A key Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee recommended Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission overhaul what he called its “Byzantine” regulatory processes.
“We need to improve the quality of the FCC’s decisions, and the country’s trust of the FCC itself,” said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Stearns also is a member of the committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which he was the ranking member in the 111th Congress.
Stearns and other Republicans have been accusing the Democratic-led agency of overstepping its jurisdiction with the adoption of Internet fairness rules in December—and through other efforts to impose new regulations.
Stearns made his remarks at an event on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Free State Foundation think tank.
In particular, Stearns faulted the FCC for taking weeks or months to release the text of rule changes approved by the agency’s commissioners. This feeds a public perception that the details get “ironed out later through backroom deals,” he said.
Stearns also wants the agency to overhaul its method for reviewing mergers. While the FCC has a six-month “shot clock” for such reviews, it often stops the clock or fails to meet its own deadline. Stearns noted that it took the FCC 16 months to review and approve the union of XM and Sirius radio.
In response, a top FCC official who participated in a panel discussion at the event said the commission is evolving with the times.
“When it comes to regulatory reform, we’re open to business,” said Eddie Lazarus, chief of staff to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “We are engaged in a retrospective review of our regulations.”
Nevertheless, Lazarus conceded that the agency is not completely in sync with the digital age. “We still have some regulations related to telegraph services, which I don’t think even exist any more,” he said.
This article appears in the April 13, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily.