FCC chairman Tom Wheeler caught the members of the US House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology off guard Tuesday when he told them that one of their favorite campaign tools is against the law to use.
Speaking alongside FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, Wheeler testified before the Congressional subcommittee on issues ranging from net neutrality rules and interactions with the FTC to the handling of spectrum space and the upcoming auctions.
When it came time for congressman Greg Walden to grill Wheeler and Pai, the Oregon Republican brought up the subject of what qualifies as an auto-dialer under the FCC's formal definitions.
Walden first asked Wheeler if his iPhone was considered an auto-dialer (it wasn't, Wheeler confirmed). He then went on to ask about the dialing tools his office uses to reach out to a database of voters.
The answer, much to Walden's surprise, was yes.
"If I have a Tele-Town Hall in my office, which I do, and there is some company that calls all those thousands of people in my district, are they now prohibited from doing this?" Walden asked.
"Unless the consumer has asked to get this. The statute on this is very clear," Wheeler responded.
"So Tele-Town Halls used now by members of Congress, and most members do this, are prohibited and your contention is they always have been," said Walden.
At that point, a bit taken aback, Walden could muster little more than a "wow, that's interesting." The moment is happens is at the 2hr, 32min mark in the aforementioned C-SPAN video link.
The FCC has for years issued advisories to political groups on the rules surrounding automated calls. With the 2016 presidential elections looming, some political groups have expressed concern that the laws could hamper their ability to run campaigns. ®