House Democrats used a hearing on emergency alerts to raise red flags on the FCC Republican majority's plan to roll back classification of ISPs as Title II common carriers, which is scheduled to be voted May 18.
The House Communications Subcommittee was looking into the future of alerts, both online and on-air, but in opening statements, some Democrats diverged from the topic at hand to an issue much on the minds of legislators.
Ranking member Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said he was "concerned" about the timing of its hearing. "The FCC at its open meeting tomorrow will vote to advance an order that will roll back essential rules that protect and promote a free and open Internet. "
He pointed to over one million comments that have been filed and also pointed out that the committee had yet to hold a hearing on the proposal or an FCC oversight hearing. He said the committee should be discussing the issue with the commission. "It is critical that they be held accountable by Congress," he said. "With the commission on the brink of considering an enormously unpopular and ill-advised proposal that could have far-reaching implications on the most innovative part of our economy, it seems irresponsible for Congress not to provide the much-needed oversight."
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee, also talked about the FCC's effort to "strip away" network neutrality protections. "FCC Chairman Pai has proposed a plan that would kill net neutrality, he said, and "would have a chilling influence on our democracy, chip away at our connections with each other and limit opportunities for the future. He urged the FCC to "listen to the American people and reconsider this misguided approach."
Reps. Doyle and Pallone have also asked the FCC to extend the comment period on the Title II rollback notice of proposed rulemaking, a call Doyle renewed at the hearing.
Doyle also called on the committee to hold a hearing on the Sinclair-Tribune deal, something he called for in a letter to the FCC earlier this week.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) seconded the need for an FCC oversight hearing and Sinclair-Tribune hearing. She said the FCC was about to begin the effort to unravel net neutrality and called on Communications Subcommittee chair Marsha Blackburn to hold an oversight hearing on the proposed merger.
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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.