The House Energy and Commerce Committee today approved the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013 on a voice vote today. The following statement can be attributed to TechFreedom President Berin Szoka :
Reform of FCC reporting is long overdue — especially since most of those reports are perennially and grossly overdue. Consolidating the FCC’s many annual reports into a single, biennial document should ease burdens on both Commission staff and industry. The combined reports will be made far more useful to the FCC and Congress by describing legal barriers to competition, the Commission’s agenda for addressing trends identified in the report, and the Commission’s progress on the agenda set forth in prior reports. These are all sensible reforms on which members of both parties were able to agree in committee.
Unfortunately, the bill currently omits one crucial reform that should be equally uncontroversial: requiring the FCC to put its reports out for notice and comment. This reform is among those proposed in Chairman Walden’s FCC Process Reform Act , which passed the House last Congress but has met stubborn opposition from Democrats. Whatever one thinks of other reforms proposed in that bill, any believer in good government should support such basic transparency measures as allowing an opportunity for comment on the methodological decisions made in FCC reports — and the conclusions they generate. Immunizing the process from public comment gives the FCC free rein to manipulate supposedly objective reporting in the interest of a political agenda. As Nobel Prize winning economist Ronald Coase poignantly quipped: “If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess.”
If Congress can’t even agree on this simple reform, what hope is there for the more difficult task of overhauling the rest of the FCC’s broken, politicized processes?
Szoka and Starr are available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org . Find/share this release on Facebook or Twitter. For more information on FCC process reform, see TechFreedom’s recent TechBriefing on FCC reform , and Congressional testimony by commentator Larry Downes.