U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 10:00 a.m., entitled, “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.” As part of the Committee’s oversight responsibilities, the hearing will have a broad scope covering every aspect of the agency and major policy issues before the Commission.
“From video policy to spectrum, the FCC’s decisions have an enormous effect on the future of our technology economy,” said Thune. “This hearing presents an opportunity for committee members to raise issues with the agency’s top decision makers and evaluate the need for legislative initiatives.”
- The Honorable Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Full Committee Hearing
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Full Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission”
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov.
For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:
• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265
• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421
• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548
• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John Thune
"Welcome to today’s hearing on oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.
"During our oversight hearing last March, I expressed my amazement that an agency as important as the Federal Communications Commission had not been reauthorized by Congress in 25 years—making it the oldest expired authorization within the Commerce Committee’s expansive jurisdiction.
"Reversing a quarter century of legislative inertia takes time, but together we are beginning to make some progress.
"For example, today’s hearing marks the first time this century the full FCC has appeared before this Committee twice during a single Congress.
"Another example is our unanimous approval last year of Senator Heller’s FCC Consolidated Reporting Act, which would make the Commission’s various marketplace examinations less burdensome on the agency, as well as more informative to Congress.
"Reauthorizing the FCC is our responsibility as legislators and representatives of diverse constituencies who are increasingly affected by a regulatory agency with a nearly half billion dollar budget.
"It’s time for this Committee to get back to regularly authorizing the Commission as part of its normal course of business. To that end, in the next few days, I will introduce the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016, and it is my intent to mark up the bill in the coming weeks.
"We have before us today a very familiar face – Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – who is appearing before the Committee for the fourth time this Congress.
"Commissioner Rosenworcel’s re-nomination is currently pending before the full Senate. Commissioner, I support your confirmation, and I was pleased to process your nomination through the Committee last year.
"I appreciate your public service at the FCC and your prior service to this Committee.
"Last year’s oversight hearing came shortly after the very successful auction of AWS-3 spectrum, which netted more than $41 billion in winning bids.
"That record-setting auction was the product of the 2012 Spectrum Act, which also authorized the innovative incentive auction of broadcast TV airwaves that is scheduled to begin next month.
"In the incentive auction, the FCC is charged with a balanced mission –one, reallocate the spectrum voluntarily relinquished by TV stations to commercial wireless users and, two, protect both the TV stations that continue to operate following the auction and their viewers.
"Congress provided nearly $2 billion to reimburse stations forced to relocate during the so-called “post-auction re-pack” and the FCC has established a timeline to complete the repacking process.
"Concerns have been raised, however, that the reimbursement funds and time allotted for repacking may be inadequate.
"I am hopeful that will not be the case. Nevertheless, these concerns deserve and will receive the close attention of this Committee.
"I know my colleagues and I all wish to see a successful incentive auction and a successful repacking process.
"While local broadcast TV remains an important and popular medium, the broader video market continues to dramatically change and grow.
"In fact, the video services market is one of the most dynamic segments of the communications space.
"It is driving tremendous innovation in consumer electronics, dynamic experimentation in video distribution business models, and growing broadband data consumption by consumers.
"It is not a coincidence that the parts of the video market seeing the most innovation are also the least regulated.
"Amidst this increasingly competitive video reality, the FCC recently proposed a partisan rulemaking to have the government somehow produce better results than the astonishing and consumer-empowering disruption that is already happening.
"Ranking Member Nelson sent Chairman Wheeler a letter shortly before the FCC’s adoption of this new technology regulation proposal.
"I agree with Senator Nelson’s sentiment that “advances abound in the competitive video navigation device market,” and that “section 629 should always be implemented with an eye towards what is actually happening in the marketplace.”
"Further, I want to echo Senator Nelson’s warning to the Commission that section 629 does not contemplate imposing regulations “by which third parties gain, for their own commercial advantage, the ability to alter, add to, or interfere with the programming provided by content providers.”
"The bottom line is that today’s video market is increasingly competitive and traditional pay-TV subscribers are rapidly finding new, more user-friendly, and less expensive ways to receive the TV services they purchase on an increasing array of consumer devices, including some made by the largest companies on Earth.
"Finally, I would like to address the issue of standalone broadband support for small rural carriers.
"Because of flawed Universal Service Fund rules, these providers lose all support for serving households that choose to subscribe to broadband while not simultaneously purchasing landline telephone service.
"Last March, all five of you made commitments to me and this Committee to fix this counterproductive loophole by the end of 2015.
"It is my understanding that an item is currently on circulation at the Commission that would fix the standalone broadband problem, and which reflects a negotiated compromise on some other complex USF reforms that have been linked to this simple objective.
"While the 2015 deadline for standalone broadband has recently passed, I am glad the extra time appears to have given a fair chance for rural providers to assess the impact of those complex reform proposals on their businesses and on the rural broadband customers they serve.
