FCC commissioner calls for more transparency

A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission is renewing his call for more transparency ahead of open meetings at the agency. 

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in a blog post Friday pushed back on a number of objections to publicly releasing the text of items at the same time they are circulated internally. 

{mosads}O’Rielly has been pushing for a change since August. Congress might need to act, he said, if the commission does not make the change on its own. 

Currently, the text of orders and proposed rules are circulated internally with commissioners three weeks ahead of a vote. While the broad outline is generally described publicly, the text of the document remains private until a vote. 

For example, new net neutrality rules will be circulated among the commission on Feb. 5 and voted on during the open meeting on Feb. 26. 

“This barrier to a fulsome exchange can be extremely frustrating for all involved,” O’Rielly said, adding that it commonly leads to “confusion over what exactly is at stake.”

Critics say circulating the exact text to the public could force the commission to address specific concerns with the document in the three weeks ahead of a vote — a logistical nightmare, they say. 

But O’Rielly said staff already wastes time sifting through “red herrings” from stakeholders that do not have all the facts. He also said votes could be delayed in some cases to accommodate changes. 

Another criticism of the change focuses on how much information can be obtained from the commission through a Freedom of Information Act request. The commission currently withholds draft documents under the deliberative process exemption. 

Some fear, O’Rielly said, that publicly releasing orders before they are completely finalized and voted on could set a precedent that requires the commission to release other drafts. 

“I am confident that our talented lawyers at the agency can handle it,” he said.

Tags FCC transparency Federal Communications Commission Michael O'Rielly

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