WASHINGTON— In an effort to improve processes at the Federal Communications Commission, the House by voice vote passed the FCC Process Reform Act of 2015, known as H.R. 2583, on Monday.
The bill, which is designed to improve processes at the FCC and ensure more transparent decision-making, now goes to the Senate. It set several new rules for the commission.
It will require the FCC to set minimum comment periods for rulemakings, prevent the commission from placing large amounts of information in the record on the last day of a comment period and require publication of the text of proposed rules.
The bill also tackles procedural items, including public notices for rulemakings, petitions and applications; sets minimum periods for comments and replies; addresses commissioners’ deliberations; and clarifies when reports, decisions, budgets and other agency documents are made publicly available.
The bill sets language and date requirements as well: Proposed rules or amendments must be included in proposed rulemaking notices and be published at least 21 days before a vote.
It directs the FCC to do a cost-benefit analysis whenever any potential rule is expected to have an effect on the economy of at least $100 million annually. That issue — providing cost-benefit justification — was raised directly by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) during an FCC Oversight meeting the next day. Walden went down the table and asked every single commissioner if they were on board with this new priority.
“It is hard not to believe in cost-benefit analysis,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler when pressed by Walden.
The language also directs the FCC to establish procedures authorizing a commissioner to require the entire commission to vote on whether to review a particular FCC office’s actions and directs the FCC to seek public comment regarding whether the it should establish deadlines for disposition of certain license applications; assess fees from applicants to enhance the FCC’s resources to meet those deadlines; and publish orders, decisions, reports and actions within 30 days after adoption.
H.R. 2583 also requires the FCC to initiate a new rulemaking proceeding every five years to continue its consideration of procedural rule changes.
Read the bill:
FCC Process Reform Sent to Full House (June 2015)
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Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.