from the transparent-and-neutral dept.
FCC Tries Something New: Making Proposals Public Before Voting on Them
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday announced a seemingly simple step to make the FCC's rulemaking process more open to the public: the FCC intends to release the full text of rulemakings before they're voted on instead of days after the vote.
Pai and fellow Republican Michael O'Rielly repeatedly complained about the secrecy of rulemakings when Democrat Tom Wheeler was chairman. Wheeler followed the practice of previous chairs by publicly releasing a summary of the proposed rules a few weeks before the FCC's meetings, while negotiations over the final text of orders continued behind closed doors. The actual text of rulemakings wasn't released until after the vote. In the case of net neutrality, Pai complained three weeks before the vote that he couldn't share the full text of the draft order with the public. The full text wasn't released until two weeks after the vote.
"Today, we begin the process of making the FCC more open and transparent," Pai said yesterday. He then released the text of two proposals scheduled for a vote at the commission's meeting on February 23, one on allowing TV broadcasters to use the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard and another on "giving AM radio broadcasters more flexibility in siting their FM translators."
[...] This would certainly make it easier for journalists to report on the impacts of rulemakings before they're voted on. Congressional Republicans pressed Wheeler to make releasing the text of orders in advance a standard practice, and there is pending legislation that would make it a requirement. But Wheeler said during his chairmanship that such a practice would cause long delays in rulemakings. Wheeler told Republicans in Congress in May 2015 that making the full text public in advance could make it easier for opponents to kill proposals they don't like.
[...] While Pai hasn't yet committed to making the pre-vote release of orders permanent, O'Rielly said he's confident that the pilot project will go smoothly. "If this initial attempt goes well—and I see no reason why it wouldn't—I think we will all find this to be a significant upgrade in terms of quality of feedback, quality of process, and ultimately quality of the commission's work product," O'Rielly said. O'Rielly acknowledged that the change "may make our jobs a bit more challenging," but he added that "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."
FCC Rescinds Claim That AT&T and Verizon Violated Net Neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission's new Republican leadership has rescinded a determination that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions. The FCC also rescinded several other Wheeler-era reports and actions. The FCC released its report on the data cap exemptions (aka "zero-rating") in the final days of Democrat Tom Wheeler's chairmanship. Because new Chairman Ajit Pai opposed the investigation, the FCC has now formally closed the proceeding.
The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA notifying the carriers "that the Bureau has closed this inquiry. Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward." The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau also sent a letter to Comcast closing an inquiry into the company's Stream TV cable service, which does not count against data caps.
The FCC issued an order that "sets aside and rescinds" the Wheeler-era report on zero-rating. All "guidance, determinations, and conclusions" from that report are rescinded, and it will have no legal bearing on FCC proceedings going forward, the order said.
[...] Pai opposed Wheeler's zero-rating investigation, saying that free data offerings are "popular among consumers precisely because they allow more access to online music, videos, and other content free of charge." He has also vowed to overturn the FCC's net neutrality rules and hasn't committed to enforcing them while they remain in place. "While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories," Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said today.
John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies.
“Not only did they get in between me and O’Rielly but they put their shoulders together and simultaneously backed me up into the wall and pinned me to the wall for about 10 seconds just as I started to say, “Commissioner O’Rielly, I have a question,” Donnelly said Friday.
Donnelly said he was stopped long enough to allow O’Rielly to walk away.
Donnelly, who also happens to be chair of the National Press Club Press Freedom team, said he was then forced out of the building after being asked why he had not posed his question during the news conference.
O'Rielly apologized to Donnelly on Twitter, saying he didn't recognize Donnelly in the hallway. "I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn't see anyone put a hand on you. I'm sorry this occurred."
Senators, including Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, are warning the Federal Communications Commission about its treatment of reporters after a CQ Roll Call reporter was manhandled Thursday.
“The Federal Communications Commission needs to take a hard look at why this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. As The Washington Post pointed out, it’s standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences,” the Iowa Republican said. “It happens all day, every day. There’s no good reason to put hands on a reporter who’s doing his or her job.”