November 23, 2015

Reforms Coming to Federal Communications Commission? House Passes Bipartisan Legislation

Legislative efforts to increase transparency, efficiency and accountability at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are underway. On November 16, 2015, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2583, the FCC Process Reform Act of 2015. Authored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), the bill is the result of a multi-year, bipartisan effort to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to:

  • Establish minimum comment and reply periods for rulemakings
  • Allow time for public comment by eliminating the practice of placing large amounts of information into the record on the final day of a comment period
  • Increase public transparency of items before the commissioners
  • Require publication of the text of proposed rules
  • Set timelines for FCC actions on certain types of proceedings

The bill also would require the FCC to publish on its website the status of open rulemakings, the number of pending petitions and other requests for action by the FCC (along with how long each item has been pending), and information on congressional investigations of the FCC and the cost of such investigations.

The bill was passed out of committee by voice vote in October, and on November 16 it passed on the House floor under suspension of the rules by voice vote without opposition. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Heller (R-NV) and Daines (R-MT), but has not yet been considered by the Senate Commerce Committee.

FCC process reform is an issue that has received continued interest as the Commission has been involved in a number of high-profile decisions of late related to spectrum auction and net neutrality. Many say it is the first step necessary to updating the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

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