FCC Takes Some Lumps at House Oversight Hearing

The FCC and its Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, took hits from both sides of the aisle in an oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee Thursday (Dec. 5).

Democrats were particularly pointed in their criticisms of the commission over broadband mapping, internet deregulation, merger approvals and the funding cap on the Universal Service Fund, among other issues.

House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) signaled that what the communications regulatory agency had was a failure to communicate.

Walden did not appear happy that he had to learn from a press release that the FCC was establishing a new nine-billion-dollar 5G rural subsidy fund, including a billion dollars for precision agriculture. He said it sounded good, but he had a lot of questions, including where the $9 billion is coming from and about the fact that there are still not accurate maps to show where broadband is and isn't.

"We expect to have a little more notice and a little more communication on some of these big announcements," he said, adding that that might have addressed some of the questions the FCC would be getting at the hearing.

Walden also signaled he did not appreciate not getting a heads up from Pai on his proposal to repeal the T-Band spectrum auction and retain it for public safety, a proposal Walden floated at the last FCC oversight hearing. He said he had not been taken up on his outreach on that offer, "so I must say I find it interesting that just last week the chairman called on Congress to repeal the T-Band auction mandate, which was not coordinated or discussed with me and my staff despite our efforts to find a solution."

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.