The House Commerce Committee Wednesday sent to the floor a no-brainer of a proposal that will allow the Federal Communications Commission to consolidate eight reports into one biennial communications marketplace study. It also gets rid of the anual telegraph report (yes, it's still on the books!), which dates back to 1934.
It's a move that is long overdue in the eyes of some lawmakers. Congress over the years has piled report after report on the FCC to gauge the marketplace, including separate studies on cable prices, video competition, satellite communications and broadband. No wonder the FCC, strapped for cash and bogged down with report obligations, has missed deadlines numerous times, according to the Government Accountability Office, which recently concluded the growing plethora of studies was a giant waste of time and resources.
The FCC Consolidated Reporting Act was first introduced last Congress, but it was paired with the FCC Process Reform Act, a bill that drew fierce objections from Democrats and perhaps overshadowed the common-sense act to streamline FCC reports. Passed in the GOP-controlled House, the pair of bills never stood a chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
This time, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the subcommittee on communications and technology who champions broad FCC process reform, separated the two bills, deciding to move first the proposal that has the best chance of getting through. Adding to momentum for passasge, the bill was backed by broad bipartisan support, sponsored by Walden, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).
So far, that strategy seems to be working, smoothing passage for the House and the Senate, where Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced a companion bill earlier this week.
However, it's unlikely the FCC Process Reform Act, the other bill Walden is pushing, will sail through as easily since most Dems think it would weaken the FCC.