FCC's O'Rielly: Change to Quadrennial Rule Review Led To 'Near-Complete Paralysis'

Tells Congress FCC needs to vote on its 2010 ownership review ASAP

New Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly plans to tell House Communications Subcommittee members that the FCC has fallen down on the media ownership review job and needs to get moving.

That's according to his testimony for a Dec. 12 oversight hearing.

"The Commission has failed to comply with the obligations required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which were subsequently amended by Congress, to review and repeal or modify any of its media ownership rules that are no longer in the public interest as a result of competition," he says.

The FCC has not completed its 2010 review and faces a 2014 review as well. O'Rielly, a former Hill staffers, has some history with the decision to change that biennial review to a quadrennial one. "I was involved in the decision to extend the time for review...based on a claim made by the Commission and some outside parties that the original two-year review process was too short and prevented thoughtful inquiries," he says. "Sadly, we did not know then that a quadrennial review requirement would lead to near-complete paralysis, allowing proponents of a static market to win by default. This is unacceptable; the Commission needs to complete its 2010 review and vote...The Commission has no authority to ignore the statute."

O'Rielly also outlined his keys to a successful incentive auction, which he also knows a little something about from his former day job. "I helped shape and craft the text of the incentive auction statute, in partnership with the able Republican and Democratic staff from the House and Senate," he points out.

As he sees it, the commission needs to "entice enough broadcasters to participate, reasonably protect those broadcasters that choose otherwise, and convince wireless companies to bid on the spectrum made available." Failure is not an option, so he says his guiding principle will be "to conduct it as soon as practicable but to focus on success."