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FCC Tries Something New: Making Proposals Public Before Voting on Them

Accepted submission by Fnord666 at 2017-02-04 06:46:48

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."

Source: []

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