Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai unveiled a pilot project to boost transparency, promising reporters to release agenda items three weeks before its meetings.
Chairman Pai said, “Today, we begin the process of making the FCC more open and transparent,” Pai told reporters. “I’m pleased to announce this morning a pilot project that, if successful, will become a commission practice — one that will give the public much more insight into the commission’s activities.”
Under past Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC would not make items public until after the FCC voted. Tech, cable, and communications firms widely panned the procedure. Now, the FCC will list proposed rules before its monthly meetings.
Joan Marsh, Senior Vice President of AT&T said:
Clear and transparent processes lead to better regulatory results. FCC Chairman Pai made clear his commitment to these goals with the voting process reform he enacted at his first Open Meeting. Today’s announcement underscores that commitment even further. The pilot program of releasing proposed rules to the public, before they are voted on by the FCC, allows for greater public engagement and ultimately better government actions. We applaud chairman Pai’s and his fellow commissioners’ efforts to improve the agency’s transparency to produce better results.
This policy shift mirrors reforms proposed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). Technology subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), in a joint statement with Walden, cheered the new procedure, saying,“This is the type of transparency we’ve been urging the FCC to implement for the last several Congresses. Then-Commissioner Pai and Commissioner O’Reilly had long pushed for greater transparency during Chairman Wheeler’s tenure, and we are pleased to see that just two weeks into Commissioner Pai’s chairmanship we are already seeing positive changes at the commission.”
Fellow Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly also applauded the move, saying, “Today is a major step forward for the agency in terms of transparency and accountability. While it may make our jobs a bit more challenging, it is the right thing to do for the American people, the practitioners before the Commission and the professional press who report on Commission activities. It should make your jobs a whole lot easier and eliminate the wasted time chasing down dead ends!”
To test this new program, Chairman Pai released two documents that will be discussed during the FCC’s next meeting on February 23rd. During the meeting, the FCC will discuss allowing TV stations to use ATSC 3.0, the next generation broadcast standard, and allowing FM radio stations to rebroadcast AM stations.
This FCC transparency initiative falls in line with other reforms that Ajit Pai has championed in the past, including setting deadlines for new rules and adding sunset clauses to rules unless they are in the public’s interest. Chairman Pai thinks that these reforms can lead to better policies in the FCC. “I don’t see process reforms like these as partisan and I hope in the coming year we can see some meaningful reforms,” he said.