FCC Chairman Denies Receiving "Secret Instructions from the White House" About Internet Rules

Tom Wheeler didn't need secret orders to do the administration's bidding on net neutrality.



At a hearing in front of the House Oversight Committee yesterday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman insisted that he was his own man, running his own independent agency. When he proposed a major regulatory overhaul of broadband Internet service very much in line with what President Obama called for in a November statement, he was acting on his own initiative, not White House directives.

"There were no secret instructions from the White House," Wheeler said, responding to charges that he had altered his net neutrality proposal at the White House's urging.

There were, however, a series of until-now undisclosed meetings between Wheeler and senior White House officials during the run-up to the release of Wheeler's proposal, which after passing an FCC vote last month, reclassified Internet service from a Title I information service to a utility-style Title II telecommunications service.

Republican at the hearing legislators pointed to records showing that Wheeler had met with top White House staffers nine times while the proposal was being crafted. But as The Hill reports, Wheeler responded by claiming that "those meetings never touched on the Web regulations."

Given the prominence of the net neutrality debate, this is extremely difficult to believe, especially given that the White House was reportedly so invested in the issue that it engaged in what The Wall Street Journal described as "an unusual secretive effort" involving dozens of meetings with net neutrality activists, in which the White House acted "like a parallel version of the FCC itself." Net neutrality was by far the biggest issue on the FCC's plate last year, and it was the subject of a major effort inside the White House—and yet when Wheeler met with administration officials, it never came up?

Meanwhile, as CNBC reports, emails between Wheeler and the administration made public by the House Oversight Committee make it clear that "Wheeler gave the White House a front-row seat to the [FCC's internal] deliberations process." So even if you buy Wheeler's claim that the issue never came up during the meetings, it's clear that the FCC Chair kept the White House well-informed.

The White House, in turn, provided heads up to the FCC before President Obama's call for strict net neutrality rules, with Jeff Zients, Obama's Assistant for Economic Policy, going to the FCC for an in-house meeting to give Wheeler advance notice about the announcement.

Sometimes the White House offered more than information—it prodded Wheeler to take action. In one email singled out by CNBC, senior Obama aide John Podesta emailed Wheeler about a New York Times article which hinted that the FCC's net neutrality position might not be aggressive enough.

"Brutal story," Podesta wrote. "Somebody going on the record to push back?"

Wheeler responds via email that he was on it. "Yes. I did with a statement similar to what I emailed you." He had already pushed back.

 In some ways I suppose this backs up the point Wheeler tried to make before Congress yesterday. The White House didn't need to give secret instructions; the president made a clear public announcement. Wheeler, the presidential appointee working on a touchy political issue, knew quite well what the White House wanted—and in the end, he worked to make sure that's what happened.

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  1. "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome internet?"

    1. will no one rid me of this meddlesome plumber?
      will no one rid me of this meddlesome tea party?
      will no one rid me of this meddlesome youtube filmmaker?

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  2. He's right. I don't think the instructions were all that secret.

    1. Obama brought the blatantly-corrupt, chicago-machine politics with him. It has never occurred to him that it should be any other way.

  3. So wait, how is it news that the head of an executive bureaucracy that is appointed by the White House is on the President's leash?

  4. This whole thing might end up being a blessing in the long run. For decades Republicans haven't seen things like the FCC as the enemies they are because their cronies got paid too. Republicans didn't want to look all mean and extreme and attack the FCC and there was no reason to anyway since they could rely on the FCC throwing their cronies a few crumbs as well.

    Obama has totally blown that. He has made the FCC into a political arm of the Democratic Party. That means Republican cronies don't get paid anymore. Moreover, the Republicans know they could never get away with changing it back to neutral much less making it into a weapon once they get in power. Obama by politicizing the FCC and DOJ and IRS and pretty much every other branch of the executive has upset the devil's bargain that Republicans have always had with big government. Republicans can no longer even tell themselves "sure it is wrong but our guys benefit too". That is not going to work out well for advocates of big government in the long run. No, I don't think the Republicans are going to be eliminating the FCC when they get back in power. They will however be cutting the shit out of its funding and probably taking a lot of its power just like they are doing with the IRS. The FCC is going to before this is over end up in a worse position that it was to begin with thanks to Obama doing this. It will take a few years, but you watch it happen.

    1. John, please take it as a compliment when I say that if only you were in charge of the Republican strategy, they would no longer be the Stupid Party. But they are the Stupid Party, so I'll continue to hope, but I expect that they'll end up Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. It would be nice if they would pick one of these executive agencies and send a clear message, pour encourager les autres.

