Republicans suggest Obama had 'improper influence' on FCC's net neutrality rules

A group of Republicans has taken the latest shot in the net neutrality battle, claiming that the Obama administration had "an improper influence" over the FCC's recent move to implement Title II on ISPs as part of its new net neutrality rules, reports Ars Technica.

Led by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Republican leaders have launched an investigation and have asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to provide documentation of any communication made between FCC personnel and the White House, as well as calendar appointments, visitor logs and meeting minutes related to meetings with the White House, and all internal documents discussing the views and recommendations of the White House.

"Reports indicate that the views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of the draft Open Internet Order circulated internally at the Commission on February 5, 2015," said Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the letter. "Specifically, there are questions regarding the FCC's decision to promote the reclassification of broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934."

The committee also asked for a number of items including "all documents in the possession of FCC personnel working in the Office of Chairman Wheeler and the Office of General Counsel."

In November, President Barack Obama made a direct plea to the FCC to reclassify broadband providers like AT&T (NYSE: T), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) under Title II of the Telecom Act of 1996.

Wheeler revealed last week that his proposed new net neutrality rules would reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Chaffetz has asked Wheeler to provide all of the documents he requested for review by Feb. 20 and make his staff available for a briefing. He said that the committee "has authority to investigate 'any matter' at 'any time.'"

Despite facing inevitable lawsuits that AT&T and Verizon are going to file once the order is passed, the FCC said that it has the legal foundation it needs to withstand any legal challenges that telcos plan to launch once the rules come out.

For more:
- Ars Technica has this article
- see this letter (.pdf)

Related articles:
Verizon's McAdam: FCC Title II proposal influenced $10.5B wireline asset sale to Frontier
FCC says proposed net neutrality rules will withstand legal challenges from AT&T, Verizon
FCC to strengthen oversight of ISP interconnection deals
AT&T, Verizon challenge FCC's authority on net neutrality

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