December 20, 2018 - 10:00 am
By Michael O'Rielly | Commissioner

One fundamental obligation of a regulatory body is to constantly scrutinize its internal workings and processes. Failure to do so can undermine an entity's efficiency, openness, fairness, and credibility and compromise its ability to respond to changing market conditions. Further, governmental bodies that neglect to update their internal procedures are inclined to continually patch over problems or conduct workarounds — i.e., applying tape to a leaky faucet, rather than fixing its main cause. This ultimately results in inconsistent and arbitrary processes and decision making.

Chairman Pai has rightly recognized that process and structure do matter and has made improvements to the FCC's operations and fixed several procedural shortfalls. However, more work remains, and I am committed to seeing this effort through.

Accordingly, to help take the next leap towards a more efficient, accountable, and transparent FCC, I have scoured previous proposals, spoken to interested parties, and considered my own personal experiences, and have prepared a list of ideas designed to improve the Commission's processes for our licensees, practitioners, Commissioners, and, most importantly, American consumers. It's now time to publicly release these medium, small, and tiny, mostly non-mutually exclusive ideas, and have each produce feedback on its merits or pitfalls. The following list should serve to generate debate, invite further ideas, and help move the Commission forward. Perhaps others have different or more extensive ideas, all the better!

  Reform Proposals
1. Require OEA sign-off on all items, conduct extensive CBA review of all items over $100 million, and adopt item enacting OMB Circular A4 for Commission.
2. Require the applicable bureaus to establish a specific list of wireless devices that are subject to Commission's Hearing Aid Compatibility rules.
3. All initial edits to Open Meeting items should be posted by Commissioners prior to 48 hours in advance of the meeting. Conversations about any edits should commence well in advance.
4. Require final text of Open Meeting items be available to Commissioners no later than 24 hours in advance of meeting.
5. Allow Commissioners to elevate a decision or item from delegated authority to a full Commission vote pursuant to specific conditions.
6. Streamline and establish deadlines for applications undergoing Team Telecom review.
7. Publicly post Circulation Items (minus adjudications) when circulated to Commissioners; alternatively, post after 30 days.
8. Fix circulation process by establishing time limits for sitting on list and recirculation requirements.
9. Reduce Must Vote time allotment by up to 21 days or more.
10. Codify 48-hour rule for notification of Commissioners of each item to be approved under delegated authority.
11. Establish specific limits on the use of delegated authority.
12. Affirm that use of the Commission in law means the full Commission and such authority can't be delegated without affirmative vote.
13. Prohibit anyone but Commissioners from making any substantive changes between White Copy and the Open Meeting.
14. Allow Commissioners to offer amendments to items at the Open Meetings.
15. Establish mandatory sunsets for Commission rules to promote future reexamination of issues and burdens; include sunsets for any pilot projects.
16. Limit use of "Predictive Judgments" and regularly revisit rules adopted under such reasoning to ensure projections were accurate and still apply.
17. Impose time limit of 18 months on life of any "Interim Rule."
18. Prevent publication and press efforts for any Commission Enforcement Citation unless applicable party has been sufficiently notified in advance.
19. Require Enforcement Bureau to track collection process for Notices of Apparent Liability and Forfeiture Orders; establish relationship with DOJ, as necessary, to accomplish task; make data public.
20. Implement a deregulatory presumption when reviewing and implementing rules and forbearance requests.
21. Establish universal deadlines for all bureau actions.
22. Eliminate the Administrative Law Judge function.
23. Establish specific process for any hearing designation order with deadlines.
24. Establish real shot clocks and deadlines for all Commission proceedings with minimum exceptions.
25. Create an amnesty period to facilitate compliance for non-serious EB violations.
26. Put USAC contract out for public bid; allow USAC to function as private company.
27. Limit USAC recoupment for administrative errors to seven years.
28. Prioritize USAC audits & reviews of administrative errors to those instances when costs would not exceed potential recoupment.
29. Require any money recouped for fraudulent use of USF by applicants go back into USF program.
30. Reform USAC board to reduce size and eliminate conflicts of interests.
31. Outline specific bright line rules for policy calls to be made by Commission and execution decisions to be made by USAC.
32. Require that any changes to a USF form or form instructions, including online forms, must be preceded by sufficient notice of not less than 60 days.
33. Require publication of information regarding the size, accruals, and disbursements of any reserved funding for any USF program.
34. Revise rules regarding the National Exchange Carrier Association to facilitate transparency and evaluate whether the functions designated to it are being accomplished in an efficient, cost effective, and neutral manner.
35. Prevent USAC from using webcrawls or newsfeeds to inform applicants of case decisions.
36. Strike automatic USF rate increases & require Commission to affirmatively vote any increase on consumers.
37. Revise the forfeiture guidelines to update/rationalize penalties and reduce reliance on upward adjustments; reconsider and harmonize how forfeitures are calculated (e.g., by day, by call, by device); clearly establish what constitutes a continuous violation.
38. Limit bureau staff participation & direction of Commission advisory committees; ensure problem assigned to advisory committee is not tilted to a particular outcome; prevent advisory committees from attempting to assign work to Commission.
39. Prevent voluntary recommendations or best practices (from industry or advisory committees) from converting into mandates.
40. Extend terms of Chief Economist and Chief Technologist up to 2 years.
41. Upgrade spectrum auction software to permit multiple auctions simultaneous with unlimited license sizes.
42. For any guest witnesses at Open Meetings: provide advance notice to Commissioners; allow minority/other Commissioners to include witnesses; require witness testimony 48 hours in advance.
43. Extend closure of dormant proceedings to other categories (e.g., petitions for review); automatically close proceedings after set time absent Commission extension.
44. Expand use of electronic communications for licensing and notifying licensees.
45. Require all processes & record retention to be electronic, including HR and acquisition documents, Secretary's circulation & release process, & voting on personnel items; Eliminate press copy & press table paper copies.
46. Allow remote voting without VDI; improve official recordkeeping by including initial draft, final redline and final draft in eCLAS (or any successor database).
47. Require Open Meeting votes to be entered electronically.
48. Fix eBARF software so that MobileIron and FCC phones can be used & additional people can be added to the database to approve the release of an item.
49. Update the Commission's "Commissioner's Guide to the Agenda Process" to reflect all practices and procedures regarding Commission-level items.
50. Adopt and publish official rules of procedure at each Chairman change.
51. Eliminate paper copies of FCC Record.
52. Improve and standardize workload and backlog tracking throughout the agency; provide Commissioners reports about Bureau/Office workload and backlog.
53. Reduce cost of Fed. Reg. process by publishing links to Commission items.
54. Track Fed. Reg. process, publication and status publicly, including comment/effective dates.
55. Track PRA process, publication and status publicly, including effective dates.
56. Maintain updated webpage for all significant proceedings so description & relevant items are easily located.
57. Eliminate Reference Room and merge remaining functions with remaining "Library" functions.
58. Commission template for items should be updated for macro consistency with latest versions of Word.
59. Permit & expand the summary disposition of PFRs/AFRs throughout the agency (formalize the consent agenda process for all Bureaus/Offices).
60. When at all possible, combine Open meeting item presentations.
61. Limit presentation times by Bureaus/Offices/guests at Open meetings.
[Highlighted ideas have been partially implemented]