Monday, October 8, 2007

GAO Report: FCC Violates Rulemaking Info Flow

A new report from the GAO (Government Accounting Office) titled “FCC Should Take Steps to Ensure Equal Access to Rulemaking Information,” says:

"As a regulatory agency,
FCC is routinely lobbied by stakeholders with a vested interest in the issues FCC regulates. It is critical that FCC maintain an environment in which all stakeholders have an equal opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process AND that the process is perceived as fair and transparent.

Situations where some, but not all
, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC's rules.

Since the success of lobbying for a particular issue can be highly dependent on whether an issue is being actively considered, FCC staff who disclose nonpublic information about when an issue will be considered could be providing an advantage to some stakeholders, allowing them to time their lobbying efforts to maximize their impact. As a result, FCC may not hear from all sides of the issue during an important part of the rulemaking process. This imbalance of information is not the intended result of the Communications Act, and it runs contrary to the principles of transparency and equal opportunity for participation established by law and to FCC's own rules that govern rulemaking."

The GAO report really isn't much of a surprise, at least to those of us who have been involved in the communications industry for any length of time; it's been quite evident for many years that the lobbying process itself has been more-than-a-little slanted in favor of large corporate entities (wireless and wireline telecommunication incumbents, media, and the broadcast folks come to mind here)......this report seems to "officially" validate that evidence albeit the facts are based on just a very small sample of the FCC's many proceedings.

Perhaps the GAO auditors should return and dig a bit deeper; so far, they've only managed to scratch the surface of what many believe may be a larger problem within this agency. Oh, by the way, the FCC declined to comment or refute the GAO's report.


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