The FCC’s five commissioners unanimously approved reform measures, chief among them new rules designed to bring more transparency to the ex parte process. It will require entities meeting face-to-face with commissioners to provide meaningful summaries of topics discussed, arguments made and data presented. Often at present, the summaries stop at the topic level. Other reforms are along the lines of those mentioned in a recent GAO report on FCC internal operations.
Regarding ex parte, it will also require electronic filing. Further, the FCC will seek comment on allowing entities two days rather than one to file, and requiring a summary of FCC licenses held by the entity to shed light on its motivations. It will also request comment on a clarifying rule, which would kick off the ban on further ex parte meetings during a sunshine period as of midnight on the day the sunshine notice is issued, rather than immediately upon issuance of the sunshine notice.
New procedures to increase efficiency would include things like allowing staffers to dispense with defective petitions for reconsideration – those that offer repetitive arguments, are untimely or fail on other grounds. It would allow staffers to clear out inactive dockets. In numerous ways, it would move away from paper and to electronic filing and notification.
When the Commission decides to reconsider an item, which it does on occasion within 30 days of action, it would clarify that it may modify the item in question, as oppose to only having latitude to toss it completely, as was ruled by a court that did not understand the intent of the reconsideration power.
In remarks, Commissioner Michael Copps praised the initiative and gave a shout-out to Representatives Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) who are trying to push through legislation which would permit face-to-face commissioner meetings. He said movement in all three of those areas would constitute historic reform.