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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Don't Curse the CER

I'm such an E-Rate geek.  Why do I even read this stuff?  So it seems the House of Representatives passed the   FCC Process Reform Act.  It's never going to pass the Senate, and if it did, the President would veto it, but "process reform" sounds promising.

I'm not going to read the bill, since I'm trying to cut down on caffeine, and it takes a lot of stimulant to make it through an actual bill, but it seems the chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee wants to promote openness and transparency in FCC processes and procedures.  That sounded hopeful, but it turns out he was talking about the rulemaking procedures, which I've always thought was the most transparent part of the E-Rate.  Imagine what the chairman would think if he learned about PIA and the 700 pages of secret rules.

Anyway, the bill would have forced the FCC to release the exact text of proposed rules, and give the public 30 days to comment.  Sounds good, except that if the FCC actually made any changes based on public comment, wouldn't they then have to post the changed rule for another 30 days?  I think it would mean interminable comment cycles.

The article says that the chairman complained that the FCC reformed the Universal Service Program without publishing the proposed changes even after approving them.  I noticed the same thing with the Sixth Report and Order.  And there were definitely some changes made in the Sixth Report and Order that were not in any NPRM.

But on the whole, I don't think we need to shine a flashlight on the reasonably well-lit rulemaking process.  Instead, how about lighting a candle in the PIA darkness.  Even better, let's set fire to the Cost Effectiveness Review, and let that cheery blaze illuminate the rest of the PIA process.

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