Letter - Communications and Technology Updates

Jul 9, 2024
Press Release

E&C Leaders Open Investigation into NTIA’s IIJA BEAD Funding Deployment, Citing Abnormal Lack of Transparency and Allegations of Rate Regulation

Washington, D.C. — In a new letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) requested all communications between the agency and state broadband offices related to Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Initial Proposals. The letter comes amid concerns that NTIA is unlawfully pressuring states to rate regulate low-cost broadband plans required by the BEAD Program and following a May 15, 2024, hearing at which Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson committed to being more transparent about BEAD funding decision making.  KEY EXCERPT :  “Based on anecdotal evidence from different entities involved in the process, it appears that the NTIA may be evaluating initial proposals counter to Congressional intent and in violation of the law. Several Members of Congress have directly raised to you that the NTIA, through its review of initial proposals, is unlawfully regulating the rate of broadband through BEAD’s low-cost service option in direct conflict with the IIJA, which states: ‘Nothing in this title may be construed to authorize the Assistant Secretary or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to regulate the rates charged for broadband service.’9 During Senate floor debate on the IIJA, Members of Congress agreed that this language meant that ‘no rate regulation of broadband services would be authorized or permitted by the NTIA or the Assistant Secretary who leads the NTIA as part of the state broadband grant program.’” “States have reported that the NTIA is directing them to set rates and conditioning approval of initial proposals on doing so. This undoubtedly constitutes rate regulation by the NTIA. Indeed, one state publicly posted the NTIA’s feedback that the agency would not approve their initial proposal without ’an exact price or formula’ for the state’s low-cost option. Without visibility into the approval process, Congress in unable to determine how widespread this practice is. When asked about this at oversight hearings, your responses have failed to provide clarity.”  BACKGROUND:  Congress appropriated an unprecedented $42.45 billion through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for the NTIA to administer the BEAD program.   The program was intended to ensure that all Americans, specifically those in unserved or underserved areas, have access to broadband.   The NTIA is responsible for managing and distributing this money to the states and territories.  The IIJA prohibits the NTIA from rate regulation.  The IIJA established a process for how states receive money from the NTIA for this program.   First, each of the 56 individual states and territories (state entities) were required to submit an Initial Proposal explaining their proposed process for awarding the funds.   The NTIA was then tasked with reviewing and approving each individual states entities’ proposal, after which funds would be allocated to the state to award.   Some states report that the NTIA is conditioning approval of their Initial Proposals on setting a specific price for low-cost broadband plans despite the prohibition on rate regulation.  Despite every state entity having submitted their initial proposals by the December 27, 2023, deadline, the NTIA has only approved 16 initial proposals as of the date of this letter.   Due to the opaque nature of the NTIA’s review and approval process, the Committee lacks the information necessary to assess whether NTIA is pressuring states to rate regulate and to understand why so few state entities initial proposals have been approved to move forward.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Assistant Secretary Davidson. 

May 1, 2024
Press Release

E&C Republicans Open Investigation into Allegations of Political Bias at Taxpayer-Funded NPR, Request Attendance at Hearing

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) wrote to NPR CEO Katherine Maher regarding reports of political and ideological bias at the taxpayer-funded public radio organization. In addition to requesting answers to questions, the letter requests Ms. Maher appear before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for a hearing on May 8, 2024. "The Committee has concerns about the direction in which NPR may be headed under past and present leadership. As a taxpayer funded, public radio organization, NPR should focus on fair and objective news reporting that both considers and reflects the views of the larger U.S. population and not just a niche audience," the Chairs wrote.   They continued , "We also find it disconcerting that NPR’s coverage of major news in recent years has been so polarized as to preclude any need to uncover the truth. These have included news stories on matters of national security and importance, such as the Mueller report, the Hunter Biden laptop, and the COVID-19 origins investigation. On each of these issues, NPR has been accused of approaching its news reporting with an extreme left-leaning lens." “In light of the recent, disturbing revelations about National Public Radio (NPR) and its leadership, I’ve directed Chair McMorris Rodgers and the Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct an investigation of NPR and determine what actions should be taken to hold the organization accountable for its ideological bias and contempt for facts. The American people support the free press but will not be made to fund a left-leaning political agenda with taxpayer funds.” said Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) regarding the effort. CLICK HERE to read the letter.

