Net Neutrality Hearing Delayed, Attention Turns to Spectrum

Earlier this summer, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced that he was inviting a number of industry leaders to a hearing focused on the internet ecosystem in light of the ongoing “net neutrality” battle. Tired of “the ping-pong game of regulations and litigation,” Walden said, “It is essential that we hear directly from the country’s top internet and edge provider leaders who frequently speak out publicly about the rules of the internet. It’s time they came before us and directly shared their positions and answered our questions.”

However, those invited, including executives from Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Comcast, declined to respond. For the time being, then, the hearing has been delayed. Representatives of several of these groups are reportedly talking with legislators, and a committee spokesman said this week, “As negotiations progress on a permanent solution for net neutrality that ensures a free and open internet, the committee will postpone the original hearing in order to allow talks between stakeholders to continue.”

It is notable that one key player on the committee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), appears interested in following up on recent tech company actions policing speech. Axios reported this week, “She said it's ‘something that will come up in discussion’ down the road about the responsibility that web companies have.”

In the meantime, Blackburn, who chairs the Communications & Technology Subcommittee, will take next week’s now-open slot to have a hearing on “repacking opportunities and challenges” following the completion of the recent broadcast spectrum auction. “It is critical the FCC works expeditiously to repack the remaining broadcasters without disruption to consumers. I look forward to receiving an update on our continued efforts to usher in a new era of wireless broadband,” she said Thursday.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: September 1, 2017

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