Blackburn Unveils Draft FCC Reauthorization Bill

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By Tara Jeffries

The Federal Communications Commission would be required to make several of its regulatory processes more transparent under a draft House reauthorization bill.

House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) released the draft July 18. Blackburn’s subcommittee will hold an agency oversight hearing July 25 at which the three sitting FCC commissioners are slated to testify.

Under the draft, the FCC would have to issue a rule solidifying process changes to “maximize opportunities for public participation and efficient decisionmaking,” including a requirement to post quarterly reports online about rulemaking, ongoing congressional probes and other matters.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has already begun efforts to make the agency’s actions more transparent, but the reauthorization bill would solidify such moves as requirements for the agency. The draft would also authorize approximately $322 million for the agency annually from fiscal years 2018 through 2022.

Blackburn said in a statement she hopes the hearing will “allow for a robust discussion regarding efforts to modernize the FCC’s structure and build on the steps Chairman Pai has already taken toward transparency and accountability.”

The subcommittee is also expected to question the commission about the Lifeline program, an internet and phone subsidy program recently scrutinized by the Government Accountability Office.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment to Bloomberg BNA on the draft reauthorization bill.

Senate Prospects

Any movement on FCC reauthorization in the Senate will likely have to wait until the chamber confirms pending nominees to the five-member commission, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters July 19.

Thune spoke after a committee confirmation hearing for Pai, whom President Donald Trump has nominated for a second commission term, and Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel, Trump’s nominees for open Republican and Democratic seats.

Thune said he’s “very committed” to crafting reauthorization legislation, calling it “long overdue.”

[With assistance from Kyle Daly in Washington.]

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Jeffries in Washington at tjeffries@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

Blackburn's FCC reauthorization draft bill is available at http://src.bna.com/qVx.

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