New FCC Chairman Declares First Phase of Pilot Transparency Project a Success
New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, just nominated for a second 5-year term on the FCC by President Donald Trump, is declaring the initial phase of his pilot program to increase the transparency of its rule making process a success. Pai announced the program in early February, It will, for the first time, make public the full text of documents circulated to the rest of the Commission for a vote at FCC open meetings. Under prior practice, such documents would have been kept under wraps until after the Commission voted on them.
“I’m pleased to report that the initial stage of the pilot project was a success!” Pai said in a March 2 blog post. “We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the public.”
As a result, he continued, the FCC would expand its pilot project by releasing the text of all six issues that the FCC will consider at its March open meeting. “Allowing anyone, anywhere to see these documents publicly is another step towards shedding more sunlight on the FCC’s operations,” Pai added.
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.”
While no Amateur Radio issues are up for consideration at the March 23 open meeting, the FCC will address a proposal to combat robocalls — the top source of consumer complaints to the FCC.
“These calls are not just a nuisance; they’re often scams,” Pai said. He pointed out that while rules already exist to prohibit such unwanted calls, “scofflaws are finding creative ways to avoid getting caught,” Pai said. The FCC’s Robocall Strike Force, which has been working to come up with solutions, has singled out the issue of caller ID spoofing, which is designed to trick consumers into answering unwanted calls. “And under the FCC’s current rules, which generally prevent call-blocking, there is not much that carriers can do to stop this,” Pai said. He wants to give the Commission greater leeway to block spoofed robocalls.
In announcing his moves toward greater transparency, 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).
Pai subsequently 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.” The FCC also will release one-page fact sheets summarizing each proceeding on the meeting agenda. Pai said the FCC would implement a suggestion from Commissioner Michael O’Rielly that called for a member of the Commission, rather than FCC staff, to propose any substantive edits made to an item between the time it is circulated and the meeting at which it is heard.
Pai’s first FCC term officially ended last June, but FCC rules allow him to stay until the end of 2017, even if he isn’t confirmed by the Senate for another term. The president named Pai as chairman earlier this year, an appointment that did not require Senate confirmation since he was a sitting Commissioner.