FCC Appointing Tom Wheeler as New Chairman (Report)


Tom Wheeler, a longtime telecom entrepreneur and lobbyist, will be nominated as the new chairman of the FCC, reports The Wall Street Journal. The announcement is expected to come from President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

Wheeler would replace Julius Genachowski, who has served since June 2009 and announced earlier this month that he would be departing the agency that exerts power over media, communications and technology companies in the United States.

Wheeler, who is a managing director at D.C.-based venture capitalist firm Core Capital Partners, served from 1979 to 1984 as a president of the National Cable Television Association. Later, his lobbying activity brought him to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. His wife, Carol Wheeler, has worked in the government affairs office of the National Association of Broadcasters.

He's not always been kind, though, to broadcasters.

For example, in 2009, he asked in a column, "What is the purpose of continuing the local TV broadcasting model when between 85 and 90 percent of American homes are connected to cable or satellite services?"

Two years later, he blasted broadcasters for interfering with more uses of wireless spectrum.

"Without a doubt, broadcasting is the most efficient means of delivering common content to a large audience," he wrote. "Yet television broadcasters are not stepping up to take advantage of their spectrum to provide mobile services... I’ve been mystified why broadcasters have declared jihad against the voluntary spectrum auction."

Wheeler is a fervent advocate of advancing technology. Among the books he has authored is Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.

On the other hand, he has expressed privacy concerns relating to Google and Apple, saying in one column that "the Silicon Valley mafia hijacked" user location information.

The WSJ also notes that he has written that regulators should have imposed more conditions in exchange for the agreement for AT&T to acquire T-Mobile USA.

When the Justice Department sued to block the merger, he said that authorities had missed an opportunity, writing, "The long-term impact of the Justice Department's decision would appear to be the growing irrelevance of traditional telecommunications regulatory concepts on mobile broadband providers."

At the FCC, Wheeler would be overseeing some big regulatory changes in broadcasting. For example, the agency is now seeking comments on whether it should maintain current protocol or change its policies on isolated expletives on TV and fleeting instances of non-sexual nudity.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner

comments powered by Disqus