H.R. 3675, the FCC Process Reform Act

March 11, 2014
  • This bipartisan legislation requires the FCC to make certain changes to its rules within one year, with the goal of improving agency processes and making the commission more transparent, efficient, and accountable.
  • The bill requires the commission to seek comment and adopt rules that:
    • Set minimum comment periods for rulemaking proceedings;
    • Allow time for public comment by eliminating the practice of placing large amounts of data into the record on the last day of the public comment period;
    • Increase transparency regarding items before the commissioners;
    • Require publication of the text of proposed rules; and,
    • Set timelines for FCC action on certain types of proceedings.
  • The bill also requires the FCC to conduct an inquiry into reform of more complex issues, such as commission review and voting procedures and whether it is feasible to publish text of items to be considered before the commission votes on them.
  • Both the rulemaking and the inquiry require the commission to set expected timelines for certain proceedings and to report to Congress annually on whether the commission met the timelines. This gives the public a sense of what to expect from the FCC while retaining the FCC’s flexibility to set realistic goals.
  • The bill also provides mandatory transparency into the commission’s business by requiring publication of certain documents on the FCC’s website and mandating a searchable online database for consumer complaints.
  • The bill makes changes to the Government in the Sunshine Act to allow more than two commissioners to meet privately when certain safeguards for transparency are met. This change would not take effect until the commission completes the other requirements for process reform.
  • This bill also includes a waiver of the Antideficiency Act until the end of FY 2016 for the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. The fund has been subject to yearly waivers since its creation, which have routinely been granted. This waiver makes the process more efficient.
  • The FCC has issued a report on agency process reform, initiated by Chairman Tom Wheeler, which echoes many of the proposed reforms in this legislation.

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