Wheeler: FCC Has Authority Over Broadband Rates

Explains to House Panel How That Squares With Agency Forbearance
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WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler told a congressional panel Tuesday (March 22) that he believes the agency has the authority to regulate broadband rates after the fact.

Wheeler’s comments were made at an FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee.

He was asked about the matter by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), whose bill preventing broadband rate regulation passed a divided House Energy & Commerce Committee last week.

Wheeler had initially said he supported the underlying theme of preventing broadband rate regulations, but had since clarified in a letter that he was talking specifically about Congress codifying the FCC's Open Internet order forbearance of ex ante (before the fact) rate regulations, not other authorities like preventing anti-competitive paid prioritization or throttling that might implicate rates.

Wheeler and House Democrats are concerned that Kinzinger's bill is not targeted enough and could sweep in various consumer protections, like those in the Open Internet order.

Following the hearing, the press office for the House Energy & Commerce Committee majority issued a release pointing to Wheeler's support for FCC ex post facto rate regulation authority via enforcement, saying it contradicts prior administration promises not to regulate broadband rates.

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