U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 16, 2018. As part of the committee’s oversight responsibilities, this hearing will examine policy issues before the Commission and review the FCC’s ongoing duties and activities.
“From efforts to better utilize spectrum powering our wireless economy to expanding rural broadband access, combatting robocalls, and reviewing the media landscape, the FCC and its operations are critically important,”said Thune. “This hearing will offer Senators the opportunity to ask commissioners questions about topics of critical importance to their states and constituents.”
- The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
*Witness list subject to change.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
The Honorable Jessica RosenworcelCommissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Chairman John Thune
Welcome to today’s hearing on oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
At prior oversight hearings, I have stressed the importance of reauthorizing the FCC – something that hadn’t been done in nearly 30 years.
Reversing more than a quarter century of legislative inaction took time and effort, but I’m glad to say that, with bipartisan, bicameral support, we’ve now accomplished this goal.
Signed into law in March as part of the spending bill, the RAY BAUM’s Act not only reauthorized the FCC, it also included important spectrum, infrastructure, and broadband deployment provisions, including the MOBILE NOW Act, that will help pave the way for American leadership in the race to 5G.
Under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the FCC has also taken action in a number of areas to help free up more spectrum for wireless use, streamline broadband deployment, and bridge the digital divide – particularly in rural states like my home state of South Dakota.
I commend the Commission for these reforms and look forward to discussing your vision for building on these important steps.
Yet, as we all recognize, work remains to bring service to those areas that lack access to a viable broadband option.
Among other challenges, rural areas of the country face continuing uncertainty and reductions in universal service funding.
I appreciate that, under Chairman Pai, the Commission has finally undertaken the long-overdue task of trying to ensure adequate support for the deployment of broadband in such areas. Nevertheless, providers need certainty as they plan for the deployments that will bring service to rural America now and in the decades to come.
Put simply, the Commission needs to act this year to address funding for legacy and model-based high cost support.
Looking ahead, providers also need access to additional spectrum in the global race to deploy next generation wireless technology.
As this Committee heard just a few weeks ago, the United States is engaged in a high-stakes race with China, South Korea, and others for leadership in 5G. It’s critical that the United States win this race, and the jobs and investment that come with victory.
The Commission has made real progress with high-band spectrum, and we look forward to related auctions beginning this year. At the same time, the Commission must act quickly to make more mid-band spectrum available for 5G before we fall further behind.
And, as important as additional spectrum allocations will be for next generation broadband networks such as 5G, streamlining deployment processes is also critical.
I applaud the Commission and in particular Commissioner Carr’s efforts to remove barriers to broadband deployment. A number of states have adopted legislation to streamline the deployment of small wireless facilities, but the inherently borderless nature of broadband internet access warrants discussion of a national framework.
The bipartisan STREAMLINE Act that I introduced in June with Senator Schatz is meant to stimulate this discussion. Striking the right balance between accelerating broadband deployment and preserving local authority will be an ongoing focus of this Committee.
I look forward to hearing about the Commission’s complementary efforts to accelerate deployment, and how uniform national processes can help bring the benefits of 5G to all areas and not just those where the cost equation makes deployment easier.
In the end, American consumers will be the beneficiaries of these efforts. They are—and must remain—at the forefront of the FCC’s decision making across its many responsibilities.
For instance, it is important that the FCC put consumers first as the media landscape continues to dramatically change and grow.
The FCC must also continue its efforts to protect consumers from fraudulent and unwanted robocalls, which remain among the top consumer complaints.
Now that the D.C. Circuit has found many Wheeler-era Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules unreasonably expansive, arbitrary, and capricious, the real work of protecting consumers and restoring reason to TCPA rules has begun.
Consumers must have meaningful rights to control who can call them using automated
calling technology. We must also ensure that those trying in good faith to comply with the law in reaching their patients and customers have a reasonable means of doing so without facing potentially devastating litigation.
And we must make sure the Commission and law enforcement have the tools and incentives they need to go after the scammers and thieves bombarding us with illegal and unwanted calls.
Finally, before I close, I want to acknowledge the unprecedented measures the Commission has taken under Chairman Pai’s leadership to improve the openness and transparency of Commission processes.
Publicly releasing drafts of items the FCC plans to vote on weeks prior to doing so has made both the process and products at the FCC better and more available to the American people.
The same applies when the Commission makes mistakes. Along those lines, a recent FCC Inspector General Report about an alleged attack on the Commission’s comment filing system found that “the FCC, relying on [then-Chief Information Officer David] Bray’s explanation of the events, misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries related to this incident.”
As you know, it is absolutely critical that the information provided to Congress and to the American people be correct. I look forward to hearing how the Commission will prevent this in the future.
I thank the distinguished witnesses for being here today and for working with the Committee on many of these important issue. I look forward to a robust discussion.
I’ll now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling today’s hearing. The FCC majority certainly has been busy over the last eighteen months.
The FCC has been busy:
- Abdicating the agency’s statutory authority to protect consumers on the internet.
- Paving the way for unprecedented broadcast consolidation.
- Proposing to eliminate rules that make quality educational content for kids readily-available on free, over-the-air television.
- Gutting a program designed to help low-income Americans afford phone and internet services.
The bottom line here is this FCC has been busy removing consumer protections in almost every industry segment you regulate.
What we haven’t seen is progress in actually closing the digital divide.
Access to broadband is often the number one issue in rural counties in Florida. From Gilchrist, Dixie and Levy counties to urban Jacksonville, many Floridians still do not have access to affordable, quality high-speed internet service.
In these areas, students lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered. These Floridians deserve the same opportunities as everyone else.
On behalf of those Floridians – who are part of the 24 million Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide – we need real solutions for getting quality, affordable broadband in those areas.
It’s going to take more than cynical lipservice to solve this problem. And it definitely will not be solved – as some seem to believe -- by repealing essential protections to preserve the free and open internet. And I remind you, those rules were popular with millions of Americans and were upheld in their entirety by the courts. Now a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate has decisively repudiated that action through a Congressional resolution of disapproval.
That formal censure should give the FCC pause. It should spur regulatory humility in all actions taken by the agency.
We – and the American people – expect more from our independent regulators.
The FCC’s actions directly impact the lives of so many. The FCC can make a difference - when you focus on the greater public interest, not on fulfilling the wish lists of a few large companies.
I am an optimist by nature. The FCC can and should do better – particularly with robust oversight from this committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Ajit PaiChairman, Federal Communications CommissionPai QFR Responses .pdf (202.08 KB)VTel letter.pdf (1.08 MB)
The Honorable Michael O’RiellyCommissioner, Federal Communications CommissionO'Rielly QFR Responses.pdf (124.97 KB)
The Honorable Brendan CarrCommissioner, Federal Communications Commission
The Honorable Jessica RosenworcelCommissioner, Federal Communications Commission