Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Should the FCC Join the Federal eRulemaking Program?

On December 19, 2016, John W. Davis II, the founder and CEO of Notice and Comment Inc., published an article in The Hill proposing an interesting idea for the FCC to join the federal eRulemaking Program. Regulations.gov serves as the government’s public-facing portal where federal agencies issue regulatory notices and accept citizen responses, but unlike most federal agencies, the FCC uses its own system for publishing rulemakings and accepting comments.
Mr. Davis says that the wave of 4 million comments made during the Net Neutrality proceeding showed a clear “need for modernization of the Commission’s processes.” Not only did the FCC’s comment system crash in 2014, but “it ended up taking nine months and an estimated $50 million for the FCC to consider the entire comment dataset.” On the other hand, Mr. Davis endorses the federal eRulemaking Program:
With standardization of data comes a whole new level of immediate transparency in governance, permitting a higher degree of public participation -- and at earlier stages of the process, such as the discovery phase of highly common utility-pole- attachment disputes, which fall under FCC purview. This greater degree of public data accessibility should naturally result in more efficient complaints adjudication.
Given the possibility that the FCC’s Open Internet Order could get repealed by the incoming Commission, Mr. Davis says that the FCC should join the eRulemaking Program as soon as possible. He states:
[I]f net neutrality rules are re-opened for consideration, judging from public response to the last round, the FCC stands to be inundated by many millions of comments. Even if the Commission’s network does not crash again, its staff of lawyers are sure to be occupied for several months manually reviewing and analyzing the tidal wave of data. Meanwhile, businesses will remain in a state of uncertainty about the shape of the future telecom regulatory environment.
The benefits in terms of cost savings, government responsiveness, and public data transparency make the move an obvious choice.
If the FCC were to join the eRulemaking Program, there still would remain many areas of necessary process reform (see here, here, and here). However, the proposal is certainly an interesting one that should garner consideration.