Lawmakers to grill FCC commissioners amid major policy debates

Lawmakers to grill FCC commissioners amid major policy debates
© Greg Nash

All five commissioners of Federal Communications Commission will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee later this month, giving lawmakers a chance to grill them before the agency votes on multiple high-profile proposals.

“With the FCC considering significant new rules affecting consumer privacy, cable service through set-top boxes, and other issues impacting our economy, effective collaboration an informed decision making at the commission couldn’t be more important,” said the committee’s chairman, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (R-S.D.), of the Sept. 15 hearing.

“This hearing presents an opportunity to discuss concerns about partisanship affecting commission work and to raise issues on important policy questions under consideration this fall.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, is currently moving toward finalizing several sets of new proposed regulations — each with its own set of powerful critics.

Under his initial proposal, which the commission earlier this year voted to formally consider, pay-television providers would be required to open up their feeds to third-party manufacturers. That could create an opening for companies like TiVo, which would likely take advantage of the opportunity.

But the industry has fought back, putting out an alternative plan that would see the top providers develop applications for viewers to watch live content. Wheeler, in a potential sign that he is backing away from his initial proposal, has said elements of the industry’s plan are likely to make it into the commission’s final product.

The debate over the set-top box could also put Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel center stage during the hearing. She has said she thinks the proposal has flaws but is under pressure from public interest groups to vote for it.

Also on the FCC’s docket are strict proposed rules for how internet providers can use consumer data and reforms to the market for high-capacity broadband connections for businesses.

The commissioners could also field questions about the ongoing auction of broadcast spectrum to bidders that include major wireless carriers, which is expected to enter its second stage days before the hearing.