Judicial Watch Sues for Records about Obama White House Involvement in FCC’s Decision to Regulate Internet
MAY 18, 2017
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking records of the Obama White House’s influence in the FCC’s decision to reclassified broadband Internet as a public utility so that it could impose its restrictive net neutrality regulatory rules (Judicial Watch v. Federal Communications Commission (No. 1:17-cv-00933).
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the FCC failed to respond to two FOIA requests.
On March 30, 2017, Judicial Watch requested:
- All records or communications discussing or analyzing the desirability of a “two-sided market” for broadband internet services from an economics or public policy standpoint.
The time frame of this request was identified as March 28, 2015, through March 30, 2017.
On April 4, 2017, Judicial Watch requested:
- All emails between any FCC Commissioner, manager, or employee and Tom Power [formerly U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications in the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Office (until December 2014) and currently Senior Vice President & General Counsel for the U.S. wireless communications industry group CTIA].
- All emails between any FCC Commissioner, manager, or employee and R. David Edelman [former Special Assistant to President Obama for Economic and Technology Policy].
The time frame of this request was identified as April 15, 2014, through January 20, 2017.
The time frame for which Judicial Watch seeks the FCC-White House correspondence follows the aftermath of a January 2014 federal appeals court ruling that threw out FCC rules adopted in December 2010 attempting to regulate the Internet by imposing the so-called “net neutrality” under the agency’s Open Internet Order. The court at the time said the FCC could not impose its rules because the FCC had previously decided not to classify broadband internet as a “telecom service” – a statutory classification designed for the old AT&T telephone monopoly. The ruling sent the question of Internet regulation back to the FCC, and, in February, 2015, the Obama appointee-controlled agency redefined broadband Internet as falling under the 1930’s public utility telephone statutes so that it could impose its restrictive net neutrality regulatory rules. Today the Republican-led FCC is voting to begin a proceeding to repeal those regulations.
The Wall Street Journal reported on a “secretive” Obama White House effort to sway FCC decision-making on the issue.
“The FCC should follow FOIA law and release records that could show the Obama White House rigged the FCC power grab for the Internet,” stated Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president. “As with Obamacare, the FCC regulation of the Internet seems to be another corrupt effort by the Obama administration to federalize a previously free market.”
Prior to the appeals court ruling, Judicial Watch, on June 2, 2011, released documents obtained from the FCC indicating that agency officials had colluded with the leftist Free Press organization in its attempt to formulate and push through its net neutrality regulations. Judicial Watch obtained the documents pursuant to a December 27, 2010, Freedom of Information Act request.
Those documents revealed that Free Press reached out to the FCC to invite then-FCC Commissioner Michael Copps to write an op-ed strongly in favor of so-called “net neutrality” for the Albuquerque Journal in advance of a November 16, 2010, FCC hearing on Internet Access. Free Press also helped coordinate a speaker’s list for FCC “Internet workshops” — which was a “Who’s Who” of liberal activists working to have the FCC regulate the Internet.
During a subsequent 2011 congressional investigation, which was prompted by Judicial Watch’s revelations, Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to then-FCC Chairman Genachowski:
“These allegations suggest the FCC’s network neutrality proceeding was designed to fulfill a presidential campaign slogan, when it should have been based on an analysis of statutory authority, an economic analysis of the Internet service market, and an examination of the record. If true, it seems the FCC failed to develop an independent conclusion derived from a balanced fact-based record, which is incompatible with proper rule-making.”