House Panel, FCC Talk About Efficiency ... But Not Baker's Exit
May 13, 2011 at 4:34 PM (PT)
The elephant in the room didn't draw any comment from either the panel or the FCC Commissioners as the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing on making the Commission more efficient. MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER's announcement that she will be departing to take a job at COMCAST after she voted to allow the company's controversial acquisition of NBCUNIVERSAL was not a subject of either questions from the Congresspersons or comments from the FCC representatives, other than comments honoring her service to the Commission.
Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI said, "In the past two years, working together, we’ve increased efficiency, increased transparency, increased collaboration, and increased the effectiveness of the FCC." He asserted that 95% of Commission actions have been bipartisan, and added that his Commission has "substantially improved the agency's rulemaking process."
Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL, telling the panel that he operates "under the philosophy that Congress should tell us what to do, and not the other way around," nevertheless offered suggestions of his own, including changing "legacy statutory constructs" that have "created market-distorting legal stovepipes based on the regulatory history of particular delivery platforms," and reducing the number of annual reports the Commission is required to make to Congress.
He called for an audit of "everything connected to the FCC," requiring that notices of proposed rulemaking contain actual proposed rules with "proper" market power analyses, and prompt notification of investigations and clearances of wrong-doing. "21st century consumers," MCDOWELL said, "want to have the freedom to enjoy their favorite applications and content when and where they choose. Whether such material arrives over coaxial cable, copper wires, fiber or radio waves is of little consequence to most consumers so long as the market’s supply of products and services satisfies demand."
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS focused on reform to the "Closed Meeting Rule" that bars more than two Commissioners from talking to each other at the same time outside the confines of a public meeting, as well as reform of ex parte rules and taking Commission meetings away from WASHINGTON.
Baker: I Didn't Vote On Comcast Issues After Being Approached About Job
Earlier in the day, BAKER, who did not attend the hearing, issued a statement addressing the controversy over her joining COMCAST, saying, "Not once in my entire tenure as a Commissioner had anyone at COMCAST or NBCUNIVERSAL approached me about potential employment. When this opportunity became available in mid- APRIL, I made a personal decision that I wanted to give it serious consideration. Therefore, I immediately sought counsel from the General Counsel of the FCC, and recused myself on APRIL 18th from any matters involving COMCAST or NBCUNIVERSAL. I have not only complied with the legal and ethical laws, but I also have gone further. I have not participated or voted any item, not just those related to COMCAST or NBCUNIVERSAL, since entering discussions about an offer of potential employment. Because of this, I plan to depart the Commission as soon as I am able to ensure an orderly wind-down of my office."