There is concern among congressional lawmakers that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is arbitrarily applying its rules and singling out certain companies or industries for regulation, House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said at a FCC oversight hearing earlier this week.
During the hearing, Walden listed a number of FCC actions that have troubled him (link is external), they include: its move to preempt state laws surrounding municipal-funded broadband, expansion of the FCC’s privacy authority and the Universal Service Lifeline program.
“Congress has delegated too much flexibility and authority to the FCC,” Walden added.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, voiced his concern about the FCC’s openness and transparency. He urged FCC Commissioners commissioners to return to bipartisan policymaking.
Alluding to the FCC’s recent Open Internet Order, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told subcommittee members he was concerned that “expansive interpretations” (link is external) of the 1996 Communications Act could take the FCC “far beyond” its traditional jurisdiction.
The FCC’s investigations were also on the mind of some Communications and Technology Subcommittee members.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) asked FCC commissioners how the FCC’s investigation into the special access/business broadband marketplace would affect broadband investment.
Broadband service providers would have a disincentive to buildout if there is the notion that the government should force one company to stay in business for the benefit of another company Commissioner Ajit Pai, replied.
The subcommittee’s ranking Member member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) thanked Republicans for their efforts in overseeing the FCC and acknowledged the commissioners’ ongoing work to understand the dynamic tech and telecom markets.
“But I urge you to always remain focused on putting consumers first. Above all, the Commission’s priority should be making sure consumers are the ones deciding what services and devices meet their needs,” Pallone said.