Seeking Public Comment is Transparency 101

WASHINGTON — Last month, the FCC delayed a vote on the Chairman’s proposal to impose radical new regulations on the video marketplace, with other Commissioners saying the item still raised too many open questions. Today, TechFreedom and a diverse coalition of groups urged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to release his proposed set-top box regulations so that the public may comment upon this critical proposal.

The coalition letter filed today with the FCC supports a petition filed by nineteen civil rights groups on Sunday asking the FCC to seek further public comment on its plan to regulate video content in the name of driving competition for set-top boxes. Since the beginning of this proceeding, the Chairman has faced overwhelming opposition to his plan, including from Congressional Democrats, fellow FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, minority and independent programmers, Congressmen of both parties, cable and satellite providers, and civil society groups.

The letter states:

Since the Chairman has refused to share the current proposal, it is impossible to know exactly what is in it, and other Commissioners are prohibited by Commission rules from discussing the details of the proposal. But their public statements indicate that the nature of the proposal has changed significantly from the FCC’s initial proposal, and still raises significant legal and policy concerns.

Moreover, little more than two weeks ago, Commissioner Rosenworcel said of the Chairman’s plan in Congressional testimony, “I just don’t think we have the authority.“ The fact that the Chairman had to postpone a vote on this item at last week’s open meeting — the first such postponement in his chairmanship — makes clear that this item requires a full reconsideration.

Any time the FCC needs to perform radical surgery on proposed regulations, it must seek public comment again,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “That’s Transparency 101. Merely suspending the ironically-named ‘Sunshine’ restrictions to allow public comment isn’t enough: the public needs to see what the FCC is voting on. Indeed, suspending Sunshine without releasing the draft order would make the process less transparent: it would allow the Chairman to manipulate the process by selectively leaking to favored lobbyists who, in turn, could help the Chairman pressure his fellow Democratic Commissioners to comply in a last-minute frenzy to finish writing the order just before it’s voted on. That kind of broken process is exactly what then-Senator Obama warned against in 2007. The American people deserve better before the FCC starts tampering with the industry that has led to a Golden Age of American television.”


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