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For Immediate Release: July 11, 2013
Contact: Rob Thormeyer, 202-898-9382, rthormeyer@naruc.org

NARUC's Ramsay Applauds Effort to Reform FCC Process

WASHINGTON—Reforming how the Federal Communications Commission develops rules and implements policies will benefit consumers, the markets it oversees, and result in a better record for agency decisions, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners told Congress.

In testimony today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, NARUC General Counsel James Bradford Ramsay applauded committee members for pursuing this issue through draft legislation.

“Let me begin by sincerely thanking you for circulating the discussion draft and holding this hearing,” Mr. Ramsay said. “There is no question that reform is needed.”

The discussion draft includes numerous improvements that will greatly improve agency decisions, transparency, and market oversight, Mr. Ramsay said. While careful to note that NARUC either does not endorse or have a position on every element in the bill, the product overall is a positive development, he added.

Specifically, NARUC supports the draft’s changes on how the FCC proposes and seeks comments on new rulemakings. The draft requires the agency to ask public comments on the specific language of proposed rules and a minimum of 30 days for stakeholder comment, with another 30 days for replies.

“Though it will require the FCC to manage its proceedings more carefully, this is a crucial improvement over the current process,” Mr. Ramsay said. This will particularly assist NARUC’s State public utility commission members, who are often among the experts on these issues, in getting their comments in on time.

Mr. Ramsay also expressed NARUC’s support for language that would direct the FCC to create a searchable online database of consumer complaints. Doing so would help consumers choose among competing providers and services. NARUC adopted a resolution calling for such a system in early 2012. “For competition to flourish consumers need access to information that will help them make informed decisions,” Mr. Ramsay said. “A comprehensive, searchable database on consumer complaints will provide just that.”

In addition, the draft legislation will greatly assist in making the several joint collaborative boards between State and federal commissions more effective and efficient. The FCC and NARUC members convene three congressionally mandated joint boards/conferences charged with making recommendations on universal service, advanced services, and separations. FCC commissioners participate during joint board meetings, but the agency’s “Sunshine rules” prohibit more than one commissioner from participating at one time.

This means that during joint board hearings, FCC commissioners must rotate their participation, “causing continuous inefficient repetition of prior conversations and positions,” Mr. Ramsay said.

Sunshine reform “is long overdue,” he said. “This section unquestionably streamlines the FCC’s decisional procedures. Its requirement for party diversity for a quorum to meet is a critical and clever additional protection of process.”
 

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NARUC is a non-profit organization founded in 1889 whose members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. NARUC's member agencies regulate telecommunications, energy, and water utilities. NARUC represents the interests of State public utility commissions before the three branches of the Federal government.

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