House Communications Subcommittee FCC Oversight Hearing

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As expected, the Democratic leaders on the House Communications Subcommittee used the Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing to hammer FCC Chairman Ajit Pai over policies and actions with which they strongly disagree. In his opening statement, Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) said Chairman Pai had yet to explain to Congress or the American people what it was doing about mobile carriers sharing real-time geolocation data. He also slammed the inaccurate and deeply flawed broadband deployment data, old and faulty business broadband data, and warned the FCC not to act on a USTelecom forbearance petition using such data. He said the FCC should auction the C-band spectrum, rather than hand that money to "four foreign satellite companies," which he said would be irresponsible.

Full House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) said he shared his Democratic colleagues' concern about the unauthorized use of consumers' geolocation data. But he expanded on his concerns, pointing out that aggregators had been selling data for unauthorized purposes without permission from the carrier or consumer. He said he understood the FCC's Enforcement Bureau was taking a "deeper dive" into the issue, but that many carriers had already cut off the programs, so they were turning to "the location data collected by tech company's operating systems and apps that were constantly tracking users." He said in many cases that data was even more "pervasive and precise." He said his concern was that the market for location data was shifting to that relatively unregulated edge.

Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), like Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, pulled no punches in his opening statement. "[O]ver the last two years, this FCC has too often turned its back on the public – putting the big corporate interests first," he said. He said the FCC under Chairman Pai had "heartlessly and needlessly proposed drastic cuts" to the Lifeline phone and broadband program for low-income Americans. Chairman Pallone said the FCC had misled the public about the extent to which it had closed the rural divide, initially basing that assertion on flawed data and, citing reports, said Pai had "voted to release the Congressionally mandated broadband report knowing that the data in the draft was inaccurate."

Rep Jerry McNerney (D-NM) expressed concern about President Donald Trump's ongoing attacks on journalists, pointing to a Presidential tweet calling the media "truly the enemy of the people." All members of the FCC said they did not share the President's view of journalists, and Chairman Pai said that the President has not, to his knowledge, reached out to him about FCC licenses held by media companies whose news coverage he disagrees with. 

Chairman Pai also touched on broadcast rule forbearance authority. He reiterated a suggestion he had made for the FCC to be able to respond as rapidly to competitive marketplace changes in the broadcast space as it can in the telecom and cable space, where it has forbearance authority. 

Chairman Pai and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly focused their opening statements on broadband access, spectrum allocation for 5G technology, and robocalls. 

House Communications Subcommittee FCC Oversight Hearing Hearing Page Dems Slam Pai in Oversight Hearing (B&C) Pai: President Trump Has Not Contacted Him About Media 'Enemies' (Multichannel News) O'Rielly Calls for Measured Robocall Approach (B&C) FCC's Pai Plugs Broadcast Rule Forbearance Authority (B&C) Robocalls, Broadband Dominate FCC Oversight Hearing (RBRTVBR) Chairman Pai Testimony to House Communications & Tech Subcommittee Rosenworcel Stmt. Before Subcommittee On Communications & Technology O'Rielly Testimony Before House Accountability and Oversight Hearing Carr Testimony to House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Rep. Walden 'On Edge' Over Geolocation Data Sharing (Multichannel News) FCC's Pai: White Spaces Item Awaits Broadcast/Microsoft Consensus (B&C)