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Commissioner Pai Statement on Process Reform Presentation

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Released: January 30, 2014

STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI

ON PRESENTATION OF STAFF WORKING GROUP ON PROCESS REFORM

January 30, 2014

FCC process reform isn’t the most scintillating of topics. Last year, when I wanted to give a
speech outlining my proposals for reforming the Commission processes, I went to the only group in the
United States that I thought might be interested: the Federal Communications Bar Association. And even
then, I’m pretty sure that I saw some audience members nodding off during my lunchtime presentation.
But while FCC process reform might not be exciting, it matters. As I stated during my first
speech as a Commissioner, the FCC must become as nimble as the industry we oversee. Too often,
proceedings drag on for years. The American people deserve better. Whether the matter before us
involves a Fortune 500 company, a small start-up, a public interest group, or an individual consumer, the
Commission should strive to respond promptly. Parties might not like the answer that we give them. But
they deserve an answer. As one person said to me, “Tell me yes, tell me no, but just tell me.”
This sentiment explains why I applauded Chairman Wheeler for picking up the process reform
banner during his first days on the job. And it leads me to commend Diane Cornell for her leadership on
this occasionally arcane issue. Since coming onboard, Diane has been in regular contact with my staff,
and I appreciate her willingness to incorporate our input into the working group’s report.
I also was pleased to see that the working group reached out to solicit ideas from the FCC’s staff.
I know the Commission’s employees can feel shackled by these same process issues. FCC staffers work
exceptionally hard and are incredibly talented. I saw that firsthand when I worked in the Office of
General Counsel. But too often, our internal processes fail them. I saw that firsthand, too, when I was a
staffer. So I am not surprised that many of the report’s recommendations came from our staff.
Going forward, I hope that we will move expeditiously to reform the Commission’s processes
after receiving and reviewing public comment on the report. It would be a cruel irony indeed if the effort
to speed up the Commission’s work itself became bogged down by bureaucratic inertia. As always, I
stand ready to assist in whatever way I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.
In particular, I hope that we will prioritize a couple of initiatives that I believe would make a big
difference. First, we should make our internal processes more efficient wherever possible. Let’s expand
the categories of smaller transactions that qualify for streamlined treatment. Let’s adopt a procedure for
handling applications for review akin to the U.S. Supreme Court’s certiorari process. And let’s set more
internal deadlines, for nothing concentrates the mind like a deadline.
Second, we should bring more transparency to the FCC. We need to make it easier for the public
to measure our progress, and if necessary, hold our feet to the fire if we falter. Let’s create an FCC
Dashboard on our website that collects in one place our key performance metrics. Let’s keep track of
how many petitions for reconsideration, applications for review, waiver requests, license renewal
applications, and consumer complaints are pending at the Commission at any given time. And let’s
compare the current statistics in all these categories against those from a year ago, from five years ago, so
everyone can see if we are headed in the right direction. If we make it easier for others to hold us
accountable for our performance, I’m confident that we would act with more dispatch.
One last point before concluding: We need to remember that when it comes to process reform,
we do not labor alone. Last year, for example, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the FCC
Consolidated Reporting Act, and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed the bipartisan
FCC Process Reform Act. These two pieces of legislation would greatly assist us in becoming more
efficient—indeed, many of the reforms reported today are no doubt inspired by those bills. We therefore
should coordinate our process reform efforts with those taking place in Congress and keep our oversight
committees fully apprised of our progress.

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