GAO: FCC needs more transparency

GAO said the FCC's processes have systemic "weaknesses" and "lacks internal policies regarding commissioner access to staff analyses during the decision-making process, and some chairmen have restricted this access."

"Such restrictions may undermine the group decision-making process and impact the quality of FCC's decisions," the report said. It added that the agency's informal structure allows different chairmen to make different rules about how bureaus collaborate, which leads to inconsistencies.

GAO also said the FCC needs to improve its process for collecting public comment on a rule change, and needs to fix the "ex parte" process by which external parties are required to summarize private meetings at the agency for the public record. The "ex parte" process has been criticized for being an incomplete record of lobbyist meetings.

The investigation for this report took place between August and October, just after Chairman Julius Genachowski took the helm of the agency. Genachowski has already implemented changes to make the FCC's information more accessible to the public and has launched a "reboot" Web site to get feedback on ways to make the convoluted processes more collaborative.

"The rapid evolution of the telecommunications marketplace requires and agile agency, and reforms initiated by Chairman Genachowski have begun moving the FCC in a positive direction, particularly in the areas of transparency, public participation, and human capital management," Markey said in response to the report.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, said he is "pleased Chairman Genachowski has already launched a wholes review of the FCC process and that we are already seeing some results from that review."