House Democrats Use NTIA Hearing to Hammer FCC

New National Telecommunications & Information Administration chief David Redl got a warm bipartisan welcome from the House Communications Subcommittee, where he used to be a top staffer, but the same could not be said for the FCC.

Democrats took the opportunity of an NTIA oversight hearing Tuesday (March 6) to take aim at the FCC. House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) took the lead.

Related: House to Hold NTIA Oversight Hearing

"[T]he FCC has thrust itself into the national spotlight by dramatically walking away from its statutory obligations to serve the American people," said Pallone. "It’s more than just [the agency's] assault on net neutrality. It’s privacy, cybersecurity, public safety — the list goes on and on. The Trump FCC is simply refusing to do its job."

That was echoed by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who said the FCC had "drastically walked away" from its role of protecting networks from cyber attacks.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has said the agency is not abdicating oversight of internet openness, but sharing it with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, after eliminating rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization that he said impeded investment and innovation.

For his part, Redl and NTIA recieved bipartisan praise for identifying 100 MHz of government spectrum that can potentially be freed up for next-gen wireless, though Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), formerly in the military, got Redl to assure him that freeing up that spectrum wouldn't harm mission-critical government use.

Redl was praised for hitting the ground running and encouraged to continue reaching out to stakeholders across the spectrum; Redl said that was NTIA's biggest value-added role.

The NTIA is the president's chief communications policy advisor, overseeing government spectrum use.

One of its current primary goals is to find government spectrum to free up.

Redl put in a pitch for giving the NTIA the ability to lease government spectrum where it can't be freed up entirely.

The FCC has just released a new broadband map identifying where broadband is deployed, but the map has drawn criticism, including from some in the hearing. Redl applauded the FCC effort, but said there needed to be better and more granular data, and put in a plug for the Trump administration proposal to allocate $50 million for mapping under NTIA, which used to produce the broadband map before it ran out of funds in 2014 and the FCC took over.

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.