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Compromise Reached on FCC Reform in House

Vote expected Wednesday

A compromise has been reached in the House on FCC reform.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are expected to approve the bipartisan proposed reforms on Wednesday.

Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden and Subcommittee Ranking Member California Democrat Anna Eshoo submitted an amendment to H.R. 3675, the FCC Process Reform Act, that they say presents the commission with a framework to bring additional transparency and predictability to the agency.

Among the proposals, the FCC would be required to establish “shot clocks” for action on proceedings. It requires the commission to outline for commissioners the options available to resolve a proceeding, to provide commissioners adequate time to deliberate pending orders and to provide the public time to read proposed orders prior to open meetings.

The FCC’s ability to review transactions would be preserved, but the bill requires conditions to be “remedies to harms that arise as a direct result of the transaction.”

The measure requires the FCC to allow a bipartisan majority of commissioners to direct staff to draft an order, place it on the agenda, and require that the agency vote. Currently, the agenda is up to the chairman.

The commission would need to release all orders within 30 days of adoption and publish documents in the Federal Register no more than 45 days after a document is released. The measure requires Notices of Proposed Rulemaking to follow within three years of Notices of Inquiry to ensure they remain current, to include the specific text of proposed rules, and to provide at least 30 days each for comments and replies.

The changes would also make it easier for commissioners to meet to discuss business outside of public meetings.

Walden said the subcommittee worked on the proposals for three years “to improve the transparency and predictability of FCC processes.”