House Panel Holds Another FCC Oversight Hearing
November 18, 2015 at 3:17 AM (PT)
The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held another FCC oversight hearing TODAY (11/17), and most of the fireworks focused on set-top box security, with Republicans on the panel grilling Chairman TOM WHEELER on an FCC committee report with proposals for devices rather than downloadable software solutions to replace CableCARD.
In his prepared remarks, WHEELER gave a brief update on the agency's process reform efforts, saying that his staff has been "actively working on implementing (the staff working group process report's) recommendations and have made significant progress ... Our reforms are making tangible, impactful progress that will improve our decision-making process." And he criticized the proposed cuts to the agency's 2016 budget as having "severe consequences to the agency’s ability to protect public safety, advance the spectrum agenda, and transact business vital to the U.S. economy and consumers in a timely fashion."
Commissioner AJIT PAI's prepared remarks ripped the Commission's own Enforcement Bureau, saying that its "enforcement process has gone off the rails. Instead of dispensing justice by applying the law to the facts, the Commission has focused on issuing headline-grabbing fines, regardless of the legality of its actions." He gave examples of companies he asserted were fined for non-existent infractions, including AT&T's $100 million fine over alleged disclosure deficiencies in its data-speed throttling that he said "fit the FCC’s previous interpretation of its transparency rule to a T," plus a $10 million fine against TERRACOM for failing to protect customers' personally identifiable information despite the Commission never having interpreted the Communications Act to require that protection and being unable to point to any rule the company had allegedly violated, and M.C. DEAN's being cited for a Part 15 interference violation for making Wi-Fi blocking equipment when such devices are not prohibited under the current rules.
WHEELER also suggested that the laws do not presently allow the FCC to "do anything" about the use of the Internet for terrorism-promoting and violence-promoting websites and posts, in response to comments by Reps. JOE BARTON (R-TX) and BOBBY RUSH (D-IL), but added that he would call upon MARK ZUCKERBERG to discuss how FACEBOOK can block terrorism-related and gang-related pages. The hearing also briefly touched on the pirate radio issue, with WHEELER asking for resources to help the agency, working with the NAB, as it plays "whack-a-mole" with the pirates.