Chair Rodgers, Ranking Member Cruz Lead Colleagues in Urging FCC to Halt Unlawful Plan to Reclassify Broadband as a Public Utility

Letter argues agency lacks legal authority to reinstate burdensome rules that will hurt consumers Washington, D.C. – U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a bicameral coalition of their committee colleagues in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse course and abandon its so-called “net neutrality” draft order—an illegal power grab that would expose the broadband industry to an oppressive regulatory regime under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC is set to vote on the draft order on Thursday. The members argue that the FCC’s draft order ignores the text of the Communications Act of 1934, which explicitly precludes the FCC from treating broadband as a public utility. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s recent jurisprudence on the major questions doctrine confirms that the only body that can authorize public utility regulation of broadband is Congress. Resurrecting this failed Obama-era policy, which will inevitably be struck down by the courts, is a waste of time and re sources and will punish American consumers by choking off investment, innovation, and competition. In a letter to Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the members write: “Congress’s decision to treat broadband Internet access as an information service, rather than a telecommunications service, was a deliberate policy choice. Congress recognized that ‘[t]he Internet and other interactive computer services have flourished, to the benefit of all Americans, with a minimum of government regulation,’ and accordingly decreed that it ‘is the policy of the United States... to promote the continued development of the internet and other interactive computer services... [and] to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.’   “Your proposal to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service does the exact opposite. It would give the Commission largely unfettered power to impose (and allow states to impose) rate regulation, tariffing requirements, unbundling obligations, entry and exit regulation, and taxation of broadband—the antithesis of leaving broadband ‘unfettered’ by regulation as the law requires. Congress has had many opportunities to give the FCC such power, yet it has never done so in any of its ample legislative enactments regarding broadband over the past two decades. Rather, legislators have repeatedly considered but ultimately rejected efforts to replace the longstanding light-touch framework with common carrier regulation. And for good reason: Title II will inflict significant damage on consumers by chilling investment and innovation.   “Finally, recent jurisprudence from the Supreme Court confirms that the Commission has no power to impose Title II on the broadband industry. As the Commission’s record demonstrates, the question of whether broadband should be subject to public utility regulation is an issue of ‘vast economic and political significance,’ such that the Commission must identify ‘clear authorization from Congress’ to justify such a decision. Our review of the relevant statutory provisions leaves no doubt that, far from possessing the type of ‘clear’ statutory authority required under Supreme Court precedent, the Commission lacks any authority to subject broadband services to common-carrier regulation.” The full list of Senators joining Chair Rodgers and Ranking Member Cruz in sending the letter include: Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Deb Fischer (Re-Neb.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). Also signing the letter were Reps. Bob Latta (OH-5), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Brett Guthrie (KY-2), Morgan Griffith (VA-9), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Larry Bucshon (IN-8), Richard Hudson (NC-9), Tim Walberg (MI-5), Buddy Carter (GA-1), Jeff Duncan (SC-3), Gary Palmer (AL-6), Neal Dunn (FL-2), John Curtis (UT-3), Debbie Lesko (AZ-8), Greg Pence (IN-6), Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), John Joyce (PA-13), Kelly Armstrong (ND-At-large), Randy Weber (TX-14), Rick Allen (GA-12), Troy Balderson (OH-12), Russ Fulcher (ID-1), August Pfluger (TX-11), Diana Harshbarger (TN-1), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-1), Kat Cammack (FL-3), Jay Obernolte (CA-23), and John James (MI-10). The full text of the letter is available HERE .

