Efforts to rein in the FCC's ability to make new regulations and impose conditions on mergers gained traction in Congress yesterday when an influential subcommittee passed a draft reform bill for the agency.
The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee approved the FCC Process Reform Act by a vote of 14 to 9 yesterday.
The bill includes provisions that would require the agency to gather public opinion before starting new rulemaking procedures; identify harm to consumers, market failures or a regulatory barrier to investment before adopting "economically significant" rules; demonstrate the benefits of regulations outweigh economic costs; and limit conditions imposed on mergers and other deals to "transaction-specific harms."
Some House Democrats have opposed the bill, saying it would place too many restrictions on the FCC's ability to regulate.
The legislation comes as Republican members of the GOP-controlled House have been unhappy with recent FCC regulations on issues such as net neutrality, which they have threatened to overturn.
"Consistency and transparency from the FCC will not only produce better decisions, they will help create confidence and certainty that will promote increased investment, innovation, and jobs," said Michigan Republican Fred Upton in a statement. Upton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Expecting transparency and accountability from Congress and from federal agencies should be a nonpartisan issue."
An FCC spokesman defended the agency's record, citing its work to reduce backlogs on license applications, the closing of nearly 1,000 dormant proceedings and an increase in the number of proposed regulations that contained the actual text of the potential rules.
"Since day one, Chairman Genachowski has directed the agency to improve performance and processes to support innovation, economic growth and America's global competitiveness," the spokesman said.