State Telecom Regulators Urge ‘Sunshine Law’ Reform

Broadband Updates, Broadband's Impact, FCC, States, Transparency April 15th, 2010

, Reporter,

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2010 — Federal laws designed to guarantee public access to certain data should be revised to allow members of the Federal Communications Commission to meet more often and work together more efficiently, a group of state telecommunications regulators told members of a House committee in a Wednesday letter.

The letter was addressed to the chairmen and ranking members of the Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

The state commissioners, including former National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Larry Landis of Indiana and Roy Baum of Oregon, are members of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.

The board also has seats for two FCC commissioners. But the “sunshine rules” prevent a third FCC commissioner from sitting in on a joint board meeting. For more than two members of the FCC to meet — even informally – there must be a series of public notices and a posted agenda a certain number of days before the meeting.

This structure was put in place to foster transparency and good government, but critics charge it has hampered the commission’s ability to conduct business and solve problems by limiting the occurrence of spontaneous discussions among commissioners. The commissioners say the rules have hampered the ability of the commission to act quickly when dealing with emerging problems.

The letter encourages the House members to approve the Federal Communications Commission Collaboration Act, H.R. 4167. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who announced this month he will not run for re-election. The bill corrects “systemic problems” with the sunshine laws, the state commissioners say, and would resolve “significant inefficiencies and delay in the FCC administrative process.”

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