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July 18, 2018

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The Policy Racket

Heller part of Republican effort to producing sweeping FCC reforms

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Dean Heller

Two days after President Barack Obama nominated a bipartisan pair of commissioners to take over at the Federal Communications Commission, a Republican pair of lawmakers — including Nevada Sen. Dean Heller — is pushing a double-bill of bills to institute sweeping reforms at the agency.

The thrust of their measure — which will be introduced as two bills in the House and two identical bills in the Senate — is to reform FCC rules to force the agency to consider business and investment interests before creating any “economically significant rules.”

The bills also would establish a “shot clock” to limit and accelerate the FCC’s response time in all proceedings, and meet self-established performance measures.

“The FCC works more for the FCC than they do the industry that they have a responsibility to regulate,” Heller said during a press conference announcing his, and Rep. Greg Walden, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over the commission, intention to file the bills.

Heller’s not the first Nevada Republican to focus in on FCC regulations — his predecessor in the Senate, John Ensign, campaigned heavily against the FCC’s net neutrality rulings to prevent internet providers from slowing or limiting access to certain websites — a standard internet providers campaigned against.

Heller’s joint effort to institute reforms is broader — and comes at a time when the commission is considering an equally high-profile issue.

The commission is currently considering AT&T’s proposed $38 billion purchase of T-mobile — a deal AT&T has been promising will bring more broadband service to rural areas and create 96,000 in an intense commercial campaign that the FCC isn’t buying.

“AT&T to date has produced almost nothing in response to Question 36,” wrote Rick Kaplan, who heads up wireless telecoms at the FCC, last month, referring to the question that required AT&T to disclose “all plans, analyses and reports discussing the creation or loss of jobs.”

Heller didn’t say that his measure would necessarily speed up such mergers such as the one proposed between AT&T and T-mobile, but it is in keeping with the Republicans’ general push toward policing and slowing the pace of what they call “job-killing regulations” and enabling a more business-friendly environment.

“We want a jobs cost-benefit analysis every time they propose a new rule,” he said.

Heller also seems to be developing a need for speed when it comes to federal regulatory processes.

The “shot clock” the bill would impose on the FCC is not specifically defined. But it’s the second time in the last month Heller has sought to set time limits on a federal regulatory process: the first being when he proposed a 45-day limit on Department of Interior's reviews of permit applications for public lands — a process that presently takes up to a year — as part of greater Republican bill.

Heller is not, however, willing to spend more money to enable the agencies he’s targeted to turn around reviews on an expedited schedule.

The measures are likely an easy sell in the Republican-controlled House, but will face an uphill battle in the Senate.

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