."
"This unqualified praise and enthusiasm for transparency should apply to the legislative branch, too. In their sudden zeal for openness and accountability, subcommittee members should take a hard look at their own practices."
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