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Tech

Republican Senator Wants to Change How the FCC Does Business

Heller’s bill aims to make the FCC faster, more efficient.

Sen. Dean Heller(Getty Images)

February 4, 2014

Senator Dean Heller introduced legislation Tuesday that aims to help the Federal Communications Commission keep pace with the industries it regulates.

The Nevada Republican's measure is very similar to a bipartisan bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in December. Republicans say it would make the FCC more efficient and transparent by beefing up disclosure of internal processes, creating shot clocks for decision making, and establishing performance metrics.

"As a regulator and overseer of major contributors to our economy, what happens at the Federal Communications Commission affects our nation's economic recovery and growth," Heller said in a statement. "This bill will help create an FCC that is more transparent and predictable, and provide individuals and businesses in the communications and technology sectors with the certainty they need to invest in infrastructure and grow their businesses."

 

Process reform has been a top priority for some Republicans since 2011, but their first attempts were opposed by Democrats who feared parts of the proposed legislation would undermine the FCC's ability to protect consumers. Heller's bill is a watered-down version of his 2011 proposal and incorporates compromises from its House counterpart, such as allowing more than two commissioners to meet together at once.

The FCC is also working on its own internal-process reform. Last week, the five commissioners heard recommendations from a task force on the issue that was initiated during the new chairman's second day on the job.

The task force, lead by Special Counsel Diane Cornell, offered measures that would streamline review processes, eliminate outdated rules, reduce backlog, and update the agency's IT infrastructure.

"Our challenge at the FCC is to be as nimble as the innovators and businesses we oversee," Chairman Tom Wheeler said. "That's why improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency, especially the timeliness of our decision making, is one of my highest priorities."

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