The Senate was the setting for the first joint public appearance of all five FCC Commissioners. In addition, as noted by Commissioner Robert McDowell, who participated in NRB’s Capitol Hill panel on “Free Speech vs. Free Market on the Internet” a day earlier, it was the first time in over four years that the full Commission had been invited to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee.
While it was the public debut for Commissioners Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel since being sworn in to office on Monday, most of the questioning was directed at FCC Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner McDowell. Senators posed questions on numerous issues, particularly relating to broadband, spectrum, net neutrality, and the Universal Service Fund. Notably, while Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) stressed that “it is imperative the FCC continues to use all its existing authority to robustly protect consumers and the public interest,” Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), likely to be the top Republican on the committee next year, expressed concern with heavy-handedness towards private enterprise and FCC “preemptive regulation… solving problems that aren’t there yet.”
The full Commission will gather again next Thursday morning in an Open Meeting at the FCC with emergency communications, Medical Body Area Networks, and wireless spectrum utilization on the docket.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations