FCC chief to testify on Internet 'fast lanes' proposal

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler will testify in front of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications on May 20, the committee announced Monday.

On the list of topics Wheeler will discuss with subcommittee members is Wheeler's recent attempts to limit collusion between television broadcasters, revive the Obama administration's net neutrality rules and lay the groundwork for the 2015 airwave auction, according to the committee.

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The week prior to the hearing, Wheeler's agency will hold its monthly meeting, where the commissioners will vote on highly-anticipated and controversial issues, including Wheeler's plans for the airwave auctions and his plans to rewrite the agency's net neutrality rules.

Wheeler announced earlier this month that he plans to limit certain wireless companies — most notably industry giants Verizon and AT&T — in next year's airwave auction, which will involve the FCC buying back airwaves from television broadcasters and reselling those airwaves to wireless companies hoping to boost their phone networks.

He also announced this month that, as part of his net neutrality rewrite, he will allow Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge content companies like Netflix and Google for better access to subscribers. 

The agency's original net neutrality rules — which prevented Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to certain websites — were struck down by a federal court earlier this year.

The subcommittee's Democrats have said Wheeler's attempts to rewrite the rules is too weak and would allow for a tiered Internet, where deep-pocketed content companies can pay for better access the users.

Republicans criticize Wheeler for trying to resurrect the Obama administration's rules after they were struck down in court.

In a statement, subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he is "pleased that Chairman Wheeler will join us in May."

“This will be our first opportunity to directly discuss issues important to our technology economy, including recent proposals regarding the incentive auctions, the latest iteration of the administration’s ill advised net neutrality policies, and the broadcast joint sharing agreements and media ownership proceedings at the commission," he said.

Walden also said the he plans to use the hearing to discuss proposed process reforms to the FCC as well as the Commerce Committee's long term efforts to update the Communications Act, which governs the FCC and the industries it regulates.