Lawmakers, former FCC officials and other panelists gathered at a House communications and technology subcommittee hearing on Wednesday debated the pros and cons of draft legislation that would reform various FCC processes. Sponsored by subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), the draft Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act is intended to promote greater transparency and accountability as the FCC conducts its business while eliminating certain procedural rules that are thought to be inefficient and overly burdensome. The draft bill also incorporates provisions of the FCC Collaboration Act, a similar measure introduced earlier this year by ranking subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA). Among other things, the draft act would require the FCC to (1) publish the text of proposed orders in advance of agency open meetings, (2) apply “shot clocks” that currently apply to merger reviews to licensing and other agency decisions, (3) conduct cost-benefit analyses before enacting rules that burden the industry, and (4) establish minimum periods for public comment on proposed agency rules. The bill would also repeal current rules that prohibit three or more FCC commissioners from discussing agency business in private. Setting the tone for debate, Eshoo urged her colleagues to “be cautious of legislative proposals that might diminish the Commission’s ability to protect the public interest,” as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) advised: “it is important to recognize that this . . . draft preserves much of the agency’s flexibility.” Agreeing that the current restriction on private meetings between three or more commissioners is “overly restrictive,” former FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy (now an executive vice president of Frontier Communications Corp.) told the panel that a repeal would address many of the lawmakers’ other concerns “because you would have dialogue among the parties.” While admitting that a uniform shot clock for FCC proceedings of varying complexity would be difficult to implement, Abernathy said the proposal was worthy of consideration as shot clocks could prod the FCC to act when there is “no good answer and hence a tendency to ‘kick the issue’ down the road.” Mark Cooper, the director of research at the Consumer Federation of America, added that any shot clock provision should kick in only when the record of a proceeding is complete, noting: “we’ve had problems with merger reviews where companies weren’t forthcoming [from the outset].”