The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today continued efforts to protect jobs and innovation and discussed ways to ease regulatory burdens. The subcommittee discussed draft legislation to reform the Federal Communications Commission's processes, codifying best practices to ensure consistency from issue to issue and from one commission to the next.
"The communications and technology sector is one of the largest drivers of our economy," said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "At a time when overall job creation remains weak and burdensome rules and red tape are keeping job creators on the sidelines, we should be doing everything we can to unleash the creativity and innovative potential of this sector. Eliminating outmoded rules, removing regulatory barriers, and refraining from imposing new ones on this segment of our economy could do a lot to help spur jobs and help pull us out of our fiscal doldrums."
Subcommittee Chairman Walden said, "At our last hearing, we heard the FCC Chairman and his fellow commissioners testify on what was working at the FCC, recent improvements in the FCC's processes, and what could still be improved. Chairman Genachowski explained that the agency has already improved the transparency of the commission in several regards--by publishing the specific text of proposed rules, by releasing orders shortly after adoption, and by proposing to eliminate unnecessary and outdated regulations. But all of this is discretionary. Congress has the authority and the responsibility to ensure that the agency--conducting the public's business--does so with transparency and accountability. It's not asking too much to have the FCC actually codify a set of best practices and operate by them."
FCC Process Reform: Transparency, Efficiency, and Economic Common Sense
The draft legislation reviewed by the subcommittee includes a series of sensible process reforms designed to improve the way the FCC operates, with a focus on ensuring the commission's work does not limit job creation, investment, or innovation in the sector.
Protecting Jobs by Ensuring Regulatory Benefits Outweigh Costs
* Require the commission to conduct an economic analysis of industries that would be affected by the rules before initiating a new rule-making and provide certain minimum amounts of time for comments.
* Prevent the commission from imposing burdens on consumers or industry unless it first identifies a market failure and consumer harm justifying the burden. If such rules are needed, the commission must perform a cost-benefit analysis and create performance measures for the rule's continued evaluation.
* Ensure any conditions imposed on transactions are tailored to transaction-specific harms and within the commission's general rule-making authority.
* Promote a renewed focus on the economic opportunities and challenges for the communications sector with a biennial report to Congress from the commission giving a big-picture view of what's happening in the industry, the challenges for jobs and economic growth, and the Commission's plans to address those issues.
Promoting Transparency, Fairness, and Efficiency in Commission Operations
* Enhance consistency and transparency in the commission's operations by requiring the FCC to establish its own internal procedures for:
- adequate review and deliberation regarding pending orders,
- publication of orders before open meetings,
- initiation of items by bipartisan majorities, and
- minimum public-comment periods.
* Establish "shot clocks" so that parties know how quickly they can expect action in certain proceedings and provide a schedule for when reports would be released.
* Empower the commission to improve the way it conducts business and operate more efficiently with sunshine reform, allowing three or more commissioners to meet for collaborative discussions so long as certain safeguards are in place.
Walden concluded, "These ideas are not the end of the discussion but the beginning. I am open to the input of our witnesses, the public, and my colleagues. When it comes to improving the transparency, accountability, and efficiency of the FCC, I'm convinced we can find common ground."