After weeks of declining to appear before Congress concerning allegations that the White House had undue influence on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as it developed new rules governing the Internet, the head of the commission has agreed to testify next month, reports The Hill
House Oversight and Government Reform committee spokesman M.J. Henshaw confirmed to the paper that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on March 17.
Wheeler also will testify before Senate Commerce Committee in March at a hearing focused on general oversight of the FCC and the new net neutrality rules, the paper reported.
House panel will focus specifically on whether or not the legally independent agency has had an inappropriate relationship with the White House, a matter it has been investigating.
In a Feb. 6 letter to Wheeler, Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested all documents related to how the FCC communicated with the White House
and other executive agencies regarding the formulation of the draft proposal which was internally circulated on Feb. 5.
The 332-page draft was handed out to several FCC commissioners and at least two, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, strongly urged Wheeler to delay a vote until the public had time to review it, USA Today reported
Wheeler's refusal to appear before Congress has been a point of contention for some weeks, most recently after the chairman declined to attend a Wednesday hearing of the House Oversight Committee examining the relationship between the FCC and the White House.
"We are deeply disappointed in Chairman Wheeler's decision. 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.
"After hearing from over four million Americans on such an important topic to our economic and cultural future, it's striking that when Congress seeks transparency, Chairman Wheeler opts against it," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz in a joint statement
"So long as the chairman continues to insist on secrecy, we will continue calling for more transparency and accountability at the commission," the congressmen added.
Wheeler has denied any improper involvement by the administration, telling reporters after Thursday's FCC vote that he was "quite comfortable that we made this decision with independence and wisdom and based on the record," The Hill reported
A recent poll
conducted by Hart Associates, a Democrat polling firm, for the Progressive Policy Institute found that 56 percent of Americans do not believe the government should take a stronger and more active role in overseeing and regulating the Internet, compared to 33 who favor government involvement.
By a 53 percent to 32 percent margin, Americans believe that the plan outlined by the Obama administration would be harmful.
According to the survey, which was released before yesterday's vote, a majority (79 percent) expressed support for more disclosure, saying the public should have a chance to review the specifics of the proposal prior to the commission's vote.
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