FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this morning that the commission has yet to hear from the incoming Trump administration.
“Let me be real specific,” Wheeler told reporters following this morning’s truncated meeting. “We have had no conversations with the Trump administration transition team. We are working with the transition structure that was set up by the Obama administration to begin the groundwork but we have heard nothing" from the incoming president's team.
Wheeler’s comments came on the heels of a meeting that had previously had a full agenda but instead lasted only nine minutes. The FCC scratched votes on several items just one day after Republicans urged it to ease up on “controversial” issues ahead of Trump’s inauguration in January.
“We certainly had a quick meeting this morning,” Wheeler said, “and that abbreviated meeting was obviously a consequence of the requests to avoid action on issues that were deemed controversial during this transition between administrations. Certain of my colleagues identified the items on today’s proposed agenda as controversial and asked they not be considered today. I hope that this doesn’t mean that these issues won’t be quickly addressed after the transfer of leadership from this agency.”
Among other items, the FCC scratched a vote on proposed revisions for a regulatory framework for Business Data Services (BDS) that would make services or providers subject to rules regardless of whether they’re considered incumbents or competitors.
The move was a swift response to a request from Republican leaders that the FCC focus on the ongoing incentive auction and shelve potentially contentious issues during the transition in the White House. Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who serves as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chair of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, jointly submitted a letter (PDF) to Wheeler saying the auction of 600-MHz airwaves should be the commission’s top priority for the next 10 weeks.
Wheeler is widely expected to depart the FCC soon after Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20, and the GOP will almost surely retake control of the commission. But the lame-duck chairman continued to push his agenda to reporters.
“It is truly disappointing that 1.4 million Americans living in rural areas without LTE service will continue to be so deprived,” Wheeler argued. “They deserve better from this commission. And it is tragic that 1.3 million Americans who are blind and millions more who are visually impaired will not be able to enjoy expanded video description. They deserve better from this commission. All of these matters are so-called controversial, because they are opposed principally by the largest incumbent firms in the sector. As the deferred items reflect, when so-called controversy is the result of choosing between the broader common good or those incumbents preferring the status quo, I believe the public interest should prevail.”