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Highlights

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 established that FCC should promote competition and reduce regulation to secure lower prices and higher-quality services for American consumers. FCC implements its policy aims through rulemaking, whereby the agency notifies the public of a proposed rule and provides an opportunity for the public to participate in the rule's development. These rulemakings are documented within a public docket that contains the rulemaking record. In response to a congressional request on FCC rulemaking, GAO (1) described FCC's rulemaking process; (2) determined, for specific rulemakings, the extent to which FCC followed its process; and (3) identified factors that contributed to some dockets and rulemakings remaining open. GAO reviewed recent FCC rules, interviewed FCC officials and stakeholders, and conducted case studies of rulemakings.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Communications Commission 1. To ensure a fair and transparent rulemaking process, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission should take steps to ensure equal access to information, particularly in regard to the disclosure of information about proposed rules that are scheduled to be considered by the commission, by developing and maintaining (1) procedures to ensure that nonpublic information will not be disclosed and (2) a series of actions that will occur if the information is disclosed, such as referral to the Inspector General and providing the information to all stakeholders.
Closed - Implemented
FCC has addressed the intent of our recommendation to ensure a fair and transparent rulemaking process by making its rulemaking docket publicly available to inform all stakeholders of the regulatory items it is considering. On November 30, 2007, FCC informed Congress that the Commission will begin to publish a list of items that are "on circulation," or are potential rulemaking changes that are being deliberated and discussed by FCC Commissioners outside of a public meeting. On April 24, 2008, FCC announced that it would publicize the topics selected for a public meeting three weeks prior to the meeting.

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