Lawmakers press FCC for more transparency

Lawmakers press FCC for more transparency

Lawmakers on Friday used a House hearing to press the Federal Communications Commission to be more transparent.

“The Commission regulates an incredibly dynamic and innovative sector in the American economy,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “It ought to serve the public in a transparent and predictable manner.”

“The FCC is structured to give the chairman the ability to operate in secret,” Walden said.

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The hearing was the second by the subcommittee on opening up the FCC's workings to the public, following the regulator's recent approval of controversial new Internet rules.

Lawmakers have questioned the FCC’s process for some time, but the agency has come under increasing scrutiny from the public in light of the net neutrality rules.

Republicans say the rules, which reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility, give the agency unreasonable powers to regulate industry and that they will stifle innovation. Supporters of the rules say they will preserve an open and fair Internet.

The panel discussed several bills aimed at reforming the agency, including the FCC Process Reform Act from Walden and subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

“Importantly, this compromise bill gives the FCC flexibility to evaluate and adopt procedural changes to its rules rather than putting rigid requirements in statute," Eshoo said of the bill.

Eshoo, who backs the FCC’s Internet rules, said it was crucial to “modernize the FCC without jeopardizing regulatory certainty.”

She expressed concern at what she called an “artificial delay” in consideration of the FCC Collaboration Act, which sponsors say would make it easier for commissioners to conduct substantive meetings in private.

— This story was updated at 10:56 a.m.