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"If there is only one action we could take this year to reform the FCC" - What would it be?


Comm. Copps issue a statement yesterday shown in the above FCC news release. Here is the full text:

“I am thrilled that Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman John Shimkus, and Congressman Mike Doyle have introduced the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act. If there is only one action we could take this year to reform the FCC, this should be it.

“The inability of Commissioners to get together and talk as a group makes zero sense.The statutory bar on more than two Commissioners talking together outside a public meeting has had pernicious and unintended consequences—stifling collaborative discussions among colleagues, delaying timely decision-making, discouraging collegiality and short-changing consumers and the public interest. For almost a decade I have seen first-hand and up closethe heavy costs of this prohibition.

“Elected representatives, cabinet officials, judges and just about everyone else have the opportunity for face-to-face discussion before deciding public issues. I see no reason why Commissioners of the FCC should not have the same opportunity at their disposal—especially when balanced, as this legislation is, with specific safeguards designed to preserve transparency. Reaching agreement on the complex issues pending before us is difficult enough in the best of circumstances, but is infinitely more so when we cannot even talk about them among ourselves. Each of the five Commissioners brings to the FCC special experiences and unique talents that we cannot fully leverage without communicating directly with each other.

“The Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act is a prudent, balanced proposal that recognizes the benefits of permitting the Commission to do its business collectively while maintaining full transparency of the process. This is a reform whose time has come. Ithank the Representatives for their leadership on this much needed reform and wish them successin seeing it through to enactment this year.”


What this bill, H.R. 1009, proposes is a major change to the Carter-era Government in the Sunshine Act, 5 USC 552b. The present law applies not just to FCC, but to the plethora of commissions throughout the federal government from the American Battle Monuments Commission to the Securities and Exchange Commission. But this pending bill only applies to FCC.

The commissioners are allowed to meet in closed meetings for certain subjects under the terms of 5 USC 552b(c). Allowed subjects include personnel matters, ITU conference preparation, and “internal personnel rules and practices of an agency”. While such meetings were infrequent but recurring when I joined FCC in 1979, I do not recall any in the past 2 decades.

FCC and other regulatory commissions are required to meet at least once a month. For more than a decade FCC has just met this minimum requirement. By contrast SEC meets twice a month and NRC meets 3 times a month.

My question for readers, if there was only one reform for FCC this year, would this be your highest priority? Note that you can post to this blog anonymously if you wish and no one, including your blogger, will know who you are.

CORRECTION

A more thorough search of the FCC website showed that there was one closed meeting in 2000 and one in 2001. The FCC site is usually reliable as far back as 1995, so this would imply 2 closed meeting in the past 16 years.
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