July 13, 2015 - 1:18 pm
By Diane Cornell | Special Counsel

In early 2014, we embarked on an ambitious initiative to improve how we do business at the Commission with the release of the Process Reform Report.  The 154 recommendations in the report focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how the agency conducts business, handling items more quickly and more transparently (especially backlogged matters), improving our interactions with external stakeholders, and eliminating or streamlining outdated rules, procedures, and processes.  

FCC staff throughout the agency has been working hard on these recommendations over the last year, and that work continues every day.  There are ten active working groups, as well as teams tackling backlogs, streamlining, IT upgrades and many other process reform objectives within the individual Bureaus and Offices.  There’s much work left to be done, but we’ve made a lot of progress, and I’m very proud of the team effort.  Here are just a few of the highlights of the notable accomplishments over the last year:

  • Improved Public interfaces
    • Revamped consumer help center, with user-friendly web portal
    • Moved to electronic filing and distribution of licenses for most matters (and plans en route to tackle the remainder)
    • Reworking FCC.Gov searchability and navigability (ongoing improvements)
    • Updating ECFS, the Electronic Comment Filing System (rolling out this Summer)
  • Increasing Speed of Disposal
    • Working group developed and distributed best practices for streamlining processing of matters within the Bureaus and Offices
    • New Consent Agenda approach used to speed voting on items
    • Accelerated processing for appropriate Applications for Review
    • Electronic processing and transmittal of Federal Register submissions
  • Backlog Reduction
    • Working group developed and distributed best practices for tackling backlogs
    • Every Bureau developed and is implementing backlog reduction plans, including inventories of all pending items
    • Initial result was nearly a 50% reduction in items pending more than 6 months across the entire FCC over the last year.
    • Over 1500 dormant dockets closed
    • Individual Bureaus/Offices achieved significant backlog reductions.  For example:
      • Enforcement Bureau closed over 7,900 cases since April 2013
      • Wireless Telecom Bureau resolved over 2,000 applications older than 6 months
      • Media Bureau reduced its pending Applications for Review by over 50%
      • Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau reduced its pending matters by over 50%
  • Promoting Efficient and Effective Internal Operations
    • IT upgrades have enabled significant efficiencies:
      • Remote access is now available to over 80% of FCC staff, enabling more telework and other efficiencies
      • FOIA webpage revamped
      • New tracking capabilities being developed
      • FCC systems being modernized and shifted to the cloud
    • Paper copies virtually eliminated for internal distribution
    • New inter-bureau coordination guidelines developed and distributed
    • Working groups developed best practices memos on conducting meetings and using email more efficiently
    • All Bureaus & Offices have been streamlining internal review processes to increase efficiency 
  • Additional Rule and Process Changes to Promote Effective Regulation in Bureaus/Offices
    • E-filing of closed captioning requests
    • Virtual elimination of tolling agreements for enforcement matters subject to a statutory deadline, saving both external and internal stakeholders significant resources
    • Satellite Part 25 rule comprehensive streamlining proceeding launched
    • Nearly 1000 license media license renewals granted in fourth quarter 2014
    • Improved staff training and communications enabling streamlined application review processes, resulting in a two-week reduction in time for processing public safety applications  
    • Antenna Part 17 streamlining Order, expedited processing of cellular license applications and new electronic filing and distribution instituted
    • New procedures implemented for processing of USAC appeals
    • Improvements in e-labeling, equipment certification and telecom certification body programs
  • This is good progress, but there’s much more to be done – internal process reform initiatives will continue over the months to come.   We plan to deploy new IT tracking and collaboration tool capability, more electronic filing and automated processes, and adopt many more proposals that would eliminate or streamline outdated rules. 

    These are just a few of the many accomplishments – in every area, we have made tremendous progress.  It could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of staff throughout the FCC, and the many suggestions and helpful feedback from external stakeholders.  I look forward to working with you all to realize even more of the tangible benefits flowing from process reform initiatives over the course of 2015.