A House panel is readying the first votes on process reform at the Federal Communications Commission since the agency approved controversial net neutrality rules earlier this year. 

The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology next week will take up a host of reform bills proposed by both Democrats and Republicans.  

{mosads}GOP leaders on the commission have taken an active role in FCC oversight since the commission approved net neutrality rules that would reclassify broadband Internet access under rules governing traditional telephones. 

Democrats have said many of the Republican reforms seem to be “political retribution” for the net neutrality vote, which is strongly opposed by Republicans and Internet service providers. 

Many of the GOP proposals hark back to the net neutrality debate. Republicans criticized FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for not releasing the text of the regulations ahead of the vote and for taking weeks after the vote to finally make it public. 

Wheeler has defended his decisions, saying releasing draft text early would make the process unwieldy. His decision tracked with years of FCC precedent despite the attention surrounding the debate.  

One of the GOP bills would require the commission to publicly release draft rules ahead of a vote, at the same time commissioners get to see them. Another would force the commission to publish the finalized rules the day they are approved. The third proposal would require the commission to publicly list the actions the FCC takes at the staff level.

Wheeler and Democrats voiced concerns about the changes during a hearing late last month. To push back, Democrats released their own set of reforms that would not go the Republican proposals. 

The committee is slated to hold a hearing on the Democratic proposals on Friday, which subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said make “a lot of sense.” The Committee will also debate the draft FCC Process Reform Act, which has won support from Walden, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). A bill by the same title passed the full House last Congress. 

Any draft bills approved next week would still have to be approved by the full committee and the overall House. 

Republicans have proposed separate bills to replace the net neutrality rules or kill them all together. But leaders in the House and Senate have not advanced those proposals, which would certainly run into a presidential veto. 

Tags Federal Communications Commission Net neutrality process reform

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