FCC’s Wheeler is No Show, Oversight Chairman Chaffetz Not Amused

Chaffetz wants the FCC chief to do some explaining on net neutrality rules.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had a hearing scheduled today on whether pressure from the White House improperly influenced Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler to offer up net neutrality rules that, like President Obama’s, come fairly close to European thinking on the matter. The hearing was postponed, however, when Wheeler made a last-minute decision not to testify.

New Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), out to prove he’s the measure of previous chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) when it comes to issuing press releases, issued a joint statement with Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) questioning Wheeler’s motives.

“As Chairman Wheeler pushes forward with plans to regulate the Internet, he still refuses to directly answer growing concerns about how the rules were developed, how they are structured, and how they will stand up to judicial scrutiny,” said the statement. “The last time a rule of this magnitude was voted on by the FCC, then-Senator Obama was motivated to call for transparency at the commission. We continue that call today.”

In an op-ed piece on Wired.com February 4, Wheeler announced plans for net neutrality regulations that would ban paid prioritization and provide incentives for broadband users to build competitive networks. A story published that same day in the Wall Street Journal reported that senior White House Officials had held dozens of secret meetings with online activists and “traditional telecommunications companies” to build a case for net neutrality.

That fueled Chaffetz’s suspicions that Wheeler, a former telecom industry lobbyist, might have been involved. He and Senate Homeland Security chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) subsequently sent letters to Wheeler requesting visitor logs and emails.

Those were to be furnished this week, but they, like Wheeler, never materialized.

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