Chairman Quigley Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 FCC Budget Request

2020-03-11 10:00

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL), Chair of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Federal Communications Commission: 

Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.

I’d like to welcome back Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

It’s been about a year since we’ve had you before this subcommittee. A lot has happened in that time.

The FCC has committed to an extensive amount of work for itself in coming months.

The agency is planning to hold numerous auctions for spectrum and broadband as well as implementing Congressional directives on robocalls and pirate radio enforcement.

The FCC has asked for a $4 million increase this year—just enough to absorb its inflationary costs.

We’re interested in learning more about whether the FCC has sufficient resources to complete its ambitious agenda, and if it is realistic to take on all of this work.

I also want to discuss the importance of prioritizing consumer protection.

We continue to see that when it comes to policies that assist wireless and broadband companies, the FCC can’t seem to move fast enough. In the process, it undermines competition and threatens to waste limited Federal dollars.

But taking action to protect consumers seems like an afterthought.

For example, Chairman Pai undid net neutrality in just 8 months—which involved processing more than 20 million comments. A significant portion of these were fraudulent –something the FCC did nothing to address. It took only 16 months to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, one of the more complex and significant changes in the market in recent years.

I was glad to see the FCC move to a public auction for C-band spectrum. But I’m concerned that the Commission was seriously considering a private auction put on by satellite companies instead of an FCC auction. We have made significant investments in the FCC auctions program to handle competitive processes like this.

And I’m also concerned that the Commission is still planning to give away 10 billion dollars to these private, foreign companies.

That’s valuable funding that could support other important priorities like enhancing our 911 system or providing broadband to unserved areas.

It is also no secret that the FCC’s maps need major improvements. I’m disappointed that rather than taking the time to fix these problems, the FCC plans to dole out 16 billion dollars in broadband subsidies by the end of the year. This would leave just $4 billion for the areas that are partially served or incorrectly marked as served.

Turning to the FCC’s enforcement responsibilities.

While I’m pleased the FCC announced $200 million in penalties against wireless companies that shared consumer location data—an egregious violation of privacy—the investigation took nearly two years. Perhaps if the FCC would have prioritized their enforcement duty this wouldn’t have been such a drawn-out undertaking.

I’m also pleased the FCC is finally taking robust action against robocalls, including mandating call authentication technology—but I’d like to point out that the FCC only did this after Congress stepped in and directed them to.

Perhaps what is most concerning is the FCC’s lack of action over broadband complaints.

When it eliminated net neutrality, the FCC said that it would share information with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure consumers are still protected. But we have since learned that the FCC has not made a single affirmative referral to the FTC about broadband service since August 2018, when the net neutrality repeal took effect. This is deeply concerning and not what the American people expect from their government.

I look forward to discussing these issues in more detail.

Before I turn to the witnesses, I would like to recognize Mr. Amodei for his opening remarks. 

116th Congress