FCC chief: Obama didn't dictate Web rules

FCC chief: Obama didn't dictate Web rules

Federal regulators did not need President Obama to arrive at the net neutrality rules that it voted to issue on Thursday, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler.

After the agency on Thursday voted to issue tough new rules that fell largely in line with those the president wanted, Wheeler countered Republican concerns that the White House put any undue pressure on the legally independent agency.

“I’m quite comfortable that we made this decision with independence and wisdom and based on the record,” he told reporters after the vote.

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Wheeler has previously said that he began to think about the basic outlines of the change — which legally reclassify Web service to regulate it under tougher rules — last summer.

That was months before Obama, a supporter of net neutrality since his 2008 campaign, made his vocal pronouncement asking the agency to take the controversial step, which came days after the midterm elections in November.

“The president has been well-known — on record for a long time in favor of net neutrality,” Wheeler said. “So have I.”

“Presidents always communicate their opinions to the FCC,” he added. “That’s nothing new.”

Republicans have raised alarms that the FCC’s new rules were developed only after coordination with the White House.

Ajit Pai, a GOP commissioner on the five-member FCC, has repeatedly referred to the new rules as "President Obama's plan. 

After Thursday’s vote, he told reporters that the president’s call for net neutrality "is something I have never seen" either as a commissioner, or previously, as a staffer at the FCC.

On Capitol Hill, multiple congressional committees have launched probes into the agency’s relationship with the White House. Their fears have been heightened on the heels of a Wall Street Journal story describing a plot by two White House officials to “thwart” the agency’s internal process. 

This story was updated at 2:51 p.m.