Friday, September 15, 2017
Billy Long: It's time to reauthorize the FCC
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent government agency established by Congress in the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC has jurisdiction in every U.S. state and territory and is responsible for regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
Congress last reauthorized the FCC in 1990 at an appropriations level of $119.8 million. Today, that number is $473.7 million. With more money being requested, the need to reauthorize is even more important. A lot has changed in the last 27 years, including the rapid change in technology and the use of the Internet. Failing to reauthorize the FCC means failing to modernize the agency and its objectives.
As a member of the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, I understand the important role the FCC plays in both the business world and American’s everyday life. Something both the committee and the current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Kansas native, have brought to light is the need for process reform with a focus on transparency and accountability. Over the years, under both Republican and Democrat leadership, there has been a vocal concern that the FCC needs to work in a more bipartisan fashion. Prior to 2013, 89 percent of FCC meeting items that were voted on were unanimous. After 2013, that percentage dropped to 50 percent.
Under the leadership of Chairman Pai the FCC has been discussing transparency and accountability. Though he has implemented many reforms, it does not make them permanent. For example, Chairman Pai requires the FCC to make meeting items open to the public to eliminate secrecy, which past administrations have been accused of. Additionally, Chairman Pai allows commissioners, regardless of political views, to add items to a meeting agenda. In the past this power has been abused by chairmen who might disagree with a certain policy. The reauthorization of the FCC would make these reforms permanent.
We aren’t living in the 90s anymore. It’s time modernize the laws as well as put forth permanent reform. It’s been almost 30 years. I will continue to work with my colleagues and the FCC to ensure this happens. We can’t waste any more time.