FCC Chairman Just Says No (to Testifying to Congress)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is refusing to testify before Congress ahead of a vote tomorrow regarding new regulation of the Internet.

“We are deeply disappointed in Chairman Wheeler’s decision,” said committee Republicans Fred Upton (R-MI) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in a statement. “As Chairman Wheeler pushes forward with plans to regulate the Internet, he still refuses to directly answer growing concerns about how the rules were developed, how they are structured, and how they will stand up to judicial scrutiny.”

So-called net neutrality is a contentious issue. In reiterating his support for the Internet regulation, President Obama stated, “We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx) responded by tweeting, “‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”

Also fighting net neutrality: America’s largest cable company, Comcast. “The internet has not just appeared by accident or gift — it has been built by companies like ours investing and building networks and infrastructure,” said Comcast executive vice president David Cohen. “The policy the White House is encouraging would jeopardize this engine for job creation and investment as well as the innovation cycle that the Internet has generated.”

In their statement today, Republicans added, “So long as the chairman continues to insist on secrecy, we will continue calling for more transparency and accountability at the commission. Chairman Wheeler and the FCC are not above Congress. This fight continues as the future of the Internet is at stake.”

Supporters say the regulations at issue would allow the FCC to make sure Internet service providers give consumers equal access to all content. Companies that provide Internet content would be barred from paying ISP’s for faster service. Detractors say it allows the federal government to make intrusive inroads where it doesn’t belong.

The FCC has reviewed draft proposals for the new regulations in private, as it normally does. This has led to objections over supposed secrecy.

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