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FCC Reform: Rules & Processes

At the FCC we place a high priority on reforming our rules and practices to improve openness and efficiency. We believe that better procedures will improve the quality of agency decision-making, reduce backlogs, and enhance the public's ability to understand and participate in Commission proceedings.

For instance, the Office of General Counsel is working with Chairman Genachowski and his staff, and the FCC's Managing Director and Secretary, to identify ways of leveraging electronic resources to better manage agency proceedings. We want to maximize the number of proceedings that use the Commission's electronic filing systems and find ways to make proceedings easier and more efficient. For example, documents could be served (that is, formally delivered to other parties) electronically rather than though the mail, saving money and time. Many federal and state courts have similar e-filing systems. The FCC should be at least as user-friendly and accessible to the public as the courts.

Another means by which the Commission can promote transparency is through refinements to our so-called "ex parte rules." The ex parte rules determine when FCC Commissioners and staff may discuss pending matters with members of the public, and how such discussions must be disclosed in the agency's formal record. These discussions can provide Commissioners and staff with important, timely information about issues the Commission faces. But to be consistent with open and transparent decision-making, the data and arguments presented must be fully disclosed to the public and placed on the record.

We are looking at ways of changing the ex parte rules to increase transparency. For example, we are considering whether our rules should require public disclosure of every permitted meeting (rather than just those in which new facts or arguments are presented to the Commission) and whether the disclosure reports should say more about what issues were discussed. We also are examining how to make ex parte disclosure reports available to staff and the public more quickly, particularly online.

We are discussing within the Commission whether the current rules give decision-makers at the Commission and the public enough information about the parties who are making presentations, or whether requiring more information about the filing party would increase transparency and our ability to assess a party's perspective on the issues.

We expect to invite public input on these and other ideas through a notice-and-comment process. We will be open to suggestions and welcome other ideas to improve the way we do our part of the public's business, and we hope you will use Reboot.FCC.gov to engage in these conversations.

Austin Schlick,
General Counsel
Federal Communications Commission


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