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O’Rielly Puts the Pep Back in Policy and Process

FCC Commissioner touts the importance of diving deep into policy and process reforms at AEI meeting

The Federal Communications Commission’s Michael O’Rielly dug deep in the weeds of policy discussion in a speech with the American Enterprise Institute, saying some of the most dissimilar policy issues in place at the FCC can actually be tied together with a unifying message: that the FCC is committed to economic freedom, fiscal constraint and simplifying unnecessarily complicated process issues.

O’Rielly said that one of his key priorities since he arrived as a commissioner in 2013 has been advancing FCC process reforms, such as working to ensure more transparency for FCC rulemakings and orders that are coming up for a vote.

Despite concerns from former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, O’Rielly said, there were no doomsday scenarios once now-Chairman Ajit Pai moved to make commission meeting items publically available before a vote was made. This step is now taken before every FCC Open Meeting. “In fact, transparency has resulted in more informative discussions, fewer unnecessary meetings, and, overall, a better work product,” O’Rielly said. “Who would have guessed it?”

At the AEI meeting on April 19, O’Rielly suggested that the commission begin to apply this type of process reform to other areas, including those items that are on the commission’s circulation list. By doing so, the commission avoids creating a secretive, potentially abusive path ripe for considering documents of any length and importance, he said.

[Read: O’Rielly Seeks to Knock Down Barriers]

O’Rielly touted other ongoing changes at the commission, including the creation of the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA). This office is designed to bring a more effective cost-benefit analysis discussion to items being considered by the commission. Once established, the office will undertake what O’Rielly called a rigorous, economically grounded cost-benefit analysis for any rulemaking that could have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more.

The commission also adopted a rule that requires the OEA to sign off on an item prior to its release to the public. Up next: a rulemaking that will propose that OEA follow the set of guidelines standardized by the Office of Management and Budget when it comes to handling the way benefits and costs are measured and reported across agencies.

All these steps are designed to improve the interworking of the agency, O’Rielly said. “Overall, my ultimate goal remains: to leave the commission in a better procedural place than I found it,” he said.

The commissioner also touched on advancing 5G services, budgeting for the universal service fund and reviewing the commission’s rules regarding children’s programming.

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