House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) says his committee's trio of FCC reform bills are not about what the FCC has done, but how it has done it.
The bills, which are the subject of a hearing today (April 30) in the Communications subcommittee, would require the commission to list the items that have been approved at the bureau level on delegated authority, to publish the drafts of rulemakings when they are circulated to the other commissioners by the chairman's office before a vote and to publish rules the same day they are voted on.
In his opening statement for this afternoon's hearing, Upton plans to say Congress is not asking the FCC to do anything it doesn't already do itself.
"Our bills are posted publicly, debated publicly, amended publicly and voted publicly," he says. "These bills take meaningful steps toward bringing accountability to a commission comprised of those unaccountable to the electorate.
"Access to commission information and decision makers today is largely a function of proximity to our nation's capital," Upton added. "These proposals will turn that paradigm around and ensure that every American has the access to information that will meaningfully impact any part of their increasingly connected life."
Republicans have been pushing process reforms, including quicker turn-arounds of order texts, but the bills were prompted, at least in part, by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's decision not to publish a draft of the Title II Open Internet order. Wheeler pointed out that it would be unprecedented and said that the decision itself require its own transparency process that could delay providing important open Internet protections where none currently existed.
Congressional Republicans had requested the publication, and were not happy with the chairman's decision.
According to his opening statement for the hearing, Wheeler will point out that he has already undertaken a number of reforms, including "posting the Commission's budget on our website, establishing minimum comment periods, and including draft rules with Notices of Proposed Rulemaking."
He said that suggests internal change, at the discretion of the agency, rather than "blunt legislation," is the best way to reform processes he concedes need reforming.