Newly released emails reveal the internal wrangling between Congress and the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 over the agency’s controversial Internet regulations.
The emails, made public for the first time this week, show FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler complaining that the agency’s “own words are being used against us” in meetings with congressional allies.
At other points, the documents show FCC aides persuading lawmakers to refrain from publicly calling for a delay in voting on the rules.
The 162-pages of unredacted FCC emails were released by the House Oversight Committee this week as part of a broader report criticizing the federal government’s open records process. The emails were only a random sample of about 10 percent of all the documents that the House committee received, which the FCC previously gave to journalists in heavily redacted form.
While there does not appear to be any bombshells, the emails provide a rare inside look at the agency and the pressure it was under as it developed controversial rules to ensure all Internet traffic is treated equally.
Many of the emails span from April and May of 2014, when the FCC was considering scaled back rules, as opposed to the sweeping ones that were eventually issued. At the time, the FCC was voting on proposed rules that net neutrality advocates said would allow Internet “fast lanes” for those willing to pay.
Months later, the agency pivoted to a stricter regulatory scheme, which opponents trace back to pressure from the White House and others. The net neutrality rules are now being challenged in court.
Eventually in a divided vote last year, the agency voted to reclassify Internet service as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act. The increased authority, which critics compared to utility-style regulations, was meant to give the FCC more power to prevent Internet service providers from prioritizing some Internet traffic over others.
Here are eight moments highlighting how the agency made it to that decision.