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 BlackburnFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Google, Facebook and Drudge: What the new titans of media mean for America Learning from the states: Feds should adopt anti-pyramid scheme law 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 ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.) said in a joint statement with Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat MORE (R-Miss.) chairman of the Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill 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.