      1. I don't think so. They never hoped. They just got paid off. Obama has blown that.

        1. John, I agree with what you say.

          But the chances of the R team following the obviously correct strategy you outlined, is about as good a the chances of Obama following his campaign promises to close Guantanamo, end wars abroad, increase government transparency, etc. etc.

          1. the disconnect between Repubs in Congress and many who vote for them is massive indeed. And that was the malicious truth about the rise of the tea people.

            1. As bad as the disconnect is on the red team, the disconnect on the blue team between the dems and their voters is even worse. Again look at what Obama promised to what he did, he broke everything and still his base loves him.

              I think the difference is most people I know on the blue team actually believe their side is "good" and the other side is "evil", it blinds them to how bad their politicians are.

              The simple fact for why all stops were pulled out to demean and marginalize the tea party as racists/etc, was because they were the 1st block of voters who actually started to demand the politicians they voted for follow what the voters want.

              The R and D establishment is so used to being able to do whatever they want regardless of voters, this was a shock to them. Thus the need to crush the tea party.

      2. Brett L, Be careful what you wish for. How's that "making an example of someone" working out in your criminal justice system? Disproportional righeousness for some, a shake of the hand and the exchange of an envelope for others.

    2. I don't know, John. These bureaucracies tend to cater to whoever is in power at the moment, which is exactly how they survive from administration to administration. Just because Obama is using them more than usual doesn't change the fact that they go back to being good little lapdogs for the next president regardless of party.

      1. That is just it. They can't. Anything that changes towards the Republican way will be called out by the media as corruption, which it pretty much is really just fair corruption going both ways. The dial always goes left not right. So by cutting off the Republican cronies, Obama has ended the game.

        1. Which Republican Congressional leaders do you see leading this charge? Were ever a more feckless group of milquetoasts gathered together to do nothing?

          1. All of them. They have no choice. Do you think their cronies are going to just roll over and get screwed and keep sending the checks?

            1. Frankly, yes. Turfing out the guy you know for an unknown quantity is dangerous. However it used to work, it doesn't and hasn't since 9/11. Until the "imminent danger" card is no longer available, the Republic will have a dictator.

              1. No. They will start sending checks to Democrats and get them to give them some relief. This sort of thing is all about payoffs to various donors. If the Republicans can't produce, and after this can't, they won't get paid.

          2. The London Sillynannies?

    3. You're far more optimistic about Republicans than I am. I see them cozying up to the idea of greater FCC power when it suits their interests, of which I am sure there are many.

      It's like regulatory capture...the to-be-regulated businesses seem to complain at first but they soon figure out how to use it to their advantage.

      1. I understand what you are saying but I don't think you fully understand my point. What you are describing, them cozying up to power is how it works now. Obama has ended that. These rules are see to benefit only Democratic supporters and totally screw anyone else. And the Republicans can't reset them to benefit their cronies without the media and the Democrats tagging them with corruption. Obama knows that and that is why he is being so smug. He thinks he has fucked the Republicans by publishing these rules and then being able to rely on the media to bully any future Republican President from changing them or doing anything to stop government from waging war against them, even when they are in power.

        The problem is that Obama is an incompetent with an inflated view of himself. He has outsmarted himself. By setting the government irretrievably against Republicans all he has done is take away their reason to go along. The Republicans only option is to cut government's power since the media climate prevents any readjustment.

        1. I see what you are saying with regards to NN specifically, I just don't see the general trend of increasing government power reversing or drastically slowing down in the immediate future. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

          1. He has blown the bargain in a lot of ways. You won't be hearing any Republicans talking about the need to get the IRS to collect lost revenue anytime soon. I can tell you right now, life sucks at the IRS right now. The IRS is screwed. They are never going to get any kind of decent funding or any increases of power or size for God knows how long and if the Dems don't keep the White House could be looking at a massive kick in the balls and tax reform. The FCC is now going to face the same fate. That is not how it has worked in the past and a few of the smarter people on the executive side are starting to realize it and understand this whole Obama thing might not have been such a good idea.

            1. The IRS is screwed. They are never going to get any kind of decent funding or any increases of power or size for God knows how long

              *And* there's all this talk of simplifying the tax code! The horror!

        2. None of this ends until we identify the Democrat Party as communists. Then demonize communism, like back during the McCarthy period. The Dems must be destroyed. Period. Or we become the next Venezuela. The only alternative is a bloody revolution.

