We are an unusual “nuclear” family. Unusual in the sense that I worked at FCC for almost 25 years and my wife's career was mostly in the nuclear power area and included 13 years at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Thus in our household we have experience at 2 different regulatory commissions – probably a rare occurrence even in Washington.
This week was NRC's annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC)
and we dropped by together to register her Monday afternoon and I was there yesterday for a bit to catch the flavor and go to some private company receptions in conjunction with the conference since I know many people in that industry. Note that this meeting was FREE and open to the public. Heck, I even registered so you certainly didn't have to be an NRC regulatee to come.
The RIC program is a fascinating document to review how it compares with FCC public information events. All of the current NRC commissioners spoke on their views of current issues. There were sessions and panel sessions on most topics of ongoing NRC policy deliberations. There was even a “lessons learned” session by the NRC Historian – FCC does not have a historian and never seems interested in learning from mistakes it made in the past. (Perhaps this is why the boundary between TV channel 51 and the now CMRS spectrum in the former channel 52 never benefited from the lesson learned in the early 1980s from the problems between channel 69 and the former channel 70. Check out the WVEU channel 69 case in Atlanta.)
Here's an example of a government industry panel at the meeting:
Licensing Best Practices and Initiatives
This NRC and industry panel will provide regulator and industry’s views on best practices observed and proposed for submission of successful licensing actions. Topics that could be included are: Actions that can facilitate a timely review, presubmittal meetings, the acceptance review process, and effective use of technical specifications task forces. In addition, the panel will discuss selected initiatives that either the industry or the NRC are currently implementing to enhance the preparation, review, and disposition of licensing actions.
There are events vaguely comparable to this in the FCC sphere of influence, but almost all of them are trade association events or Practicing Law Institute events with very high registration fees, often >$1000. But why can't the FCC engage public and its regulatees in such an open and transparent event?
Today I also filed a related suggestion on the reboot.FCC.gov site to improve openness at FCC:
“Post videos on FCC site of all talks by senior FCC officials
Commissioners and senior staffers often speak at major trade associations and fora such as FCBA and PLI with very high admission charges. It is good that they engage at these events, but those who can not afford the entrance charges are left in the dark about new policy – although sometimes the … more
Commissioners and senior staffers often speak at major trade associations and fora such as FCBA and PLI with very high admission charges. It is good that they engage at these events, but those who can not afford the entrance charges are left in the dark about new policy – although sometimes the prepared text is posted.
I suggest that as a matter of policy, senior FCC official only accept such speaking engagements if the sponsoring organization agrees to make a video of the presentation and all Q&As and release that video for posting on FCC website within a few days.
These talks are prepared and made on taxpayer time even if the hosting organization pays for travel and lunch. The content should be available to the public. While such a policy may not be binding on individual commissioners, it probably would have the correct effect.”
If you like this idea, please express support for it on the website. Of course, feel free to criticize it or propose alternatives.
So let's think about how to improve FCC transparency!
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.