Republicans use president's regulation review principles on FCC

House Republicans want to take President Obama's executive order on regulatory reform principles for independent agencies and apply them to an old political target: the FCC. They also proposed new legislation to hold the commission accountable for its actions. Currently, the commission is not covered under the president's order, issued last January, and thus can operate without much oversight.

If passed by the entire Congress, which is not likely, the legislation would require the FCC to justify regulations according to costs and benefits and survey the marketplace periodically. Before initiating any new rulemakings, the FCC would be required to adhere to a list of strict conditions, including making sure the rule is cost effective, setting precise time limits and insuring that all merger conditions are tailored narrowly

The effort is part of Republican-sponsored bills (HR 3309 and 3310), which would apply cost-benefit analysis and other requirements to all new government regulations. A mark up of those bills is scheduled for next week.

A Republican staff memo was circulated saying that "many of the provisions are based on principles contained in the president's January 2011 executive order. Because that order applies only to executive agencies, it does not bind the Commission. While Chairman Genachowski has made good progress in improving process, only statutory changes can ensure that best practices continue from one administration to the next."

The Republican staff cited the FCC's handling of the recent Universal Service Reform order in October as an example of poor practice.

"The Commission added hundreds of pages of documents into the record at the last minute, giving parties almost no time to respond," the memo said. "And the Commission has still not released the text of the adopted order, preventing stakeholders and the public from knowing what the Commission has done."

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski circulated an updated draft, reflecting input from stakeholders, a few days before the Oct. 27 vote. This was done partially to reflect the input of stakeholders on the initial draft. The commission also gave stakeholders an extra day for comments, which restricted the sunshine period by one day.