        3. John, "cozying up to power is how it works now. Obama has ended that."
          So another peace prize is in order?

      2. In the way that Amazon learned to love the sales tax, when it figured out that the cost of collecting taxes from all those different taxing entities would hurt small competitors more than it would hurt Amazon.

    4. John--The Stupid Party will be figuring out how they can co-opt the FCC to their advantage, once they're back in the White House. There will be no defunding or deregulating of any Federal agency, let alone the FCC. That ship sailed with the Carter administration, ironically enough.

      You can quote me on this in the years to come.

      1. And you can quote me on saying that if a future Republican even thinks of touching these rules the media will play it as the biggest scandal since Watergate. That is what you guys don't get. Republicans don't get to fiddle with the regulatory scheme to benefit their cronies. They get bought off as Democrats fiddle with and endlessly expand it. That is why Obama is so confident in doing this. He knows enough about Washington to know the Republicans could never get away with fixing it. What he doesn't realize is, they can get away with killing it and that is what they will do eventually since fixing it isn't an option.

        1. if a future Republican even thinks of touching these rules the media will play it as the biggest scandal since Watergate.

          Of course. That's a given. Any law or regulation that exists now, must have existed throughout all time, otherwise, we'd all be vassals in a corporate sex toy dungeon, making $1 day to crank out dildos and feeding our children Soylent Kennedy.

          That said, they won't do a thing regardless of the media. It's not in their interest tof any pol now, to do anything that might reduce their potential for power and control.

          I don't know what changed between the time of Carter and Alfred Kahn, ending the CAB and ICC, and today, but it wasn't for the better.,

          1. It's not in their interest tof any pol now, to do anything that might reduce their potential for power and control.

            That is what you don't get. it used to not be in their interests since they got bought off too. Now they are not. They are getting nothing., So they no longer have an interest in playing along. That is my point. You think "they just want power too". Sure they do. But dumb ass has blown the game by fixing it so they can't get any power and the power can only be used against them. He is fucking moron and thinks that means he wins when in fact it means he loses. The game is over because the other side no longer has a reason to go along.

            1. The last 40 years of political machinations says that you're wrong John. It's all gone the other way.

              Hardly anyone in office has agitated for reduced power of the gubmint. 99% have worked to increase the scope of the Feds, for whatever their hobby horse is. Oh sure, they've made noises that sound like they want that (not counting Amash or the Pauls), but their very clear actions say the opposite.

              The only thing that will make a difference is a bloody revolution, which will never happen, or some kind of apocalypse. Leviathan, like Leon, will only be getting larger until then.

              1. The only thing that will make a difference is a bloody revolution

                I'm not that pessimistic. One benefit to still living in a functioning democracy is that if enough people want less government and want to hold politicians to that standard, it can be done at the ballot box. It requires a cultural shift, to be sure, which is neither easy, fast, or permanent, but it is doable.

                1. One benefit to still living in a functioning democracy is that if enough people want less government and want to hold politicians to that standard, it can be done at the ballot box.

                  Never. gonna. happen.

                  I'll make good money on that bet.

                  1. You might be right, but I *know* it won't happen unless there are people making a strong case for liberty. Defeatism accomplishes nothing.

                    1. Defeatism accomplishes nothing.

                      It's not defeatism. It's learned helplessness. Why bother? We're getting the gubmint we deserve.

                      The US public has made it crystal clear that the only thing the demand from their leaders are:

                      - Moar free shit
                      - Moar violence to keep the peasants in line and society stable

                      They don't really care how the gubmint accomplishes any of this.

                      The day that someone loses an election directly because of a anti-liberty stance is the day I might change my mind.

                    2. The day that someone loses an election directly because of a anti-liberty stance

                      Right, embracing liberty can be hard. Some people seem to come to it fairly naturally. I think that is probably true of most of us here. But that isn't true of everyone, which is why it's important to try to change minds and hearts. And I think that will become easier as more people start to suffer more visibly under the expanding tentacles of government.

                  2. I don't think we'll have a bloody revolution if only because the people that live in the major urban centers seem perfectly happy with lots of incompetent government. I also don't think there will be any changes coming from the ballot box.

                    I wouldn't be surprised if a greater portion of red-leaning areas wanted to secede, or at least reorganize the current state boundaries so that they are no longer living in a tyranny of the majority.

            2. If we don't get a Hillary or Warren Dem, we will get another Bush-like Repub.

              Bush created the Home land security mob, created a mass surveillance state with the patriot act, took over education nationally, etc, etc. There is no rolling back, there is no profit in that, the Repubs will simply expand government in whatever direction they can for short term profit. That is how it works. There are no principles and the Repubs still can profit. Not by reforming the IRS, but by creating new horrific regulatory branches.

