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FCC Chairman Announces Pilot Program Aimed to Increase Rulemaking Transparency


[UPDATED: 2017-02-08 @ 2005 UTC] FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced a pilot program the Commission says is designed to dramatically increase the transparency of its rulemakings.

“For the first time, the Chairman is releasing to the public the full text of documents he circulated to his fellow Commissioners for a vote at the FCC’s next Open Meeting on February 23,” an FCC news release said. Under prior practice, such documents and any draft proposals they contain would circulate internally 3 weeks before an open Commission meeting, but were not made public until after the final vote. At the same time, the Commission would announce its tentative agenda for the next meeting, followed by a formal agenda 1 week prior.

“We believe that releasing these documents — rather than keeping them behind closed doors until after our vote — will increase the public’s understanding of our decision-making process, and result in final rules that better serve the public interest,” Pai said in announcing the change. If successful, Chairman Pai’s pilot project will become a new part of this process going forward.

In the pilot, Pai is releasing the full text of two documents that will be listed on the tentative agenda for the February Open Meeting. The first is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) soliciting public input on allowing television stations to use ATSC 3.0, the next-generation broadcast standard. The second is a Report and Order (R&O) that gives AM radio broadcasters more flexibility in siting their FM translators.

The release of both an NPRM and an R&O will serve as test cases. “Between now and our monthly meeting on February 23, we will closely assess how the process plays out with respect to these items,” Pai said. “Should things go well, my hope is to make it the norm to publicly release, well in advance, the text of all agenda items for monthly Commission meetings.”

In announcing the change, Pai thanked House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR); Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) — the original sponsors of the FCC Process Reform Act, the legislation including this change, which passed the House last week. Kinzinger is the sponsor of the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 (H.R. 555).


This week, Pai expanded on his process reform initiative, pledging to “share with every Commissioner’s office every item that will be considered at an open meeting before anyone in my office discusses the content of those items publicly or the FCC releases the text of those documents.”

On the suggestion of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the FCC also will release a one-page fact sheet that summarizes the proceeding on the agenda. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly proposed that a member of the Commission, rather than staff, propose any substantive edits made to an item between the time it is circulated and the meeting at which it is heard. Pai said the Commission would implement this reform immediately.

Commenting on FCC process reform in 2014, the ARRL said, “The Commission’s decision-making process must not only be fair, it must be perceived as fair.”