House Democrats demand FCC documents

House Democrats demand FCC documents
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for documentation about its operations as they prepare to challenge the agency with their newfound oversight powers.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash MORE (D-Pa.), who leads the panel’s subcommittee on technology, sent a letter on Monday to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with extensive requests for documents about the agency’s efforts during the Trump administration.

Frustrated by House Republicans’ unwillingness to challenge the FCC over the past two years, Pallone and Doyle have vowed to hold the agency accountable and confront its leadership over issues like its repeal of the popular 2015 net neutrality rules.

“Under your leadership, the FCC has failed repeatedly to act in the public interest and placed the interest of corporations over consumers,” the two Democrats wrote in their letter to Pai.

“The FCC should be working to advance the goals of public safety, consumer protection, affordable access, and connectivity across the United States,” they continued. “To that end, it is incumbent upon the Committee’s leadership and its members to oversee the activities of the FCC.”

The letter includes five pages of document requests, including data on the number investigations the FCC has opened and closed in recent years. Pallone and Doyle also asked for the number of complaints it had received on a wide range of consumer issues like net neutrality and robocalls.

Commerce Democrats last year accused Pai of trying to evade congressional oversight by failing to fully answer their inquiries. But the chairman has pushed back on accusations of not being forthcoming and has touted his efforts to make the agency’s regulatory process more transparent.

“This has been the most transparent FCC in history with the Commission for the first time publicly releasing the drafts of meeting items three weeks before the Commission vote,” a spokesperson for the chairman said in an emailed statement. “Under the prior Administration, by contrast, the Commission had to pass an Order before the public was allowed to see what was in it.”

But that is unlikely to put Democrats at ease after two years of being unable to challenge Pai’s deregulatory spree.

“Not only have you have failed on numerous occasions to provide Democratic members of this Committee with responses to their inquiries, you have also repeatedly denied or delayed responding to legitimate information requests from the public about agency operations,” Pallone and Doyle wrote in their letter.

“These actions have denied the public of a full and fair understanding of how the FCC under your leadership has arrived at public policy decisions that impact Americans every day in communities across the country.”

The two lawmakers requested a response by March 4.