NCTA, NAB Back FCC Reform Bills


The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the National Association of Broadcasters on Thursday both supported full committee consideration of FCC reform bills that have already passed out of the Communications Subcommittee. That came in response to the scheduled markup of the bills.

H.R. 3309, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2011, would among other things, require the commission to 1) survey the marketplace via a Notice of Inquiry before initiating any new rulemakings; 2) identify a market failure, consumer harm, or regulatory investment barrier before adopting any "economically significant" regulations; demonstrate that the benefits of any regulation outweigh the costs, 3) requiring any conditions imposed on transactions to be within the Commission's existing authority and not tailored to remedy any transaction-specific harms.

H.R.3310, the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2011, would require the FCC to conduct a biennial survey of the state of competition in the marketplace that it publishes online and submits to Congress. The FCC already conducts a quadrennial (originally biennial) reg review. But unlike that process, in this review, the FCC would be required to take into account competition from the Internet.

NCTA president Michael Powell said in a letter to committee leaders that HR 3309 would "help ensure that the regulatory framework better reflects this dynamic marketplace by focusing regulatory activity in areas of market failure and providing greater transparency, predictability and procedural certainty."

He said that HR 3310 would provide a more "comprehensive and timely" view of the competitive landscape, and gave a shout out for the inclusion in 3309 of a provision allowing more than two FCC commissioners to meet privately outside of public meetings, so long as there is at least one commissioner of each party present.

"NAB supports legislative efforts by Chairmen Upton and Walden designed to modernize and reform FCC decision-making," said NAB president Gordon Smith. "Given the breakneck speed under which broadcasters and other media companies are reshaping the telecommunications landscape, it is entirely appropriate for Congress to update the rulemaking process and find ways to make it work faster and better. NAB respects the leadership of Chairman Genachowski, and we stand ready to help him and FCC staff implement changes resulting from legislation that brings greater clarity and transparency for licensees dealing with the FCC."

The Republican-backed FCC reforms, with the exception of allowing more than two commissioners to meet, met with opposition from committee Democrats. HR 3309 passed out of subcommittee on a straight.

Republicans have been pitching the HR 3309 as a way to improve the FCC by "increasing transparency, predictability, and consistency as part of Republicans' ongoing effort to ensure the commission's work encourages job creation, investment, and innovation." Democrats countered that the bills would be a boon to business special interests rather than consumers, though they were more sanguine about coming to agreement on a version of 3310.