FCC Proposes Procedure, Ex Parte Changes
February 19, 2010 at 4:27 AM (PT)
The FCC has issued proposed changes to its procedures and ex parte rules.
In two notices of proposed rule making, the agency proposed several tweaks to its processes, including improving case management using electronic filing and allowing staff to terminate inactive dockets and serve parties electronically; allowing staff to dismiss defective or repetitious reconsideration petitions; clarifying that the Commission can, on its own motion within 30 days of public notice, modify a decision rather than just set it aside or vacate it; clarifying that a deadline that lands on a weekend or holiday requires action to be taken by the next business day; and adopting a default effective date for new rules when an effective date was not specified in the relevant rulemaking orders.
Also, the Commission proposed amending the ex parte rules to require summaries of every oral ex parte presentation to be filed, rather than just when something is raised for the first time; require notices summarizing all data and arguments presented; establish a preference for electronic filing of all ex parte notices; and require faster electronic filing, within four hours, of ex parte presentation notices made during the "Sunshine Period" before a public meeting. The Commission is also asking for comment on changes to the "Sunshine Period"'s prohibition on ex parte presentations and timing; whether to adopt more stringent ownership disclosure requirements in filings; changes in penalties for ex parte violations; and how the ex parte rules should apply in the context of new media, such as blog postings.
Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI said, "The growing importance of communications to our daily lives and our economy has expanded the range of issues before the Commission and the number of parties that file pleadings with us. Our processes and systems must be up to the job. Yet the Commission lags behind many other agencies, as well as federal and state courts, that have already implemented e-filing for all their proceedings. This Commission should lead, not follow, in using electronic filing, because it will reduce costs, speed the resolution of pending issues, and make our proceedings easier for the public to follow. I look forward to implementing the rule changes that will bring this about."
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS celebrated the FCC's action, saying, "Reform has clearly come to the FCC. In my first week as Acting Chairman last year, I had the privilege of addressing the Commission staff on the need to revitalize and reenergize the operations of the agency. I said then we must always strive to improve our lines of communication, enhance the level of transparency in our work and bring to our daily decisions the kind of openness that gives true credibility to everything we do. We have made progress. Today’s presentation makes that clear, even as it makes clear that we have much more work ahead in many key areas."