Congressional Republicans probably don’t have enough votes to roll back the FCC’s recent net neutrality initiative — and then override a presidential veto. But they’ll register their displeasure over the next two weeks by raking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and other commissioners over the coals in at least five hearings, beginning tomorrow with one at the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.
The formal topic is “FCC: Process and Transparency.” But Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who wants to know whether the White House interfered with the net neutrality decision, warned that Wheeler is “going to get grilled and he deserves it,” Politico reports.
The FCC will be back on Wednesday at the Senate Commerce Committee, and Thursday at the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee. Next week Wheeler returns to Capitol Hill to testify at a House appropriations subcommittee followed by House Judiciary Committee. He’ll be accompanied by Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the FCC’s two Republicans — and an opponent of the new net neutrality rules.
Wheeler infuriated cable and phone companies, as well as GOP lawmakers, by reclassifying the Internet as a regulated telecom service. The U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the FCC’s previous efforts to ensure that content providers are treated equally, citing its earlier decision to classify the Web as a largely unregulated data service. Critics say that the change could frighten investors.
But Bernstein Research’s Paul de Sa said this morning that Congressional efforts to undermine the FCC “will probably not result in any meaningful action” because President Obama supports net neutrality and could veto a bill. As a result, the battle “will continue until either the Administration’s policy changes as a result of the Presidential election or all legal avenues are exhausted, as the FCC’s ability to reclassify broadband is an existential debate about the Commission’s relevance for the coming decade.”