Congress Mulls Over Bill That Would Hurt FCC's Ability To Regulate Mergers

To the cable, phone, wireless and broadcasting companies in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission can sometimes seem to be a big wet blanket on all their merger-happy fun. Thus, Congress is now considering legislation that would revise the way the FCC does everything from introducing regulations to reviewing mergers.

The bill, dubbed the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, would require the FCC to provide detailed arguments, including cost-benefit analysis, when introducing new rules.

It would also limit what types of conditions the FCC could put on merging companies, an apparent reaction to some of the terms the regulators put on the merger between Comcast and NBC.

“The FCC is mandated by Congress to further the public interest, and this bill would make it harder for the Commission to carry out that mandate,” says Parul P. Desai, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union. “This so-called ‘reform’ bill would actually do more harm than good. If this bill became law, it would hamstring the agency’s ability to protect consumers and promote competition. As the FCC works to promote the public interest, any changes made to the agency should meet that same standard.”

The bill’s author is Congressman Greg Walden from Oregon, the chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

For what it’s worth, the largest chunk of donations to Walden’s elections campaigns has come from the National Association of Broadcasters. In fact, he is #2 on the list of politicians receiving contributions from the NAB.