October 9, 2014 - 3:31 pm
By Diane Cornell | Special Counsel

Since the release of the Report on FCC Process Reform last February, the dedicated staff here at the Commission has been hard at work on implementing the report’s recommendations.  One area of particular focus has been tackling matters that have been considered backlogged, and – even more importantly – increasing speed of disposal for all matters.  As noted in the Report, backlogs generally develop because of (1) increased volume of work; (2) complex issues; (3) inter-related issues; and/or (4) need for coordination with others.  Two key internal process reform working groups have been examining ways to not only reduce the number of items currently pending at the Commission, but to also move incoming items through the system faster.  A few examples of progress in this area include:

  • Consent Agenda: One of the first recommendations implemented was to institute a "consent agenda" process, which enables the Commissioners to vote a group of items during the monthly Open Agenda Meeting in an expedited way, without staff presentations.  Utilizing this process, the Media Bureau has disposed of 36 licensing applications for review so far this year, with more on course for adoption this month.
  • Closing Dockets:  So far this year, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, working with the Bureaus and Offices, has closed over 760 dockets and has sought comment on another 750 dockets that appear to be eligible for closing by the end of the year.
  • Backlog Reduction Plans: Every Bureau and Office with responsibility for responding to requests from external petitioners and licensees has developed a backlog reduction plan.  The plans focus both on how to reduce existing pending items at the Commission, and also process improvements for the future.  As part of these plans, every Bureau and Office has ensured that their tracking system includes a complete inventory of all pending matters.
  • Best Practices on Backlog Reduction: Based on the backlog reduction plans, a working group established “best practices” for management of pending items before the Commission, including suggestions for streamlining handling of matters.  The best practices have been circulated internally and discussed in individual meetings with the Bureaus and Offices so useful methodologies can be shared across the Commission. 
  • Bureau/Office Streamlining and Backlog Reduction Efforts:
    • The Enforcement Bureau has largely completed its review of pending complaints, clearing the way for the Media Bureau to grant almost 700 license renewals this week. 
    • The Media Bureau has revised the way it issues effective competition rulings, issuing omnibus rulings periodically instead of individual rulings on each request.  In March, the Bureau released an order disposing of 55 such requests.  (DA 14-407)
    • The International Bureau has eliminated the effective competitive opportunities test for submarine cable landing licenses and 214 applications, streamlining the processing of those applications.
    • Between May and September, the Wireless Bureau resolved 2046 applications older than 6 months, resulting in a 26% reduction in its applications backlog.
    • On September 15th, the Wireline Bureau released a public notice announcing a process for streamlining disposition of certain USF related appeals with the Bureau.  Under this approach, the Bureau will release monthly notices detailing the resolution of those appeals.  In the September notice, the Bureau disposed of 29 pending requests.  (DA 14-1330)
    • In February, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau released an order which streamlined the process for receipt and processing of requests for closed captioning so that parties can file such requests electronically.

None of this progress could have been achieved without the help of the dedicated staff here at the FCC – they have enthusiastically embraced process reform and rolled up their sleeves to help with these efforts.  There will be much more to come in the months ahead, and I will continue to provide updates periodically on different topics in our process reform efforts here at the FCC.