Lawmakers Pass Weakened Version of FCC Reform Bill

Published December 14, 2015

By a voice vote, lawmakers in the U.S. House approved the FCC Process Reform Act, a bill adding new procedural oversight to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rulemaking process.

Provisions requiring FCC to publish the exact text of proposed rules weeks in advance of votes were removed in order to gain lawmakers’ support, but provisions suggesting FCC review transparency procedures were retained.

Seton Motley, president of Less Government, says weakening the bill allows FCC to continue operating in an unaccountable manner.

“After the election, [President Barack] Obama said he wanted the Internet reclassified as Title II,” Motley said. “Republicans wanted FCC to republish the proposed rules, but FCC refused. The two Republicans on the FCC commission didn’t get the text of the new proposed rules until a few hours before the vote.”

‘Why Do We Even Need an FCC Anymore?’

Motley says the weakened version of the Process Reform Act is ineffective.

“This bill has done nothing to rein in the players,” Motley said. “The FCC is supposed to be this independent, expert agency that makes decisions based on facts and numbers—but they’re not.”

Motley says technological innovation is at odds with government interference.

“In 20 years, nothing in the history of human endeavor has grown bigger, faster, or better than the Internet, because the government had not been involved,” Motley said. “So why do we even need an FCC anymore? To paraphrase Jesse Jackson, ‘End it, don’t mend it.'”

‘Procedural Tinkering’

James Gattuso, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, says reforming FCC will require more than small changes at the margins to reverse the vast new authority taken on during the Obama administration.

“The problem is the vast and ill-defined new authority the FCC has asserted over broadband providers,” Gattuso said. “This requires substantive reforms, and will not be resolved by procedural tinkering. I worry that a lot of the reforms will simply increase the number of reports and disclosures for the FCC without changing things too much.”

Gattuso says FCC is an agency seeking problems to solve with wrong answers.

“The broadband industry is providing unprecedented benefits to consumers now, in terms of innovation, quality, and price,” Pusateri said. “The open Internet rules are not needed and threaten to jeopardize broadband’s future growth. The situation is more complicated for broadcast, cable, and video issues, but generally the FCC should be looking to reduce its footprint in that sector as well.”

Leo Pusateri ([email protected]) writes from Saint Cloud, Minnesota.