Congress looking into White House’s role in FCC’s net neutrality regulations

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The secrecy surrounding the Obama administration's plans for regulating the Internet has prompted a congressional inquiry into whether the independent Federal Communications Commission or the White House and its allies are calling the shots over the future of the nation's broadband networks.

A top adviser to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), defended Wheeler's decision to hide his latest draft of Internet regulations from the public until after the agency voted on them at the end of the month during a public question and answer session on Twitter held on Friday, Feb. 6.

Gigi Sohn, Wheeler's special counsel for external affairs, pointed to over 4 million public comments submitted to the agency as proof of the public's support, despite the diversity of the content of those comments.

"Our proposal is based on that record," Sohn said via Twitter, claiming that the public had been provided ample input over the past year.

However, the head of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform signaled to Wheeler on Friday that the committee planned to launch an investigation into the agency, pointing to a White House effort to influence the FCC to craft rules that favored a coalition of pro-net neutrality startups.

The committee's chairman, Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah,  requested in a letter to Wheeler that the FCC preserve all of its internal net neutrality-related documents produced since a federal court struck down its previous net neutrality rules on Jan. 14, 2014.

The FCC has until Feb. 20 to provide the committee with all net neutrality-related communications and calendar appointments between FCC employees, the White House, and other executive branch agencies since Jan. 14, 2014.

Chaffetz reminded Wheeler that "the Committee has the authority to investigate "any matter" at "any time."

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