Chaffetz to Wheeler: Take Cue from Senator Obama

The chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee has invoked Senator Barack Obama to urge the FCC to hold off on answering President Barack Obama's call for Title II classification of Internet access.

In a letter to Wheeler Monday (Feb. 23), who last week declined to testify at a Feb. 25 hearing in the committee on the relationship between the White House and the FCC's Title II based draft order, chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked him to reconsider the invitation to testify. Chaffetz also said he was still looking for copies of e-mails the committee had asked for by Feb. 6 as part of its investigation into that relationship.

An FCC spokesperson confirmed it had received the letter and was reviewing it, but a source speaking on background said that the document request was a very large one and that the FCC had asked for more time to produce the documents and was in the process of negotiating wiht the committee for that extra time.

Chaffetz echoed calls earlier in the day by FCC Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly for the chairman to delay the planned Feb. 26 vote on the new rules and publish the language of the draft to give the public more time to weigh in (Wheeler had countered that call by the minority commissioners in a tweet, saying that with 4 million-plus comments on new network neutrality rules, it was time to act).

Chaffetz pointed out that back in 2007, Senator Obama had asked Republican FCC chairman Kevin Martin to hold off on a vote on proposed media ownership rule changes until he had put out any changes in a public notice. Chaffetz noted that in a letter to Martin, Sen. Obama had said that "the commission has the responsibility to defend any new proposal in public discourse and debate." Chaffetz also pointed out that the senator co-sponsored a bill to block a commission vote on the rulemaking "pursuant to a 90-day comment period."

Martin responded by releasing the changes and opened a four-week comment period, the congressman pointed out, but only after it had conducted many public hearings and published the changes and provided for comment, he said.

What is sauce for the senator is sauce for the President, Chaffetz suggested. "The current drafting and scheduled vote on net neutrality rules has afforded none of these opportunities for public airing and only raised concerns regarding the process," Chaffetz said

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.