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Regulation

Wheeler Takes FCC Reins

Seven months after former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his exit from the Commission, Tom Wheeler is finally preparing to take the regulatory reins. (See FCC Chair Genachowski Sets His Exit.)

The US Senate confirmed Democrat Wheeler as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair late Tuesday after Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas republican, lifted its hold blocking a vote. The Senate also confirmed Republican Michael P. O'Rielly, who will join the FCC as its fifth commissioner.

Wheeler, a former cable and wireless trade association chief and lobbyist, replaces Mignon Clyburn, who has served as interim FCC chairwoman since Genachowski's departure. Clyburn will remain with the agency as a commissioner.

Spectrum allocation and media ownership rules are among the immediate issues likely to face Wheeler as FCC chair. In addition, network neutrality threatens to rear its head once again. Plus, the FCC has put an emphasis on addressing the digital divide and getting more Americans connected to the Internet and broadband.

Numerous industry organizations have released statements welcoming Wheeler to the Commission, including both the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the American Cable Association (ACA) .

Wheeler himself said in a statement: "What excites me about this new responsibility is how we are at a hinge moment of history; the Internet is the greatest communications revolution in the last 150 years. We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users' rights are respected."

Prior to joining the FCC, Wheeler was most recently a managing director at venture capital firm Core Capital Partners . He led the NCTA from 1979 to 1984 and the CTIA from 1992 to 2004.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

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albreznick 10/31/2013 | 8:39:50 PM
Re: Making my sarcastic face I really can't argue with that. Mostly just playing devil's advocate here. So who would you pick as FCC chair if you were Obama? Unforttunately, there just aren't that many Elizabeth Warrens hanging around DC these days. 
[email protected] 10/31/2013 | 2:14:56 PM
He will 'know' too many people The fact this guy has been a lobyist means he will have historical relationships with commpanies and individuals and that is going to come into play, even if it just means that some in the industry have his cell number or are more likely to get some face time.

This doesn't seem to be a proper and fair appointment.
sam masud 10/31/2013 | 2:06:34 PM
Chicken coop I am intellectually and morally opposed to industry lobbiests serving as heads of the very agencies that have oversight over their industries--which is kinda like putting the foxes in charge of the hens.
KBode 10/31/2013 | 9:25:24 AM
Re: Wheeler is Okay by me "Maybe Wheeler's lobbied for so many parts of the telecom and cable industries by now that he's effectively neutral."

I'm not sure it will work that way.

The industry loves him, which generally tells me all I need to know in terms of how aggressive he'll be on consumer issues. However, Public Knowledge likes him as well (Free Press isn't as enthusiastic). I'm trying my damndest to reserve judgement, but I find it hard to believe that someone who has lobbied from the perspective of industry for thirty-some years is going to take up this post and then rather magically develop a driving interest in the real consumer issues pressing the FCC right now (lack of real competition, predatory below the line billing, usage caps and meters that aren't accurate, the hanging up on tens of millions of DSL users nobody wants to upgrade). 

I think you're right that with industry working so hard to gut FCC authority there's only so much he's going to be able to do. I'll have a pretty good idea just what kind of fellow he is if a month or two in he begins precisely parroting AT&T's rhetoric on the PSTN migration instead of addressing the more serious issues at play (like the fact that AT&T and Verizon backing away from tens of millions of DSL users creates a stronger cable monopoly).
DOShea 10/30/2013 | 8:58:21 PM
Re: Making my sarcastic face True, it is not all up to him, but he is in a position of power and influence, and on the face of it, someone who we all readily describe as a lobbyist shouldn't even be considered for an appointment like this.
msilbey 10/30/2013 | 3:52:25 PM
Re: Wheeler is Okay by me I'm waiting for Karl Bode to weigh in on this one...
DanJones 10/30/2013 | 2:54:16 PM
Re: Making my sarcastic face Ha!!!

Not that the current set-up is exactly cooking with gas.

A year after Sandy? Their reccomendation is that the number of cell sites that fail after a storm be made open to the public by mobile carriers.

Five nines? Yeah, we heard of it...
albreznick 10/30/2013 | 2:44:56 PM
Re: Making my sarcastic face So do you think it's down the tubes for consumers now? Even the FCC chair has pretty strict limits on what he can and can't do.  
albreznick 10/30/2013 | 2:43:17 PM
Re: Wheeler is Okay by me Ya think, Dan? Well, maybe Wheeler's lobbied for so many parts of the telecom and cable industries by now that he's effectively neutral. Will be interesting to see who and what he favors now that he has some regulatory and policy power. 
RitchBlasi 10/30/2013 | 2:38:34 PM
Wheeler That could be, but he is savvy enough to know how to play the game to best meet the needs of everyone from customers to mobile companies.   
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