Inspector General Finds That Obama Didn’t Pressure FCC Into Adopting Net Neutrality Rules

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Former President Barack Obama did not aggressively push the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt internet regulations known as so-called “net neutrality rules,” according to a Motherboard investigation.

The findings, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, apparently refute claims made by many, including most notably Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and contradict an earlier investigation from Congress.

The idea that Obama spearheaded a government takeover of the internet was a talking point for public officials like Pai, who recently joined his fellow two Republican commissioners in undoing the aforementioned regulations imposed by the 2015 FCC.

The net neutrality rules in many ways resembled a thrusting of the FCC to the center of internet governance, however, whether Obama was the primary impetus of the push now seems to be somewhat dubious, or at least way less clear.

The FCC, an independent government agency intended to be mostly separate from the bureaucratic decision-making processes in the rest of the executive branch, has its own Inspector General also inherently designed to be internally independent.

The Inspector General’s report on the probe into whether Obama inappropriately interfered or colluded with the FCC to quickly sweep in regulations didn’t find any type of wrongdoing, according to Motherboard.

“We found no evidence of secret deals, promises, or threats from anyone outside the Commission, nor any evidence of any other improper use of power to influence the FCC decision-making process,” read the report, that was marked classified and sent by assistant inspector general Jay Kiethley.

In contrast, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and GOP Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s investigation led him to rule in 2016 that the Obama administration did in fact pressure the FCC so it could adopt strict net neutrality regulations. Then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was allegedly ready to introduce a heavy-handed, albeit less so, approach to internet governance.

“This investigation has convinced me that the White House overrode the FCC’s decision-making apparatus,” Johnson said in a press release. “It is concerning that an independent agency like the FCC could be so unduly influenced by the White House, particularly on an issue that touches the lives of so many Americans and has such a significant impact on a critical sector of the United States economy.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Emails Show Obama-Era FCC Gave Special Treatment To Liberal Groups)

The Inspector General’s report directly addressed the coinciding Senate probe.

“Nothing we found refuted the factual findings in the Senate Staff Report,” the Inspector General wrote, according to Motherboard.

How much the now-questionably reliable belief that Obama pushed the internet regulations helped build a case for Republican FCC Commissioners is not at all clear, though, as many were against the rules almost solely on the underlying principles, and not where they originated.

And while Obama may have not assertively pressured the FCC behind closed door, he did try to convince them publicly.


Current FCC Commissioners Pai and Rosenworcel, a Democrat, did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by time of publication. The offices of Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr declined to provide insight into the report, as did Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Updates to the article may be made if the statuses of TheDCNF’s respective inquiries change.


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