FCC Coming Under Congressional Microscope

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, and the other FCC Commissioners have a busy schedule ahead for the rest of March.  Capitol Hill is very interested in happenings at the agency, particularly the agency’s recent partisan vote to regulate the Internet. 

Next Wednesday, members of the Senate Commerce Committee will have the opportunity to pose questions on numerous topics to all five FCC Commissioners at a broad oversight hearing.  However, Internet regulation is sure to be high on the agenda for many Senators.  Notably, following the Thursday public release of the Commission’s “net neutrality” order, a statement from Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) noted the upcoming hearing and said, “The world finally gets to read and understand just what the White House, acting by proxy via a partisan FCC vote, has done to impose the federal government’s heavy hand to regulate the Internet as a utility. We look forward to working our way through the 300+ pages of this Washington manifesto.”  Leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee joined Senator Thune in the release, and, on the same day, scheduled a hearing for next  Thursday titled, “FCC Reauthorization: Oversight of the Commission.”

The House Judiciary Committee will also be bringing FCC Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Pai before it for a more specific hearing titled, “Wrecking the Internet to Save It? The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rule.” While announcing the hearing, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) stated, “The Internet is one of the most dynamic and competitive marketplaces in existence and has become a cornerstone of the American economy and culture.  The success of the Internet is due in large part to the fact that it has remained free of onerous regulations, until now.”

Of note, in response to the FCC’s vote to impose new heavy-handed regulations on the Internet, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, stated, “I am saddened that the FCC voted on partisan lines to dramatically expand federal power over the Internet.  Bigger government is not fertile ground for the flourishing of free speech and innovation.  This is a power grab, and NRB opposes it.” In addition, the NRB Board of Directors, a body of approximately a hundred key leaders among Christian communicators, unanimously approved a Resolution opposed to this move by the Commission.  The NRB Board was particularly concerned that free speech values be upheld online and also highlighted that such action may “send a poor signal to nations that have or are considering more state governance of the Internet,” and may encourage “repressive regimes that would like an international body like the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations to have increased authority over the Internet.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: March 13, 2015

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