As the committee prepares to vote on legislation to increase transparency and accountability at the Federal Communications Commission, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today expressed concern regarding the lack of transparency surrounding the FCC's recent universal service proceedings.
The chairmen wrote, "Given the keen interest of Congress in seeing the FCC's internal procedures subjected to public scrutiny, we are particularly concerned with the Commission's recent conduct with respect to the universal service item adopted at the Commission's October open agenda meeting.
"Some of the Commission's actions in this proceeding have reaffirmed our concerns about process. For example, the Subcommittee has previously noted that the Commission should give the public adequate time to review and respond to all materials in the record before the Commission's sunshine rules bar public efforts to influence Commissioners and staff. Some have explicitly cited the last-minute "data dump' in the net neutrality proceeding, where the Commission entered into the record over 1,900 pages of documents in the two days before that record closed. We are disappointed to see that the Commission used the same tactic in the universal service docket.
"Another process concern has been ensuring that Commissioners have adequate time to review items they are expected to vote on, and keeping the public informed on what Commissioners are in fact voting. The practice of negotiating up to, and sometimes after, the Commission's open agenda meeting appears to have reached an apex in the universal service proceeding."
The chairmen requested the FCC outline what changes were made to the universal service item between the time it was considered and the time it was adopted. Click here to view a full copy of the letter and requested materials.
On Tuesday, November 29, the Energy and Commerce Committee will convene a markup on the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, H.R. 3309, which will enhance transparency, fairness and consistency in the Commission's operations by requiring the Commission to establish and disclose its own internal procedures.