A good Update on Process Reform Attempts to Reduce Backlog

Since the release of the Report on FCC Process Reform last Feb, the dedicated staff here at the particular Commission has been hard at work on implementing the report’s recommendations. One area of particular focus has been dealing with matters that have been considered backlogged, and – even more importantly – increasing speed of disposal for all issues. As noted in the Report, backlogs generally develop because of (1) improved volume of work; (2) complex issues; (3) inter-related issues; and/or (4) need for coordination with others. 2 key internal process reform operating groups have been examining ways to not just reduce the number of items currently impending at the Commission, but to furthermore move incoming items through the system faster. A few examples of progress in this field include:

  • Consent Agenda: One of the first recommendations implemented was to institute a “consent agenda” process, which enables the particular Commissioners to vote a group of products during the monthly Open Agenda Conference in an expedited way, without staff members presentations. Utilizing this process, the Press Bureau has disposed of 36 licensing applications for review so far this year, with more on course for adoption this month.
  • Closing Dockets: So far this year, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, working with the Bureaus and Offices, has closed over 760 dockets and has sought comment on another 750 dockets that appear to be eligible for closing by the end of the year.
  • Backlog Reduction Plans: Every Bureau and Office with responsibility regarding responding to requests from external petitioners and licensees has developed a backlog reduction plan. The plans concentrate both on how to reduce existing impending items at the Commission, and also process improvements for the future. As part of these plans, every Bureau and Office has ensured that their tracking system includes a complete inventory of all impending matters.
  • Guidelines on Backlog Reduction: Based on the backlog reduction plans, a working group established “best practices” for management of pending items before the Commission, including suggestions for streamlining handling of issues. The best practices have been circulated internally and discussed in individual meetings with the Bureaus and Offices so useful methodologies can be shared across the Commission.
  • Bureau/Office Streamlining and Backlog Reduction Attempts:
    • The Enforcement Bureau has largely completed the review of pending complaints, clearing the way for the Media Bureau to grant almost 700 license renewals immediately.
    • The Press Bureau has revised the way this issues effective competition rulings, providing omnibus rulings periodically instead of person rulings on each request. In March, the Bureau released a good order disposing of 55 such requests. (DA 14-407)
    • The International Bureau has removed the effective competitive opportunities check for submarine cable landing permit and 214 applications, streamlining the particular processing of those applications.
    • Between May and September, the Wireless Bureau resolved 2046 applications older than 6 months, resulting in a 26% reduction in its applications backlog.
    • On September 15th, the Wireline Bureau released a public notice announcing a process regarding streamlining disposition of certain USF related appeals with the Bureau. Below this approach, the Bureau will discharge monthly notices detailing the quality of those appeals. In the September discover, the Bureau disposed of 29 impending requests. (DA 14-1330)
    • In February, the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau released a good order which streamlined the process regarding receipt and processing of requests for closed captioning so that celebrations can file such requests digitally.

None of this progress could have been attained without the help of the dedicated staff members here at the FCC – they have got enthusiastically embraced process reform and rolled up their sleeves to help with these efforts. There will be much more ahead in the months ahead, and I will continue to provide updates periodically on different topics in our process change efforts here at the FCC.

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