Wheeler: FCC Has Authority to Regulate Broadband Rates

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told a congressional panel Tuesday that he did believe the FCC has the authority to regulate broadband rates after the fact.

That came in an FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee.

He was asked by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), whose bill preventing broadband rate regulation passed a divided House Energy & Commerce Committee last week.

Wheeler had initially said he supported the underlying theme of preventing broadband rate regs, but he has since clarified in a letter that he was talking specifically about Congress codifying the FCC's Open Internet order forbearance of ex ante (before the fact) rate regulations, not other authorities like preventing anticompetitive paid prioritization or throttling that might implicate rates.

Wheeler and House Democrats are concerned that Kinzinger's bill is not targeted enough and could sweep in various consumer protections, like those in the Open Internet order.

Following the hearing, the press office for the House Energy & Commerce Committee majority issued a release pointing to Wheeler's support for FCC ex post facto rate regulation authority via enforcement, saying it contradicts prior administration promises not to regulate broadband rates.

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.