As part of an ongoing effort by the Energy and Commerce Committee to review and improve how the Federal Communications Commission operates, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) are requesting an update on the Commission's backlog of petitions, complaints, and license applications. The committee last month released a report on the Workload of the FCC, which outlined the number of pending at items at the Commission based on July data. The chairmen wrote:
"There is growing consensus that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) processes need to be reformed. Under both Democratic and Republican chairmen, the FCC has fallen into practices that weaken decision-making and jeopardize public confidence. The data reported to the Committee on Energy and Commerce (Committee) in July 2011 demonstrated that there have been substantial improvements in the handling of the Commission's workload since Chairman Genachowski joined the Commission.
"Nevertheless, the Commission still faces significant challenges in its work, including a significant backlog of unanswered petitions and unheard consumer complaints. For example, the Commission had 5,328 petitions, more than a million consumer complaints, and 4,185 license applications that had been sitting for more than two years as of July 2011. This letter seeks updated data regarding the FCC's current workflow."
To help bring greater transparency and predictability to the FCC's operations, and with an emphasis on practices that will help the American public and regulated parties interact with the Commission, Chairman Walden has introduced legislation to focus the agency on its core responsibilities and make certain its decision-making processes are consistent and open. The Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, H.R. 3309, requires among other reforms for the FCC to establish its own "shot clocks" and to report to Congress periodically whether it met its own deadlines. Parties and the public deserve to know how quickly they can expect action in certain proceedings, as well as a schedule for when reports would be released.