SpectrumTalk has moved!

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

GAO Report
FCC Secrecy:

Some Parties Get More Information
than Others

Today GAO released a new report on FCC. In an FCC with unprecedented levels of secrecy and where the staff is held back from normal dialog with the public that was considered normal for decades, the "right people" on the outside still get access. It is just the public and the "wrong" people who can't get information.

As a regulatory agency, FCC is routinely lobbied by stakeholders with a vested interest in the issues FCC regulates. It is critical that FCC maintain an environment in which all stakeholders have an equal opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process and that the process is perceived as
fair and transparent. Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders
know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the
fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of
FCC’s rules. Since the success of lobbying for a particular issue can be
highly dependent on whether an issue is being actively considered, FCC
staff who disclose nonpublic information about when an issue will be
considered could be providing an advantage to some stakeholders,
allowing them to time their lobbying efforts to maximize their impact. As a
result, FCC may not hear from all sides of the issue during an important
part of the rulemaking process. This imbalance of information is not the
intended result of the Communications Act, and it runs contrary to the
principles of transparency and equal opportunity for participation
established by law and to FCC’s own rules that govern rulemaking.
House telecom subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), was quoted in RCRNews as saying,

“The FCC has a duty to be above-board in developing and implementing its rules,” said Markey. “When the ‘corporate insiders’ and ‘K-Street’ crowd have the inside track on decisions critical to telecommunications, media, broadband or wireless policy, then the public and consumers are at an inherent disadvantage. Both the law and the public interest require that rulemaking decisions adhere to principles of openness and objectivity.”

An FCC spokeman was quoted by RCRnews as saying,

“The commission actively reaches out and works with consumer and public-interest groups, not only industry. We have always been very open and transparent about what is on circulation and we are exploring ways in which we can make our processes even more open and transparent.”

I suppose FCC could try to redouble its attempts at secrecy and muzzling the staff - whihc is having a terrible impact on morale. (I note that the GAO home page proudly notes that it is one of the "best places to work in the Federal Government" - the survey that the FCC dodged.) Chairman Martin, my suggestion is to improve dialog with the public and industry and let the sun shine in. If a little sunshine is good, more is better. I heard today that staffers are now formally forbidden to talk to commissioners without the Chairman's approval. Maybe I am naive, but why?

Some agencies give employees the formal right to communicate with top management about matter that concern them. Frankly, if you give such a right to FCC employees you will have fewer leaks - although everyone knows most press leaks have always come from the "8th floor".

Of course, the report did not pick up on the recurring ex parte violation problems that were previously reported here and have yet to be addressed. No ex parte enforcement in several years? Not even a warning letter?

NY Times coverage
Washington Post coverage

No comments: