House Communications Subcommittee Hearing: Oversight of the FCC

The House Communications Subcommittee continued its oversight of the Federal Communications Commission at a hearing. Members examined various issues related to the FCC’s policy decisions and the process by which it reaches them, including FCC process reform, the FCC’s actions regarding set top boxes, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to impose new privacy rules on Internet service providers (ISPs). Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) expressed his disappointment in Chairman Wheeler’s reluctance to adopt an open and transparent process for his proposal to impose privacy rules on ISPs. Commissioner Pai and Commissioner O’Reilly echoed Chairman Walden’s sentiment and expressed concern with the top-down, non-transparent nature of the FCC. Chairman Walden concluded, “This is 2016, this is not 1816, we want an open and transparent process so the public can comment.” During Vice Chairman Bob Latta’s (R-OH) questioning on the FCC’s set-top box proposal, Commissioner Pai categorized the FCC’s proposal as “Back to the future. Instead of moving to an app-based world where consumers can finally free themselves of this expensive, clunky equipment that consumes a lot of energy and doesn’t provide the functionality they want, the FCC’s doubling down on 1990s technology.”

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) stressed the importance of an open and transparent process, stating, “As the Chairman seeks to implement what is likely the final year of his agenda, it is no less important now that matters are addressed through a process that is open and transparent, informed through robust debate, and resolved through bipartisan compromise. It is only through this approach that we can avoid the uncertainty and threat to investment and jobs creation that a flawed process promises to deliver.” Chairman Walden added, “We know the commission has implemented only half of the recommendations of the 2014 FCC Process Reform Working Group. That is why I believe true reforms require changes in law that can transcend any particular chairman or commission. The public deserves no less. Unfortunately, sharp divisions within the commission are widely known. With the rapidly changing communications marketplace, we’ve never needed this independent agency to work together for the public interest more than now.”

House Communications Subcommittee Hearing: Oversight of the FCC Statement of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (Wheeler Statement) Statement of FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly (O'Rielly Statement) Testimony of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (Rosenworcel Testimony) Testimony of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (Pai Testimony) Testimony of FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (Clyburn Testimony) FCC's Lifeline expansion could see changes before vote (The Hill) Hill Republicans Hammer Chairman Wheeler Over Joint Sales Agreement Unwinding (Broadcasting & Cable) Future Of TV Says Chairman Wheeler Makes Set-Top Case for Them (Broadcasting & Cable) Chairman Wheeler: FCC Has Authority to Regulate Broadband Rates (Broadcasting & Cable) Chairman Wheeler Gets Some Democratic Pushback at Hill Hearing (Broadcasting & Cable) Lawmakers Push for Opening Up FCC’s Rulemaking Process (Morning Consult)