New FCC chief orders review of agency procedures

Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has ordered a review of how his agency crafts and enforces regulations. 

The review, announced one day after Wheeler was sworn into office, is a nod to legislation from Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, that would change certain FCC procedures. The bill would require the FCC to conduct cost-benefit analyses before adopting significant rules, set deadlines for agency decisions and provide the public an adequate opportunity to review proposals.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai has also called for similar changes.

"I am mindful of the proposals put forth by Commissioners and FCC staff, members of Congress, and other stakeholders regarding the way in which the FCC conducts business," Wheeler wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

He said he directed Diane Cornell, his special counsel, to lead a working group that will prepare a report within 60 days on whether to adopt some of the proposals. 

Wheeler also said he will "crowdsource" other proposals by asking for FCC staff input on "regulations that are past their prime and procedures that can be improved."

Democrats have expressed concern that some of Walden's proposals could open the FCC up to litigation or hamper its ability to protect consumers. 

But they support one provision that would repeal an FCC rule prohibiting more than two commissioners from meeting in private.

"I welcome Chairman Wheeler's openness to looking at ways to improve transparency and accountability for the American people and those that have business before the commission," Walden said in a statement, adding that he continues to work on his bill. 

In his blog post, Wheeler also outlined his priorities for the agency.

"The challenge America faces, and that this agency faces, is to secure the future through the actions of the present – by encouraging investment and innovation; preserving competitive opportunities; protecting consumers; and assuring the opportunities of the new network extend to all," he said.

Wheeler, a former industry lobbyist, emphasized the importance of promoting competition.

"Yet we all know that competition does not always flourish by itself; it must be supported and protected if its benefits are to be enjoyed," he said. "This agency is a pro-competition agency."

The new chairman gave a speech to the FCC staff earlier in the day in the agency's meeting room. He thanked Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for her work as acting chairwoman, introduced his team and outlined his vision for the agency, according to an FCC staffer.