Republicans in Congress trying to bridle the FCC


The hearings have been held, and now legislation is on its way to put some restraints on the FCC. Greg Walden (R-OR) in the House and Dean Heller (R-NV) are calling for cost-benefit analysis, a demonstration of market failure and a number of other hurdles that the FCC may have to clear before putting new regulations in place.

Walden said, “At a time when job creators are crippled with regulatory uncertainty, Congress has the obligation to ensure that federal agencies carry out the public’s business transparently. The technology and communications sector is the most innovative in our country—it deserves the most innovative and open government agency. Taking a page from the President’s executive order, we have been examining ways to improve transparency and efficiency at the FCC. We have reached out to our Democratic colleagues, Chairman Genachowski, each commissioner, and job creators to identify what current FCC processes work and what can be improved. Taking this feedback into account, we developed a series of sensible process reforms to improve the way the Commission operates. I appreciate Senator Heller’s leadership in the Senate to ensure we move these commonsense reforms through both chambers and get them to the President’s desk in a timely manner.”

Heller said, “If we are going to get Americans working again, Congress must take action and remove the weight of big government from our nation’s innovators and ntrepreneurs.  The technology sector has helped power economic growth in our country for the last twenty years and will continue to if big government does not over burden it.  Stifling the technology sector with onerous regulations will only impede new job creation at a time when we need jobs most.  Stopping oppressive regulations will be critical to getting our nation’s economy moving again and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

Legislative Summary

Protecting Jobs by Ensuring Regulatory Benefits Outweigh Costs
* Require the Commission to survey the state of the marketplace through a Notice of Inquiry before initiating new rulemakings to ensure the Commission has an up-to-date understanding of the rapidly evolving and job-creating telecommunications marketplace.

* Require the Commission to identify a market failure, consumer harm, or regulatory barrier to investment before adopting economically significant rules. After identifying such an issue, the Commission must demonstrate that the benefits of regulation outweigh the costs while taking into account the need for regulation to impose the least burden on society.

* Require the Commission to establish performance measures for all program activities so that when the Commission spends hundreds of millions of federal or consumer dollars, Congress and the public have a straightforward means of seeing what bang we’re getting for our buck.

* Apply to the Commission, an independent agency, the regulatory reform principles that President Obama endorsed in his January 2011 Executive Order.

* Prevent regulatory overreach by requiring any conditions imposed on transactions to be within the Commission’s existing authority and be tailored to transaction-specific harms.

Promoting Transparency, Fairness, and Efficiency in Commission Operations
* Enhance consistency and transparency in the Commission’s operations by requiring the FCC to establish and disclose its own internal procedures for:
** adequate review and deliberation regarding pending orders,
** publication of orders before open meetings,
** initiation of items by bipartisan majorities, and
** minimum public review periods for statistical reports and ex parte communications.

* Require the FCC to establish its own “shot clocks” so that parties know how quickly they can expect action in certain proceedings and provide a schedule for when reports would be released.

* Empower the Commission to operate more efficiently through reform of the “sunshine” rules, allowing a bipartisan majority of Commissioners to meet for collaborative discussions subject to transparency safeguards.

Simplifying Reporting Requirements
* Consolidate eight, separate congressionally mandated reports on the communications industry into a single comprehensive report with a focus on intermodal competition, deploying communications capabilities to unserved communities, and eliminating regulatory barriers.

RBR-TVBR observation: If the Walden-Heller initiative makes it into law, what will happen when the FCC is putting regulations in place at the behest of Congress, only to be forced into telling Congress that it cannot do so because of prior instructions from Congress? Under the right circumstances this could become very interesting.

Take the CALM Act. Will it cost businesses money to implement? Yes. Is there a monetary benefit to the economy? Other than manufacturers of volume-squelching equipment and the savings on wear and tear some may put on hearing aid and television remote volume controls, we sincerely doubt it. So would this require the FCC to tell Congress, which overwhelmingly supported CALM, that it cannot implement it because it can’t clear the Walden-Heller hurdle?

The unavoidable fact is that government is not a business, and while it can learn from private business, it can’t be held to the same standards because of the vast difference in mission. We don’t want the Pentagon to be worried about turning a profit when it is protecting our borders, and we don’t want the FCC to be worried about cost-benefit when it figures out how to move LPFMs onto the dial on bipartisan Congressional instructions without causing harmful interference to existing stations. Just sayin’…