Jan 17, 2024
Press Release

E&C, China Select Committees Launch Inquiry into Taxpayer Funding Streams Funneled to CCP-Backed Researcher

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), E&C Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), E&C Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), E&C Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, launched an investigation into grants made to an AI scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  The Chairs made requests for documents to UCLA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).  BACKGROUND :  On November 1, 2023, a Newsweek investigation found that the federal government awarded at least $30 million in federal research grants led by Mr. Song-Chun Zhu, who is now “at the forefront of China's race to develop the most advanced artificial intelligence.”  The investigation further revealed the NSF and DOD continued funding Mr. Zhu even as he “set up a parallel institute near Wuhan, took a position at a Beijing university whose primary goal is to support Chinese military research, and joined a CCP ‘talent plan’ whose members are tasked with transferring knowledge and technology to China.”  In particular, Newsweek found that the project once led by Mr. Zhu received $1.2 million in two grants from the Office of Naval Research in 2021, the year following his departure to China.  KEY LETTER EXCERPT:   “Mr. Zhu has openly discussed how if China takes the lead in developing a ‘truly universal intelligence,’ then it will ‘become the winner of the international technology competition.’ He has also referred to the AI race as being equivalent in military importance to the race for the atomic bomb. In a period of intensifying geopolitical competition with the CCP, ceasing federal government support for Chinese AI development is a critical national security imperative.”  CLICK HERE to read the letter to UCLA Chancellor Gener Block.  CLICK HERE to read the letter to NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan.  CLICK HERE to read the letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. 

E&C Republicans to NTIA: By Allowing States to Regulate Broadband Rates, NTIA is Ignoring Congressional Intent

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), along with 14 other committee Republicans, sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson raising concerns that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is allowing states to regulate broadband rates under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and ignoring congressional intent.    KEY QUOTE:    “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which created the BEAD Program, explicitly prohibits the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and the NTIA from ‘regulat[ing] the rates charged for broadband service.’ During Senate floor debate on this legislation, members of Congress agreed that this language meant that ‘no rate regulation of broadband services would be authorized or permitted by NTIA or the Assistant Secretary who leads NTIA as part of the state broadband grant program.’  “Based on your testimony, it appears that you are planning to ignore this Congressional direction... you did not foreclose approval of state plans that regulated rates of broadband service. Indeed, when directly asked, ‘Will NTIA permit a state to rate regulate, yes or no,’ you did not provide a yes or no answer and instead stated that NTIA would give states flexibility on how to approach this issue. This ‘flexibility’ to pursue rate regulation is not only concerning, but is strictly prohibited.”  BACKGROUND:   At a December 5 hearing held by the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Assistant Secretary Davidson repeatedly suggested that NTIA would permit rate regulation by states participating in the BEAD program.  Last week, NTIA followed through on those suggestions by approving Louisiana’s Initial Proposal for BEAD, in which the state sets rates for certain broadband plans.  Assistant Secretary Davidson’s testimony, along with the approval of Louisiana’s proposal, raise serious concerns that NTIA is ignoring Congressional direction and may continue approving proposals that directly regulate the rate of broadband service.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter to NTIA. 

Dec 7, 2023
Press Release

House E&C, Senate Commerce Republicans Question Eventbrite over Seemingly Inconsistent Enforcement of Community Guidelines

Letter comes after Eventbrite censored conservative event while permitting pro-Hamas events Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, & Commerce Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), along with Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) today wrote Eventbrite President and CEO Julia Hartz. The letter raises concerns over Eventbrite’s enforcement practices. BACKGROUND :  On October 23, 2023, Eventbrite removed an event listing titled, “Protecting Women’s Sports with Riley Gaines,” from its platform.    This event was intended to be a public forum for participants, including female athletes, to express issues, experiences, and consequences of biological males competing in their competitions.  Eventbrite listed “Rahm 4 Palestine (GAZA): Talk & Dinner,” scheduled for October 27, featuring a headline speaker who, after the October 7 Israeli massacre, using his verified X account, publicly posted antisemitic messaging that was viewed more than 1 million times.  A sold-out conference scheduled for November 10 in Washington, D.C., “Palestine Center 2023 Annual Conference,” was promoted on Eventbrite.    In advertising this event, organizers referred to the country of Israel as “Israeli apartheid” under Eventbrite’s “About this event” tab.  KEY LETTER EXCERPTS :  “In the last few weeks, Eventbrite, it seems, has selectively enforced its terms of service by removing some events while allowing potentially violative events to remain on the site. We raise the issues below not to dictate or remove events and users from your marketplace, but to better understand your Community Guidelines enforcement process .”  […]  “We struggle to comprehend the rationale for removing this event, while other Eventbrite listings that seemingly violate several of Eventbrite’s Community Guidelines remain live, including some that feature speakers espousing allegiance to entities designated by the U.S. Government as foreign terrorist organizations.”  […]  “Because Gaines’s promotion of the widely held view to preserve women’s athletics starkly contrasts with events on Eventbrite featuring speakers sympathetic to mass murder, this leads us to wonder if pro-terrorist and antisemitic events and event speakers do not plainly violate Eventbrite’s prohibition of content that would ‘discriminate against, harass, disparage, threaten, incite violence against, or otherwise target individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, national origin.’ We seek information on what metrics Eventbrite uses to enforce its Community Guidelines on selected issues such as women’s athletics versus terrorism and antisemitism .”    CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

