Pallone, Doyle Flex FCC Oversight Muscle

The new leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee has asked for a raft of documents from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in the wake of allegations the FCC "may have urged companies to challenge [an FCC order] the Commission adopted [as a way] to game the judicial lottery procedure," and that the FCC may have "intimated the agency would look unfavorably towards entities that were not helpful."

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the full committee, and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, fired off a letter to Pai the same day the committee adopted rules about how it would conduct oversight of issues and agencies it oversees, including the FCC.

They said that, pursuant to those rules, they want information about any communications, if any, between the FCC and licensees related to the Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment decision.

That includes phone records, non-government e-mail accounts, "social media applications" and more.

They say if the allegations are true, it would be inappropriate for the FCC to encourage stakeholders to file suit as a way to forum shop to get a court more friendly to the FCC's decision than the Ninth Circuit.

Generally, stakeholders haven't appeared to need any prompting to seek to move cases out of the Ninth or Third Circuits, generally considered more liberal, to the D.C. Circuit, generally viewed as more conservative.

The legislators want to know if anyone at the FCC urged an FCC licensee to challenge the order.

Pallone said Thursday (Jan. 24) in adopting new committee rules, that he would try to use voluntary means to get the information the committee wants, but he also has the power to subpoena if that does not work.

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.