Rep. Stearns calls for overhaul of ‘byzantine’ FCC processes

He said the public comment period on FCC proposals should come after proposals are released so stakeholders can be better informed about what they are commenting on. The FCC’s comment periods now come before proposals are unveiled to the public. 

He also called on the FCC to address the backlog in licensing requests. 

The FCC is "widely expected to change its mind between decision and regulation," Stearns said.

He endorsed legislation from Communications subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) that would allow two commissioners to meet privately, subject to certain disclosure rules. Such meetings are not barred for transparency reasons. 

"That would go a long way to solving the structural problems without sacrificing transparency," Stearns said. "Transparency and good management should not be partisan issues."

Chief of staff to the FCC chairman, Edward Lazarus, responded to the calls for reform.

"Sometimes [calls for regulatory reform are] code for disagreements over policy," he said, noting all the ways the FCC is already working to improves its processes.

He said the agency has overhauled its website, publishes its proposal rules when it initiates a rulemaking, allows ample time for comments, grants extensions and has "radically improved the opportunities for public comment by both small and large players."