FCC chairman unveils plan to increase transparency

FCC chairman unveils plan to increase transparency
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday unveiled a plan to increase transparency at the FCC by making regulatory proposals public as early as three weeks before votes.

“Today, we begin the process of making the FCC more open and transparent,” Pai told reporters. “I’m pleased to announce this morning a pilot project that, if successful, will become a commission practice — one that will give the public much more insight into the commission’s activities.”

Until now, the FCC would announce items on the agenda for its monthly meetings, but the text of the rules would not be made public until after commissioners voted. That process was widely criticized by industry groups.

Moving forward, the agency will release a public Notice of of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), Report and Orders and other documents prior the FCC’s monthly open meeting.

Mignon Clyburn — the sole Democratic commissioner left on the FCC — did not comment on the policy change.

The new proposal was included in a bill called the FCC Process Reform Act that unanimously passed the House in January.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who sponsored the process reform legislation, and technology subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThree states where Dems can pick up Senate seats Ex-Tennessee gov's Senate campaign notifies FBI of potential hack Overnight Regulation: White House says Trump still opposes elephant trophies despite new policy | SEC wants crypto exchanges to register | GOP senator offers net neutrality bill | Biofuel pushes Trump to preserve ethanol mandate MORE (R-Tenn.), applauded Pai's move on Thursday.

“This is the type of transparency we’ve been urging the FCC to implement for the last several Congresses. Then-Commissioner Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly had long pushed for greater transparency during Chairman Wheeler’s tenure, and we are pleased to see that just two weeks into Commissioner Pai's chairmanship we are already seeing positive changes at the commission,” Walden and Blackburn said in a joint statement.

Senate Republicans also praised the move.

"After leading an investigation last year into the FCC’s manipulation of information in advance of open meetings, I believe that a more transparent FCC will be more credible and more accountable," Senate Commerce Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytic for answers on data Overnight Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian White House, Democrats reject competing DACA offers MORE (R-S.D.) said in a joint statement with Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytic for answers on data McDaniel to run for open Senate seat in Miss. rather than challenge Wicker Mississippi is new headache for GOP in the South MORE (R-Miss.) chairman of the Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerRepublican drops Senate primary challenge to Heller after Trump's urging Three states where Dems can pick up Senate seats GOP senator: Justice Kennedy is going to retire this summer MORE (R-Nev.), sponsor of the FCC Process Reform Act.


“I am pleased that the new leadership is correcting this long-recognized process flaw,” Thune said.  

During Thursday’s announcement, Pai released two documents that will be on the agenda for the FCC’s next meeting later this month. One was a notice that the FCC is seeking public input on a proposal to allow television broadcasters to use the ATSC 3.0, a next-generation standard. The other was a proposal to give more flexibility to FM radio stations rebroadcasting AM programming.

“Should things go well, my hope is to make it the norm to publicly release, well in advance, the text of all agenda items for monthly commission meetings,” Pai said. “And my goal is a simple but powerful one: equal access to the administrative process.”

—Updated at 2:28 p.m.