Senator Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ For FCC To Vote On Rules Unreleased To The Public

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday again declined to publicly release his aggressive net neutrality proposal prior to a vote.

This is despite the fact that the process of adopting such rules — which line up perfectly with those called for by President Obama in 2014 — was described as “irresponsible” by Sen. Obama in 2007.

In a Monday letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz to Wheeler lamenting his decline to appear before the committee and testify on any influence the White House may have had over the rules, Chaffetz pointed out that during his tenure in Congress, the president himself criticized the agency’s process of adopting new regulations prior to their public disclosure.

“At a September 2007 public hearing in Chicago, Senator Obama submitted a statement that he ‘strongly requested’ the FCC ‘put out any changes that they intend to vote on in a new notice of proposed rulemaking,'” Chaffetz wrote.

A month after his September 2007 statement, Sen. Obama submitted a letter to then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin arguing that the “proposed timeline and process” used by the agency to adopt rules are “irresponsible,” noting that while a specific proposal “may pass the muster of a federal court, Congress and the public have the right to review any specific proposal and decide whether or not it constitutes sound policy.”

“And the commission has the responsibility to defend any new proposal in public discourse and debate,” Obama said.

One month later, Obama co-sponsored bipartisan legislation requiring the FCC to open a 90-day window for comment on new rules prior to a commission vote for implementation.

The committee has sent Wheeler repeated requests for communications between his agency and the White House over net neutrality since early February when Wheeler announced the plan. It includes regulating Internet service providers as public utilities, forcing them to adhere to government standards for speed and pricing. (RELATED: House Oversight Committee Demands FCC Turn Over Unredacted Net Neutrality Emails With White House)

Wheeler’s proposal contains all of the elements called for by President Obama in November, prompting one fellow FCC commissioner to dub the plan “President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet,” and draw the attention of the Oversight Committee and several other congressional committee investigations. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioner Slams ‘Obama’s 332-Page Plan To Regulate The Internet’)

Republican FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly on Monday petitioned Wheeler to release his net neutrality proposal to the public, and delay the commission’s Thursday vote on the measure for 30 days, during which the commission would receive and review public comment.

“With the future of the entire Internet at stake, it is imperative that the FCC get this right,” the commissioners said.

Wheeler declined the request in a tweet, citing the millions of comments the FCC received over net in 2014 — prior to announcing his net neutrality intentions — as comment enough.

“It’s time to act,” Wheeler said. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioners Ask Wheeler To Delay Net Neutrality Vote, Release Proposal)

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