FCC Commissioners Mike O’Rielly and Brendan Carr said today they don’t have “rather frosty” relationships with their Democratic colleagues Mignon L. Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.
During a session this afternoon at the Free State Foundation’s annual telecom policy conference, FSF President Randolph May said he has the impression that the Republican and Democratic Commissioners have “rather frosty” relationships “and that the personal relationships may be frayed.”
“I think your impression is wrong,” said Mr. O’Rielly. “I have great relationships with my Democratic colleagues.”
He added that while “we may fight on a particular issue,” it doesn’t mean that Commissioners don’t work together on a bipartisan basis on other matters. He noted, for example, working with Commissioner Rosenworcel on 911 fee diversion and with Commissioner Clyburn on high-cost support and rate-of-return matters.
Relationships “can always be better, but I think we’re working as well as we can,” Mr. O’Rielly added.
Mr. Carr said he agrees, saying, “I think it is a story line that’s been overblown, and I think relationships are going really well.”
For example, he said, he sat down with Commissioner Clyburn to see if they could reach a consensus on any issues in the restoring Internet freedom (RIF) docket. They couldn’t, he said, but not because of poor relations.
Mr. O’Rielly noted that last month, he was irritated at proposed “late edits” on a proposal to eliminate a filing requirement for broadcasters related to the equal employment opportunity (EEO) practices (TR Daily, Feb. 22).
“I would appreciate the common courtesy when we reach out to other offices whether there are any problems and get back no answer,” he began in a departure from his statement on the substance of the EEO item, before announcing, “I intend to oppose in future any edits from my colleagues that are not submitted at least 24 hours ahead of a meeting.”
He said today that process reforms could help avoid such conflicts and “make everyone’s life easier at the Commission.”
Mr. Carr said there had been a practice at the FCC for Commissioners to convey their proposed edits on meeting items a week before a meeting. “There’s been some tendency over the years for some people to lie and wait and then spring with their asks at the last minute, and that’s not very conductive to trying to find common ground and compromise,” he said.
Regarding other process reforms, Mr. O’Rielly said he would also like to see action concerning what is delegated to staff and how items can be called up for Commission-level action. He said that “a couple blowups recently” could have been avoided if such policies were in place.
Mr. O’Rielly also said that there’s a need to make the FCC’s internal processes “more official” and less “loosey goosey” by putting them in the Code of Federal Regulations.
In response to a question about how he would change anything at the agency if he could, he said the responsibilities of the Chairman made the framework of the agency like “a pyramid,” adding that he would “try and make it a little bit more balanced.” He stressed that he believes FCC Chairman Ajit Pai “is doing a great job.”
Mr. Carr said he would organize the bureaus and offices differently so they were not so siloed.
The Commissioners agreed that the FCC’s practice of publicly releasing the text of draft items for meetings shortly after they are circulated to Commissioners has been successful.
However, Mr. Carr said parties tend to wait until near the end of the sunshine period before weighing in at the Commission. He said he wants to encourage them to do that earlier.
The Commissioners also defended the RIF order adopted in December (TR Daily, Dec. 14, 2017), including its preemption of state laws.
Mr. O’Rielly said that while he believes in states’ rights “on many issues,” “the Internet is something that crosses state boundaries” and so a federal framework – albeit one with a light touch – is needed.
He was asked for his views of states that have acted to adopt net neutrality items. “I think that they’re wrong as both a matter of federal law and ultimate public policy,” he said.
The Commissioners did not have any comment on the content of letters they received yesterday from House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) and communications and technology committee ranking member Mike Doyle (D., Pa.) criticizing them for attending last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) (TR Daily, March 26).
Mr. O’Rielly said he will respond to the lawmakers’ questions. “We will deal directly with them in terms of a response,” Mr. Carr said. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org
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