"I look forward to seeing the full plan, assessing its impact on South Dakotans, and continuing to provide oversight of the FCC’s implementation of these reforms as Chairman of this Committee.
"In the meantime, I would like to thank all of you for fulfilling your commitment to fix the standalone broadband issue for rural consumers across this nation.
"Now, before I conclude, I would just like to say a word regarding the report issued earlier this week by Chairman Johnson.
"Among other things, the report finds that the FCC “failed to live up to standards of transparency.”
"I want to thank Chairman Johnson and his staff for their work on this report, and I hope the Commission—rather than resorting to a defensive posture—will look for ways to demonstrate the kind of transparency expected of our independent agencies.
"Today’s hearing provides one opportunity to do just that.
"I look forward to hearing your testimony and appreciate your participation here today."
Thank you, Chairman Thune, for holding this hearing today. And I want to welcome our panel today.
It has been almost a year since all five members of the Federal Communications Commission appeared before this committee, and much has happened in that time.
As our nation grows ever more Internet-enabled, more connected, and more mobile, the FCC’s role becomes ever more critical. You are the expert agency Congress created over all things communications. You have a statutory mandate to protect consumers, promote competition, ensure universal service, and preserve public safety. And as technology transitions, those core directives do not.
In terms of protecting consumers, I want to call your attention to the ongoing problem of spoofing.
Last week, Senator Fischer and I introduced the Spoofing Prevention Act of 2016, designed to update the law and provide the FCC with more enforcement tools to combat these abusive phone scams. Americans lose millions each year to these scams. We must protect the public from these scammers, and I hope that the Committee can act swiftly on our legislation. In the meantime, I expect the FCC to do everything it can under current law to stop these scammers in their tracks.
In terms of promoting competition, there has been intense interest in the past few weeks on the FCC’s recent set-top box proposal. I support the existing statutory obligation to promote competition and choice in how consumers access their pay television programming – but it is essential that any new FCC rules in this area must not harm the production and distribution of video content.
The FCC, too, has worked hard to keep the U.S. competitive in our national spectrum policy. In a matter of weeks, the commission will launch the world’s first voluntary spectrum incentive auction. The agency deserves much praise for getting us to this point.
At the same time, many of us have heard concerns about what may happen after the auction during any repacking of TV stations. Obviously, we will continue to watch the FCC’s work closely to make sure TV viewers are not disenfranchised at the end of this important process.
I also want to recognize the work being done by the FCC related to 5-G, next-generation wireless services. The nation is once again on the verge of a wireless revolution, and the work on new spectrum frontiers for such services is vital to American leadership in this area. Tomorrow, this committee will take up the bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act that Chairman Thune and I have developed. That bill, too, is designed to help move the ball forward on 5G.
In terms of ensuring universal service, as important as it is to promote cutting-edge communications technologies, it is equally important that all Americans have access to those networks. I know that the FCC has been spending significant time considering reforms to the Lifeline program. Let me be clear, we must have a Lifeline program that helps low-income Americans obtain access to broadband in order to participate in today’s digital community and economy. Failing to do so risks exacerbating the digital divide.
In terms of public safety, a call to 9-1-1 remains the most important call any of us will ever make.
The FCC has taken a number of actions in recent years to help improve the nation’s 9-1-1 system. I was the author of the Net 9-1-1 Improvement Act several years ago. That law ensured 9-1-1 service was available to Voice-over-Internet–Protocol subscribers. As we look to the next generation of 9-1-1, I stand ready to help lead the effort to modernize this critical system. I will be interested to hear your thoughts on how we best move forward toward that national goal.
Finally, speaking of public safety, I wanted to thank Commissioner Rosenworcel for her continued leadership in this area. We need Commissioner Rosenworcel re-confirmed to the commission as soon as possible.
At the end of the 113th Congress, we had one Republican FCC Commissioner – Mike O’Rielly – awaiting confirmation. Democrats agreed to confirm O’Rielly’s nomination without pairing him with any other nominee in exchange for a promise that Republicans would confirm Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel quickly in the new Congress.
Senators McConnell promised Senator Reid and then-Chairman Rockefeller that they would move the Rosenworcel nomination without delay in the new Congress if Democrats agreed to move Commissioner O’Rielly’s nomination.
Commissioner Rosenworcel’s nomination is now on the executive calendar. Chairman Thune, I know you are working with Leader McConnell to make this happen. We do not want lose her leadership and thoughtful approach to the crucial issues the FCC is facing.
I want to thank all five FCC Commissioners for appearing before the committee today. I look forward to hearing your testimony.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Tom WheelerChairmanFederal Communications Commission
The Honorable Mignon ClyburnCommissionerFederal Communications CommissionHon. Mignon Clyburn.pdf (14.52 KB)
The Honorable Michael O'RiellyCommissionerFederal Communications Commission
The Honorable Ajit PaiCommissionerFederal Communications CommissionHon. Ajit Pai Testimony.pdf (20.71 KB)
The Honorable Jessica RosenworcelCommissionerFederal Communications Commission