Nov 21, 2023

E&C Republicans Demand Answers from TikTok over Terrorist and Antisemitic Content

Washington D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chair Buddy Carter (R-GA), and 23 other Republican Committee members sent a letter to TikTok demanding answers regarding how the Chinese Communist Party is using the app as a tool to surveil and manipulate Americans.  From the letter: “ Disturbingly, millions of TikTok users have recently viewed videos glorifying Osama Bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America,’ which attempts to justify his horrific murder of 3,000 Americans in the September 11, 2001, attacks while also perpetuating ‘the antisemitic trope claiming the Jews ‘control your policies, media and economy.’” Key excerpts from exclusive reporting by FOX NEWS : “ A group of House Republicans is demanding more transparency from TikTok about how content is amplified and how much insight China has into those processes as accusations mount against the social platform that it’s boosting antisemitic videos. “‘On October 7, the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, brutally attacked Israel and killed more than 1,400 people. Since this terrorist attack, disinformation related to the conflict has run rampant on your platform, stoking antisemitism, support, and sympathy for Hamas,’ they wrote to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. “The letter is being led by Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga. It comes just days after TikTok was under fire for facilitating a surge in viral videos expressing support for Usama bin Laden’s 2002 'Letter to America' written in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.” […] “National security hawks have been wary of TikTok’s connection to China, with its parent company ByteDance being based in Beijing.” […] “The lawmakers are demanding to know how many employees at TikTok have connections to ByteDance, how the platform screens for misinformation and anti-Israel content amid the conflict with Hamas, and how its algorithms are curated, among other queries. “‘Given that roughly half of TikTok’s U.S. user base is under 25 years old, American youth are being exposed to extremely violent and disturbing images and videos," they wrote. "This deluge of pro-Hamas content is driving hateful antisemitic rhetoric and violent protests on campuses across the country. The CCP has already co-opted your platform, and it seems TikTok and TikTok’s employees are resigned to becoming a mouthpiece for antisemites, terrorists, and propaganda.’” ICYMI: In October, Chair Rodgers called on multiple tech companies, including TikTok, to brief the Energy and Commerce Committee on their moderation policies regarding the spread of illegal content posted by Hamas. CLICK HERE to read the full letter. CLICK HERE to read the Fox News story on the letter.

Chairs Rodgers and Latta Request Briefing from Mayor Bowser on Systemic Failures of D.C. Emergency Communications Services

