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Communications and Technology Subcommittee Approves Legislation to Increase Transparency and Efficiency at FCC

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today approved the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 3309) by a vote of 14 to 9, and the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2011 (H.R. 3310) by voice vote. These bills improve the way the FCC operates by increasing transparency, predictability, and consistency as part of Republicans' ongoing effort to ensure the commission's work encourages job creation, investment, and innovation.

"The legislation we approved today--the FCC Process Reform Act and the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act--is the fruits of our own six-month, open and transparent legislative process," said Walden. "In response to the views presented at our hearings, as well as additional input from commissioners, stakeholders and colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we refined the draft legislation to create these two bills. In large part, the legislation asks the FCC to go through a process similar to what we've gone through in crafting this bill and to implement some of the reforms that the House itself adopted just this year."

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, "The communications and technology sector is one of the largest drivers of our economy and one that continues to create high-quality jobs despite the sluggish national economy. Consistency and transparency from the FCC will not only produce better decisions, they will help create confidence and certainty that will promote increased investment, innovation, and jobs. Expecting transparency and accountability from Congress and from federal agencies should be a nonpartisan issue. I'm glad to support these bills so that America's small businesses, entrepreneurs, and job creators can actually see what their government is doing."

Legislative Summary

Protecting Jobs by Ensuring Regulatory Benefits Outweigh Costs

* Require the Commission to survey the state of the marketplace through a Notice of Inquiry before initiating new rulemakings to ensure the Commission has an up-to-date understanding of the rapidly evolving and job-creating communications marketplace.
* Require the Commission to identify a market failure, consumer harm, or regulatory barrier to investment before adopting economically significant rules. After identifying such an issue, the Commission must demonstrate that the benefits of regulation outweigh the costs while taking into account the need for regulation to impose the least burden on society.
* Require the Commission to establish performance measures for all program activities so that when the Commission spends hundreds of millions of federal or consumer dollars, Congress and the public have a straightforward means of seeing what bang we're getting for our buck.
* Apply to the Commission, an independent agency, the regulatory reform principles that President Obama endorsed in his January 2011 Executive Order.
* Prevent regulatory overreach by requiring any conditions imposed on transactions to be within the Commission's existing authority and be tailored to transaction-specific harms.

Promoting Transparency, Fairness, and Efficiency in Commission Operations

* Enhance consistency and transparency in the Commission's operations by requiring the FCC to establish and disclose its own internal procedures for:
o adequate review and deliberation regarding pending orders,
o publication of orders before open meetings,
o initiation of items by bipartisan majorities, and
o minimum public review periods for statistical reports and ex parte communications.
* Require the FCC to establish its own "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 operate more efficiently through reform of the "sunshine" rules, allowing a bipartisan majority of Commissioners to meet for collaborative discussions subject to transparency safeguards.

Simplifying Reporting Requirements

* Consolidate eight, separate congressionally mandated reports on the communications industry into a single comprehensive report with a focus on intermodal competition, deploying communications capabilities to unserved communities, eliminating regulatory barriers, and empowering small businesses.

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