With Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski departing this month, President Obama has nominated Tom Wheeler as his successor. Wheeler is no stranger to the telecom business, having led the National Cable Television Association in the 1980s and served as CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association for 12 years. He thus brings experience in both cable television and the wireless industry to the table.
Wheeler is well respected in the industry thanks to his past ties. However, some consumer advocate groups have expressed concern that Wheeler has been deeply involved with lobbying efforts for the very industries he is expected to regulate as chairman of the FCC. They worry that his time as an industry lobbyist may influence him in corporations’ favor rather than in the public interest.
Before anything happens, Wheeler must be confirmed by the Senate. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will serve as acting chair in the meantime. If appointed, Wheeler faces a number of big issues including freeing up government spectrum along with the upcoming spectrum auction designed to transfer unused spectrum to wireless providers who will put it to work. Wheeler will also oversee a continuing trend of consolidation in the wireless industry, involving such companies as Sprint and SoftBank, as well as possibly Verizon and Vodafone.