Quigley Chairs Budget Hearing with FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioner Rosenworcel
Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services & General Government (FSGG), held a budget hearing with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Quigley delivered an opening statement discussing the influence of the FCC on the U.S. economy and the American people. Quigley also questioned Pai and Rosenworcel about national security concerns related to 5G networks.
Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.
I’d like to welcome Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
I’m glad to have multiple Commissioners here again, unlike recent years, because this is always an interesting and impactful hearing
The FCC oversees a sixth of the U.S. economy, and its work touches our lives daily. An FCC decision paved the way every time we look something up on a smartphone, send a text message, or use Wi-Fi.
In fact, for better or worse, the FCC is one of those rare agencies that has become a household name.
First, the better.
The FCC’s work is key to winning the race for 5G – which is essential for our economy and national security.
The U.S. led the world in 4G because of the winning playbook that Congress and the FCC developed, of opening up new spectrum bands and letting companies innovate.
Former Chairman Wheeler started us down that path in 5G with the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, which aims to get huge amounts of high-frequency spectrum onto the market.
Chairman Pai, I know you and Chairman Wheeler didn’t see eye to eye on many things, but I’m glad to see you continuing the important work he started with Frontiers.
We also appreciate the progress the Commission has made, on a bipartisan basis, on wireless issues, whether by exploring new unlicensed options or potentially repurposing mid-band airwaves for 5G.
And you know from previous hearings that I had serious concerns about the proposed merger of Sinclair and Tribune. So I was glad to see the FCC take action to block that deal.
Now, for the worse.
Unfortunately, this Commission continues to advance policies that favor large industry players at the expense of consumers and small businesses.
We saw it with the Innovation Band. There, the FCC replaced a unique licensing scheme carefully crafted to foster innovation and experimentation with a more traditional system favored by big wireless carriers.
I’m also worried the Commission is moving too quickly to auction spectrum in the 24 gigahertz band. Agencies have raised significant concerns about the potential impact to weather radars that are essential to public safety and national security.
And I’m disturbed to see the FCC take such a heavy-handed approach on cell tower siting by preempting the ability of state and local officials to make decisions in the best interest of their communities.
But nowhere was this more apparent than when the Commission decided, as one of the first actions under Chairman Pai, to undo the 2015 net neutrality order.
That was wrong, both on the law and the policy. It hurts small businesses and consumers. Poll after poll shows overwhelming public support for net neutrality.
And I continue to be concerned with the process the FCC followed to get there.
The net neutrality proceeding has been the subject of numerous controversies and investigations, some of which are still ongoing. Just a couple weeks ago, the FCC agreed to pay over $43,000 in attorneys’ fees over a FOIA request on fraudulent comments.
And the agency’s own IG found the Chairman made inaccurate statements about a denial of service attack.
Yet the Commission still managed to plow ahead, in just seven months.
This is a distressing pattern. Time and time again, the Commission has fast-tracked proposals favored by industry while important consumer issues remain in limbo.
It took just three months after Chairman Pai took over to reinstate the UHF discount, paving the way for more consolidation in the broadcasting.
And the Commission deemed most of the business broadband market competitive after three months as well. That’s a roughly $50 billion part of the economy.
Yet the FCC has not yet adopted rules on long-term broadband funding for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that were proposed back in May.
Nor has the FCC clarified what rules apply to the sale of phone tracking data – even after multiple stories about how easy it is to buy this information.
Nor has the FCC finalized a proposal, after a year, to prohibit use of broadband subsidies to do business with companies that might post a national security risk.
And robocalls have reached crisis levels, yet the FCC is relying on industry to figure out a system for authenticating calls, rather than issuing strong rules.
The FCC is reviewing two major mergers right now.
The Sprint T-Mobile deal could harm low-income people and minorities that rely on these companies for affordable cell service.
And NexStar Tribune is another broadcast merger that once again could harm media diversity and choice.
The Commission’s actions to date raise serious concerns about whether the Commission will put consumers ahead of corporations on these and many other issues.
Getting this right couldn’t be more important. These issues touch every aspect of our lives. They could undermine the benefits of broadband and hinder our competitiveness in 5G.
I look forward to discussing in more detail how the Commission can best use its resources.