Most of the suggestions from the Government Accountability Office on upgrading FCC operations involve improved communication and transparency. It also said that the FCC chair should set clear guidelines on what kind of information and staff analysis commissioners are able to access.
The report noted that there are no written rules or internal policies spelling out commissioner access to staff analysis, “…and some chairmen have restricted this access. Such restrictions may undermine the group decision-making process and impact the quality of FCC’s decisions.” It recommends that chairman outline information sharing guidelines and make them publicly available.
GAO noted that the Commission’s bureau structure sometimes creates confusion, particularly when a given issue could fall under the jurisdiction of more than one. It noted that there are no rules guaranteeing that different bureaus effectively communicate with one another. It suggested identifying such issues in advance, name a lead bureau, spell out responsibilities and provide for interbureau communication.
On the transparency front, GAO’s main complaint was that proposals are frequently put forward for public comment without giving the public access to the actual text of the proposal. Without it, commentary is often difficult to focus.
The rules on summarizing ex parte meetings with FCC officials and getting the contents of the meetings to stakeholders are too vague, said GAO.
GAO also noted that the FCC’s workforce was aging, and suggested it needs to have a better plan in place to fill key positions, particularly among the economists and engineers on staff.
Two key House Democrats, Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rick Boucher (D-VA), commented.
“This report underscores the organizational challenges and opportunities facing the FCC,” said Markey. “The rapid evolution of the telecommunications marketplace requires an agile agency, and reforms initiated by Chairman [Julius] Genachowski have begun moving the FCC in a positive direction, particularly in the areas of transparency, public participation, and human capital management. I look forward to continued oversight of the FCC as it responds to the important findings in this report.”
“I am pleased Chairman Genachowski has already launched a wholesale review of FCC process and that we are already seeing some results from that review,” said Boucher. “I look forward to further reforms at the FCC and urge the Chairman to continue to take steps to ensure that the FCC serves the public interest by being open, transparent and accountable.”