              1. The only method to stop this is to defund the government by taking away their primary source of money, the FED and the dollar (not taxes).

                Why more people at Reason aren't into Bitcoin as an alternative monetary system outside of the rule of man, I don't understand. It will be the most effective method to defund the state, which is the only way to scale it back at this point.

        2. I don't know about that. I got an email from my Republican Senator lauding the FCC's decision and trying to imply that he was involved somehow. I guarantee that the next time they fine someone a billion dollars for showing two millimeters too much side boob, he will be sending me a similar attempt to jump on the bandwagon. (I suspect he has me confused with someone else.)

          1. I got an email from my Republican Senator lauding the FCC's decision and trying to imply that he was involved somehow.

            and that's just it. John is making the argument the GOPers should make, not the one they are actually making. Repubs are only the party of limited govt in rhetoric and even then, only on a very small number of things. Raise a topic like a kid being bullied on the web or naked images and the party goes into high moral dudgeon.

          2. too much side boob

            That's a thing? I mean, I guess at some point it becomes whole boob, but it's still an odd choice of words...

        3. Wealthy conservatives need to buy up the major media outlets and drive out all the lprofressive employees. Thus destroying. Their advantage. Not much can change until that happens. Including the necessary demonization of democrats as communist traitors.

  5. Related: Netflix's slowdown may have been a false-flag op. Thanks, Netflix.

    Netflix Is the Culprit
    In January 2014, CEO Reed Hastings insisted a net-neut rule wasn't urgently needed

    [ISP's not needing regulation because of how important Netflix is to their business model] has been the adult view of net neutrality all along, and why intelligent persons have rightly called federal regulation a solution in search of a problem.

    Then why, a month after this deluge of demurrers, did Netflix change its tune radically and call for utility regulation of even the upstream "network of networks," which previously had not been considered part of the net-neutrality debate?

    Because Netflix was then rolling out its own network, Open Connect, to bypass the public network in favor of direct tie-ups with last-mile providers like Comcast,Verizon and AT&T. This largely ignored story has been told in detail by a disparate group of analysts and lawyers including Dan Rayburn,Larry Downes,Jonathan Lee and Fred Campbell. Netflix effectively engineered a slowdown of its own service in late 2013 by relying on an intermediary with inadequate capacity, then waved a bloody shirt in pursuit of the direct-connection deals that today allow Netflix to distribute its content more efficiently and cheaply.

    1. Hasn't this whole affair done real damage to the Netflix brand? Netflix is now the brand that screwed the internet. Could it be then that one of Netflix competitors told the story that Netflix was behind this to damage their brand?

      Is that what you are saying?

      1. My reading is that Netflix blamed Comcast for something that was their fault, trying to improve their bargaining position and never thought the FCC would actually rule in favor of Net Neutrality, being like so many tech organizations unable to understand that the FCC would inevitably vote to unilaterally increase its own power. We can only hope that the Supreme Court slaps the FCC down over this.

        1. Yeah, that's what Jenkins is getting at.

      2. Netflix looks like the big baddie in all of this, but how many people know that? How many care? How many aren't applauding with the FCC's decision?

        More importantly, how many care more about Netflix's content than their business practices? I'm in that group.

        1. Netflix is one of the few who shot their big, stupid mouth off over it.

          I'm cancelling them and letting them know why, as if they care.

    2. Holy fuck.

      And still, the nerd herd continues to think Netflix can do no wrong and the FCC totes has to REGULATE!!!

    3. KDN, is there a non-paywall version of this somewhere?

  6. ""There were no secret instructions from the White House," Wheeler said, .."

    Aha! So there were secret instructions from the White House.

    Who in hell is stupid enough to believe that? Obumbles has been muttering some shit about regulating the internet for a couple of years now.

    1. They weren't secret. Wheeler clearly interpreted his boss's public statements as a direct order.

      1. ^This^

        Obama's input on the matter was in clear text, nothing secret about it.

        1. Permit me: "The most transparent yada yada."

          1. Note to self: Read all comments before commenting.

          2. Well, they are nothing if not transparent in their mendacity.

            We were led to believe that they meant something else.

  7. Wheeler needs to get some tutoring from Koskinen on how to lie better. That's just pathetic.

    1. Every time think they couldn't possible dredge up anyone worse, they prove you wrong. Koskinen was the most loathsome lying piece of shit I have ever seen before Congress until I saw Wheeler today.

