House E&C Launches Investigation Into FCC Deliberations

Adds "Deliberative Process" Reform to Republican To-Do List
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House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced Thursday that they are launching an investigation into the FCC's decisionmaking process in the wake of President Obama's push for Title II reclassification of broadband access.

Calling it "White House meddling," but just the latest sign of "broken process," the legislators in a letter asked for a raft of documents from the FCC, citing their "longstanding concerns with the fairness, openness, and transparency of several of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) administrative and rulemaking processes under your leadership. (http://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.g...).

Also on their list of practices they want to look into is the FCC's use of delegated authority, in particular a Media Bureau decision to change policy related to broadcast sharing agreements. The FCC signaled that such agreements would get heightened scrutiny as potentially a way to skirt local ownership rules.

The letter also sites concerns about the FCC auction waiver process and more.

"Considered together, these issues lead us to conclude that the Commission under your leadership is not sufficiently committed to fulfilling its obligation to operate independently, with processes that are open, fair and transparent," they told Wheeler, before asking for lots of documents. And if the FCC were not forthcoming, Upton could subpoena them. Against the objections of Democrats, Republican Energy & Commerce Committee leaders voted last month to grant the chair subpoena powers without having to consult the minority or have  a vote of the entire committee.

“There is no substitute for sound process. Whether in the halls of Congress or the walls of federal bureaucracy the public is best served when processes are fair, open, and transparent,” they said in announcing the investigation. ”Unfortunately, there are far too many instances where good process has been cast aside at the FCC and American consumers and job creators suffer as a result. This investigation is another step forward in raising the curtain at the FCC as we work to ensure an open and transparent government working on behalf of all Americans."

The pair have also pushed for various FCC process reforms in the past, including publishing items before they are voted and cost-benefit analysis of new regs.

"We have received the letter and are reviewing it," said FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart.

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