FCC Republicans warn of ‘fundamental shift’ at agency

Partisan tensions over the drafting of new net neutrality rules might not fade so quickly on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Thursday’s 3-2 vote on the rules came after months of accusations of misconduct and antipathy from the commission’s two Republicans, and they don’t appear entirely confident that everything can be smoothed over.

{mosads}“I don’t hold out hopes that we’re going to have many Kumbaya moments going forward, but let’s hope that’s the case,” said Michael O’Rielly, one of the Republican commissions on the five-member FCC.

Chairman Tom Wheeler has overseen a “fundamental shift for the agency,” he added, and made no effort to include input from the two GOP commissioners throughout the course of the process.

“Here they not only asked us to violate our principles, they ran over our principles,” he added.

“I will certainly continue to work as best I can, but I think we’re going to be tied up in a lot of the questions that are still applicable in this item.”

Ajit Pai, the other GOP commissioner, was slightly more optimistic about the odds going forward, but still accused Wheeler of being especially hostile to the pairs’ views.

“I like Chairman Wheeler, I get along with him personally and I hope that we have a collaborative spirit going forward,” he said. “But to this point, by and large, Commissioner O’Rielly and I have been shut out on matters of significance.”

The remarks came during a press conference the two commissioners held after a landmark vote to adopt tough net neutrality rules that regulate Internet access as a “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act. The fact that the two Republican commissioners even held a press conference after the vote was a rare event in and of itself, which speaks to their feelings of exclusion on the commission. 

Pai and O’Rielly strongly objected to the new rules, which they said amounted to a power grab by the FCC. They did not offer amendments ahead of the vote because there was no hope of changing the regulations’ core, they said.

“Under no circumstances would I nibble around the edges in terms of allowing the FCC to, in an unprecedented fashion, inject itself into the Internet economy,” said Pai.

“There’s such fundamental disagreement with this item that its problematic to seek how you can make this item better,” added O’Rielly. 

Tags Ajit Pai Federal Communications Commission Michael O'Rielly Net neutrality Network neutrality

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