Dems rip FCC chief after House testimony

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Five Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecom subcommittee are voicing their displeasure with Federal Communications Committee Chairman Tom Wheeler’s performance at an oversight hearing last month.

“While we appreciate your continued willingness to testify before our Committee this year, we are concerned that at our most recent hearing you were unable to give complete responses to nearly half of the questions posed directly to you by Democratic members of the Subcommittee,” the members said in a letter dated December 2 that was obtained by The Hill.

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“Our members take their oversight responsibilities very seriously, and they expect witnesses before the Subcommittee to treat their testimony the same way."

Questions that the lawmakers felt were not “answered completely” accompanied the letter, the existence of which was first reported by Politico on Monday night. It was signed by full committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

Wheeler, himself a Democrat, was appointed to the post by President Obama.

Commission spokesperson Kim Hart confirmed that the agency had received and was reviewing the letter.

The letter alludes to some tense moments during the December hearing, where some lawmakers appeared dissatisfied with Wheeler’s answers to their questions.

At one point, for example, DeGette asked Wheeler to name specific areas where the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC might be able to collaborate on the issue of privacy.

When he noted that the agencies already had worked together and spoke at length about their work on illegal phone billin practices, DeGette at one point noted “I only have five minutes” and appeared frustrated with Wheeler’s answer. That question is included among the many sent with the letter.

The lengthy hearing in November featured all five FCC commissioners, and was Wheeler’s ninth before Congress this year.

The FCC, and Wheeler in particular, have also faced scrutiny from Republicans after the agency approved strict net neutrality rules in February. Conservatives see the rules as governmental overreach, while activists say they help guarantee that Internet service providers will not disadvantage some traffic on their networks.