FCC Oversight Hearing | Trump FCC: Four Years of Lost Opportunities

On Sept 17, the House Communications Subcommittee held the hearing Trump FCC: Four Years of Lost Opportunities. Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ) identified several policy issues open for conversation in his hearing memo: The FCC's COVID-19 response, Lifeline, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Network Resiliency, Broadband Mapping, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Rollback of Environmental and Tribal Protections, Security (supply chain and cybersecurity), Robocalls, Media Ownership, Spectrum, and Network Neutrality.  In his opening statement, Chairman Pallone said, “We’re likely to hear from the majority commissioners about their so-called accomplishments, but to me, it reads more like an industry wish list and pandering to an Administration that does not care about consumers." He went on to list just a couple of "the most egerious examples of what the Repulican-led FCC did":

  • Obliteration of net neutrality regulations that protect a free, fair, and open internet, and abdication of their responsibilities to the Federal Trade Commission;
  • Near-complete deregulation of media ownership rules, allowing big media conglomerates to eat up small and local stations;
  • Eliminating environmental and Tribal reviews and undermining local authority and protections to give companies the upper hand, even as we all know you can’t streamline your way to universal broadband deployment.
  • And using official government processes to allow President Trump to get back at Twitter for, correctly, labeling one of his tweets as false. 

Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) said, “We cannot depend, as a nation, on the generosity of private companies to get us through this crisis. We need a national plan and coordinated federal resources - none of which this Administration or this FCC has seen fit to provide. Instead we have a government asleep at the wheel as our nation and our people struggle and too many are left behind.”

Politico reported that lawmakers used the FCC oversight hearing to bash what they dubbed “5G nationalization.” Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) pressed FCC commissioners to reiterate opposition to so-called “5G nationalization.” Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Billy Long (R-MO), among others, slammed the notion. And Chairman Doyle agreed. “The only person I know that's proposing nationalizing 5G is Donald Trump,” he said. 

In his testimony, FCC Chairman Pai outlined a list of accomplishments, concluding, “In short, the FCC has been exceptionally busy, and I expect we will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.” 

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly touched on his nomination for a new term being withdrawn by President Trump and said, “In all honesty, there is no salacious story to report. No demands were made to support any position, and no pressure was applied to take any particular action. I was informed that the president was withdrawing my nomination, as is his prerogative, by a very short phone call. I had no conversations with the White House on withdrawing the nomination prior to that point and none since.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr discussed the work the FCC has been doing and reported his travels from around the country interviewing healthcare workers and his leadership in the FCC’s wireless infrastructure modernization efforts. 

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, Our mission at the Federal Communications Commission—to connect all Americans to advanced communications capability—is an essential part of the nation’s pandemic response. But six months in I worry that in pursing that mission the FCC also has left too many people in too many places behind.” She put forward a call to look forward and plan for ubiquitous broadband. “We need a 100% policy. We need 100% of us connected to broadband. Just like with electricity. Just like with water. That’s because no individual, no household, and no community will have a fair shot at success without it. We’re not there yet. Far from it.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said, “Our long-standing digital divide has evolved into a monstrous COVID-19 divide.To respond to this crisis, we must do more.”

FCC Oversight Hearing | Trump FCC: Four Years of Lost Opportunities Hearing Page Hearing Memo Chairman Pallone Opening Statement Chairman Doyle Opening Statement FCC Accomplishments Under Chairman Ajit Pai Through September 2020 Chairman Pai Testimony Commissioner Carr Testimony Commissioner Rosenworcel Testimony Commissioner Starks Testimony Commissioner O'Rielly Testimony Lawmakers bristle over "5G Nationalization" push (Politico)