Whispering Into Princes’ Ears: A Empirical Descriptive Analysis of Comments and Ex Parte Meetings at the Federal Communications Commission
21 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2018 Last revised: 20 Sep 2018
Date Written: March 12, 2018
Abstract: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) produces most of its regulations through informal notice-and-comment rulemaking. Under this process, the FCC promulgates a proposed rule and then solicits public comments before issuing a binding regulation. Its procedures also allow commissioners and staff to meet with regulated entities and their attorneys in on-going matters, but after these private, in-person meetings, parties must submit an “ex parte letter” listing the meeting’s attendees and the matters discussed. These letters describing face-to-face meetings are filed alongside public comments in the FCC’s electronic comment filing system (ECFS). In addition, the FCC relies upon ECFS database for types of activities other than rulemaking, namely adjudications, a category that includes spectrum assignment, merger approval, and enforcement.
This paper provides an empirical analysis of the approximately 4.4 million separate submissions and filings on ECFS during the period of 2006-2016 with special attention to comments and ex parte meetings. In this largely descriptive paper, we analyze this data to answer several questions: what areas appear to dominate the FCC’s attention, as measured by number of meetings and paper submissions; what does a “typical” FCC proceeding look like; which parties, law firms, and lobbyists dominate the FCC’s attention, as measured by number of meetings and paper submissions; and, finally, what types of activity seem most correlated the FCC action.
Keywords: FCC, lobbying behavior, administrative analytics
JEL Classification: K23, H50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation