Republicans and a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) official have expressed concerns about the Biden administration’s attempts to increase regulatory control over the Internet and affiliated services.
In a recent hearing before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Nov. 30, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel faced scrutiny from House Energy and Commerce Full Committee Chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.
The hearing, titled “Oversight of President Biden’s Broadband Takeover,” delved into the implications of the proposed changes to the FCC’s role and authority in regulating interstate and international communications.
The chairwoman’s plan includes exerting additional authority over the internet, including establishing “basic rules” for Internet Service Providers as well as an effort to “reclassify broadband internet access to give the FCC and its national security partners the tools needed to defend our networks from potential security threats,” among other measures.
The FCC’s AuthorityDuring the hearing, Ms. Rodgers raised questions about the FCC’s adoption of digital discrimination rules, arguing that the agency exceeded its congressional mandate. She questioned the FCC’s authority to regulate various aspects of business decisions, including pricing, contract terms, and marketing campaigns, which extend beyond the agency’s jurisdiction.
“Where did the FCC find this authority? And what expertise does the FCC even have to regulate these practices?” Ms. Rogers asked.
Ms. Rosenworcel defended the agency’s actions, citing a broad mandate from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which directs the FCC to prevent and eliminate digital discrimination without limiting its scope to specific providers or terms and conditions.
“The bipartisan infrastructure law told us conclusively to prevent and eliminate digital discrimination,” the FCC chairwoman said. “You did not limit it to only the internet service providers. You didn’t limit it to only some terms and conditions. The language in the statute is exceptionally broad.”
Mr. Carr echoed concerns raised by the Republican, emphasizing the bipartisan work the FCC had achieved in the past. He criticized the FCC’s recent shift towards a more left-leaning approach, accusing the Biden administration of prioritizing ideology over smart policy. Mr. Carr pointed to a clear pattern emerging in the administration’s agenda, centered around the pursuit of control.
According to Mr. Carr, there has been a serious shift in his agency, “the FTC delivered a series of common sense wins on matters ranging from competition and universal service to consumer protection,” Mr. Carr said of the time prior to the recent administration mandates.
“But in five months since ... the Biden administration has pressed the FCC to break hard left, and it has. The administration has put ideology over smart policy.”
He raised alarms about the administration’s push for a sweeping digital equity plan, giving the federal government extensive authority to micromanage various aspects of internet service provision.
According to Mr. Carr, these decisions all align with the overarching goal of increasing government control, potentially infringing on industries within the SEC’s jurisdiction for the first time. He criticized the administration for not prioritizing important bipartisan priorities, such as the administration spectrum strategy.
Previous Concern for the FCCThis hearing comes on the heels of a Nov. 18 event, where Mr. Carr and other experts warned that the United States could be lagging behind China and other nations in the global 5G race.
The FCC commissioner and fellow panelists Shane Tews, a senior fellow at AEI, and Ajit Pai, a partner at Searchlight Capital, conveyed a sense of urgency that the issue of the United States falling behind other nations needs to be dealt with urgently by the Biden administration.