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Bob Latta (R-OH) sent a letter to Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requesting information regarding the District’s chronic issues and mismanagement of the 9-1-1 emergency communications system.   KEY EXCERPT:   “Slow responses, missed calls, and staffing shortages have had tragic consequences and will continue to endanger lives unless remedied. The OUC [Office of Unified Communications] has a record of grave mistakes that have contributed to the deaths of adults, children, and animals. The OUC sent firefighters to the wrong address for a report of a newborn in cardiac arrest, canceled a call for service about a child unconscious in a hot car, and mischaracterized a handful of emergency calls. Washington, D.C. recently reached a staggering 200 homicides for this year, further emphasizing the importance of accurate and rapid emergency medical services (EMS) response.   BACKGROUND: The Washington, D.C. Office of Unified Communications (OUC) has a record of grave mistakes that have contributed to the deaths of adults, children, and animals.  On April 20, 2023, the 9-1-1 call center mistakenly dispatched emergency crews to the wrong location after a car plunged into the Anacostia River near the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. As a result, emergency crews did not arrive on the scene until nearly 16 minutes after the initial call came in regarding the accident.  On August 14, 2023, during a heavy rainstorm, a miscoding by a 9-1-1 dispatcher resulted in the tragic death of 10 dogs at a northeast D.C. dog daycare center due to flooding.  These are just several recent examples of the failures by the OUC that have gone unaddressed for years.  A recent report revealed that 40 percent of D.C. 9-1-1 center shifts were understaffed during the month of August, leading to wait times for callers, including several who were kept on hold for three or four minutes.  The OUC has also failed to implement urgent audit recommendations, including from a 2021 audit that described “inadequate supervision of call-taking and dispatch operations […] and insufficient management follow-up on after-action reviews.” Further, the audit’s review of priority medical calls from September 2021 to August 2022 revealed the OUC was not meeting national standards on “time-to-answer” measures or “answer to notification” on about half of incoming calls.   In 2020, Committee Republicans sent a letter to Mayor Bowser regarding similar safety concerns, which never received a response.  These delays and failures of the District’s 9-1-1 services can mean the difference between life and death for Washington, D.C. residents, and must be resolved. CLICK HERE to read the full letter, which asked for a response by November 17 to the requests for a copy of the 2021 OUC audit and a briefing on any changes that the OUC will take to correct these failures.

E&C GOP to Rosenworcel: “The Net Neutrality Debate was Settled When the Internet Didn’t Break”

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), along with Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), today sent a letter signed by every E&C Republican Member to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel ahead of the agency’s planned vote on a proposed rulemaking on net neutrality, which the FCC lacks the authority to impose.  BACKGROUND:   On September 26, 2023, the FCC announced plans to vote to reclassify fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.   If enacted, this would open the door to burdensome regulations that would weaken services for Americans, stifle innovation, jeopardize U.S. communications leadership, and potentially allow the FCC to regulate broadband rates.  This is in stark contrast with FCC Chair Rosenworcel’s previous testimony to the committee when she said there would be “no rate regulation.” It also contradicts information released by her office just last month, which reiterated that “policies like rate regulation [. . .] would be strictly prohibited.”  Furthermore, American broadband services have outperformed predictions made by Title II proponents after its repeal in 2017. Despite fearmongering, the Internet was not killed and we are not receiving it one word at a time.   In contrast to this fearmongering, American broadband networks have thrived under the current light-touch regulatory environment, providing people with faster internet speeds and lower prices.  KEY EXCERPTS ON THE SUCCESS OF CURRENT BROADBAND REGULATIONS:   “American broadband networks have thrived under the current light-touch regulatory framework. Investment in our networks has reached record highs, giving consumers faster speeds and lower prices. Indeed, since 2017, the cost of broadband (adjusted for inflation) has fallen while prices for electricity, water, and sewage have grown four to five times faster than prices for broadband. And these networks perform remarkably well, as shown during the Covid-19 pandemic. When work, school, and staying connected with loved ones moved online, traffic over our broadband networks spiked—reaching over 27 percent more than pre-pandemic levels. American broadband networks withstood this increased traffic without interruption. This is unlike what happened in Europe, where heavy-handed regulations, similar to those you now propose, meant that networks could not bear the increased use, causing regulators to ask sites like Netflix and YouTube to degrade and throttle their service.    “Heavy-handed, utility-style regulation is not meant for today’s broadband market. Congress enacted Title II in 1934 to address a telephone market dominated by one company. In contrast, today’s broadband market is increasingly competitive—there is competition among different providers offering service via a variety of technologies. Further, your decision to forebear from twenty-seven provisions in Title II and over 700 regulations underscores that the Title II regime is not appropriate for broadband. You would not need to perform these legal gymnastics to make Title II work if Congress meant for it to apply. It clearly did not, as broadband service did not exist in its current form in 1934 or 1996, the last time the Communications Act was comprehensively updated. Forbearance also raises its own concerns because it is temporary. A future FCC could reverse this forbearance, exposing broadband providers to these burdensome regulations.”   CLICK HERE to read the full letter to FCC Chair Rosenworcel.  CLICK HERE to read the statement from Chairs Rodgers and Latta on the FCC’s decision to revive the net neutrality debate.