Walden Reiterates Wheeler Talked Non-Title II Rules in November

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) picked up Monday where he left off Friday, criticizing the FCC's Feb. 26 vote to reclassify Internet access providers under Title II regulation as common carriers and saying FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was still not talking about taking that step last November, or at least not to him.

At a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Walden said the FCC had stepped "well beyond its authority" in "recasting the Internet as a public utility and supplanting the decisions of state and local elected officials whether to invest tax dollars in broadband with the FCC’s central economic planning." The "central planning" reference was to the FCC's decision, on the same day, to preempt state laws limiting municipal broadband buildouts in Tennessee and North Carolina.

That is according to a prepared text supplied by Walden's office.

As to the timing of the chairman's pivot away from his non-reclassification, Sec. 706 approach, Walden said "I met with Chairman Wheeler late last November. I reiterated congressional Republicans’ concerns with Title II and with regulating the most successful economic and regulatory experiment in U.S. history. And in that meeting, Chairman Wheeler assured me that he was committed to net neutrality without reclassification of broadband. This stands in stark contrast to press reports of Chairman Wheeler’s 'summer epiphany' and decision to impose net neutrality through reclassification as a telecommunications service. I would say that this action was curiously timed just after President Obama announced his support for Title II (Nov. 10)."

Walden raised the timing issue in an interview Friday for C-SPAN's Communicators, but said only that the chairman had talked about light-touch regs. In Monday's speech he made clear that he was saying Wheeler indicated as late as November he was not going the Title II route.

Wheeler was out of the country Monday and unavailable for comment. President Obama urged Wheeler to impose Title II, but the chairman has said it was always on the table and said last week after the vote that he came to the Title II conclusion independently and based on the record in the proceeding. That record included 4 million comments both for and against reclassification.

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.