Republican Senator Wants to Change How the FCC Does Business

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

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NH) speaks to members of the media on unemployment insurance on January 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has defeated two votes to renew the unemployment insurance benefits that was expired in December, 2013.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
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Laura Ryan
Feb. 4, 2014, 10:39 a.m.

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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