      1. Some folks in DC need to get together and take a tire iron to Koskinen's cranium.

  8. There were no secret instructions from the White House

    I seem to remember them being fairly public instructions.

  9. If I had the power to eliminate government agencies, if not number one, the FCC would be in the top 10.

    1. It'd be hard to narrow it down to 10.

      1. A lotta guys would find it hard to come up with 10 to *keep*.

        1. Well, if you count the army, navy and air force as different agencies, Congress, Supreme Court, Presidency, then...State, I guess, and...Treasury, maybe. FBI can stay if we get rid of the Patriot Act and drug prohibition. How many is that?

        2. A lotta guys would find it hard to come up with 10 to *keep*.

          Only 3.


          All would be at vastly reduced levels compared to today.

          1. What the fuck, nobody hates the IRS anymore?

            1. Nevermind, I finally figured out reading comprehension.

              1. It's almost 5. (er, it was)

          2. I'd replace DOJ with State. I'd also change DOD back to the War Department.

            1. I'm all for that change, for the honesty of it if nothing else.

            2. Since obama took over, the DOJ meets in a skip ill shaped HQ hidden in a Bayou swamp.

    2. BATFE would be #1, I presume?

      1. The only thing the government would keep would be the ability to sell that name to some entrepreneur.

      2. DEA first, ATF second, although they could go 1 and 1a.

      3. I'd kill Department of Education first and then BATFE.

  10. The lying and bullshit is so constant now that I swear the populace is just tuning it out at this point. "Oh another obvious lie? Well, that's what I expected. Time to get back to real life."

    1. Obama wasn't lying when he claimed they'd be the most transparent administration ever.

      1. I just assume incompetence now. John Fucking Kerry is the Secretary of State. He is going to make the Bay of Pigs look like a good idea with some bad luck.

  11. Oh look, Tom Wheeler's lips are moving again.

  12. Some crazy congresswoman said Obama saved the auto industry and now he will save the interwebz!

      1. Oh look, Elijah Cummings is there too. I can never tell if he says what he says is out of stupidity or mendacity.

        My working theory is that we're already in a Circle of Hell and being ruled by these corrupt and amoral cunts is our punishment.

        1. always go with mendacity. Stupid people occasionally get things right and they tend to be less malicious than the evil.

      2. Jesus fuckin' Christ. That woman should go impale herself on a rusty t-post immediately.

        How can anyone in that room sit there and listen to that horseshit and not burst out laughing hysterically?

    1. At least with the auto industry there was a specific boogeyman to "save" it from. What are they saving the internet from?

      1. "I won't dignify that question with a response."

    2. Saved *or created*!

      1. I thought Gore already created the internet?

  13. The best toadies don't need direct orders. They know what the boss wants before the boss does.

  14. Funniest moment was some congresswoman going over this fuck faces resume as a lobbyist for the Telecom industry, as if somehow that is supposed to make everybody with an objection to the Feds sticking their grubby hands into the internet pie.

    1. ummm...go away

  15. All of these people who testify and blatantly lie should be locked away for contempt, obstruction and any other bullshit charges that can be mustered. Will any of it stick? No, because someone has to investigate and fat chance of that happening. But put some of these slimy fucks in a cage for a little while and they'll at least start questioning their loyalty to dear leader.

  16. This guy was also "his own man" as he was reading the news....

  17. Appellate Case: 14-3447 Page: 1 Date Filed: 11/23/2014 Entry ID: 4218868

    2. Plaintiff/Appellant also prays for immediate injunctive relief such that all violations of 18 U.S.C. 2511* and all violations of Ark Code Ann. 5-41-103* are ordered ceased immediately for Plaintiff/Appellant's name and seeks orders for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate "online" wire communications as a Title II common carrier and require ratings of all "obscene, indecent, or profane" JPG files communicated in interstate or world-wide commerce before indexed as soon as possible because this is already required by clear wording of U.S. law in 47 U.S.C. ?151*.

    The FCC has faced me now for over five years. Please get a clue folks.

  18. Thomas Wheeler plays the RCA Victor dog to Obama's Victrola:
    His master speaks, and he barks.

    1. I can easily visualize that.

      1. Or Holder in the same role. Or both of them competing for their master's attention. And dog treats.

  19. "Most transparent administration is history." Har har har!!

  20. FCC Chairman Denies Receiving "Secret Instructions from the White House" About Internet Rules-
    All depends on what "is" "secret".. and not! Also, lets get it out in the open, the FCC Chairman didn't write the new rules, Comcast wrote the new rules and Media wants that, kept a secret.

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