FCC House Oversight Hearing Scheduled

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

The Democrat-controlled House Communications Subcommittee has scheduled an FCC oversight hearing for Sept. 17 and if its title, "Trump FCC: Four Years of Lost Opportunities,” is any indication, the FCC commissioners should prepare for some tough questions.

If the title were not sufficient, the joint statement from Communications Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and parent House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) put an exclamation point on the Democrats' unhappiness.

“After four years, this FCC has failed to make broadband any more affordable for consumers, which has exacerbated the digital divide,” they said. “Worse yet, they have not used all the tools at their disposal to blunt the terrible impact COVID-19 has had on Americans struggling to stay connected to schools, work and needed services. We look forward to questioning the commissioners on these and other issues next week.”

One issue Democrats have is that FCC chairman Ajit Pai has said that the E-rate broadband subsidy for schools can't be used to pay for home broadband service or equipment for students.

Pai has said the Communications Act "expressly limits the FCC's use of E-rate program funding to broadband and other services delivered to school 'classrooms' and libraries. Connectivity and devices supplied to students at home unfortunately do not qualify for E-rate support under the law."

Congressional Dems have countered that his reading of the statute is too narrow and that Congress is OK with him interpreting classroom to mean the new home classroom necessitated by COVID-19.

Pai on Thursday (Sept. 10) praised ISPs for working to extend broadband to more students by offering discount service to schools. 

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.