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Chairman Walden warms up before FCC hearing

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has a very long list of FCC procedures that he thinks needs fixing – issues he’s been trying to get lawmakers to address for the past three Congresses.

Walden, a former broadcaster and station owner, previewed his list at a keynote speech Thursday morning at the Free State Foundation’s annual telecom policy conference two hours before his subcommittee’s hearing on FCC reauthorization.

All five FCC commissioners are scheduled to testify at the hearing before the communications and technology subcommittee chaired by Walden.  This is the third congressional hearing this week in the GOP-led Congress, scheduled in the wake of the FCC’s party line vote on the net neutrality order.

“Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the commission’s net neutrality decision is the way in which it was made,” said Walden. “I’ve often said that bad process results in bad policy.”

One of the biggest flashpoints in the net neutrality debate was FCC chairman Wheeler’s refusal to release the text of the final order to the public prior to the commission vote.

Walden wants to see put more transparency in the FCC’s decision and rulemaking process. Among the procedures he’d like to see adopted: give minority commissioners more timely access to proposals and orders; make the actual text of an order under consideration available for public comment; publish orders, decisions and reports seven days after they are adopted by the commission.

One of the things Walden finds most troubling at the FCC these days is the increasing number of 3-2 partisan votes on major issues.

“There have been more party-line votes under [FCC chairman] Wheeler than in the pervious four chairmen and acting chairman combined,” he said citing a Politico analysis published this summer.

In the first nine months of Wheeler’s tenure, there were 11 party line votes compared to 10 party line votes in the previous eight and a half years under both Democrat  and Republican chairs, per Politico.

“Evidence of procedural failings, questionable dealings, and partisan breakdowns within the agency are stacking up, and I have grave concerns about the way the FCC is being run. I hope that we can find ways to return to a more functional method of formulating the policy decisions,” Walden concluded.