GOP Lawmakers Urge FCC to Cool Its Heels Until Trump Takes Over

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By Lydia Beyoud

Nov. 15 — Senior Republican lawmakers are calling on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to hit the brakes on nearly all regulations and agency actions until President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

It’s unclear whether Wheeler will heed the call. The agency is scheduled to vote Nov. 17 on a package of new rules governing data handling services that companies such as AT&T Inc. sell to other businesses.

“We strongly urge you to concentrate the commission’s attention and resources only on matters that require action under the law and efforts to foster the success of the broadcast incentive auction,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in a Nov. 15 letter to Wheeler that referred to the agency’s ongoing auction of spectrum licenses.

Upton and Walden noted that senior Democratic lawmakers had made the same request of the then-Republican led FCC in 2008 before President Barack Obama took office.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said in his own Nov. 15 letter that the FCC should “avoid directing its attention and resources in the coming months to complex, partisan, or otherwise controversial items that the new Congress and new Administration will have an interest in reviewing.”

Thune referred to the FCC’s scheduled vote on business data services rules. Proponents say the rules would level the playing field for businesses, schools, libraries, medical facilities and others that rely on high-speed dedicated broadband networks. Opponents, including large internet service providers AT&T and CenturyLink Inc., say that the FCC is seeking to apply rate regulations to a flourishing market based on outdated data.

FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart said the agency had received the letters and was reviewing them. Hart declined to comment on whether the commission still plans to vote on the business data services rules Nov. 17.

Wheeler Highlights FCC Review Team

Separately, Wheeler announced Nov. 15 that an “FCC Review Team” named by Trump will visit the agency “to assist with an orderly transition to the new Administration,” according to an e-mail obtained by Bloomberg BNA. Hart said the email was sent to all FCC staff.

Wheeler said the agency soon would learn who will be on the review team.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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