From the New York Times, MAY 1, 2013
Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman
By EDWARD WYATT
WASHINGTON — Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.
In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”
Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.
Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”
“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”
Mr. Obama announced the nomination Wednesday in the State Dining Room at the White House. Mr. Wheeler would replace Julius Genachowski, who resigned in March after four years as chairman.
Mr. Obama also appointed Mignon Clyburn, a member of the commission, interim chairwoman, to oversee the agency until Mr. Wheeler is confirmed by the Senate, as is expected, and sworn in.
Several media groups had expressed hopes that the president would name a woman to the top post full time, something that has never happened in the commission’s 80 years.
Once he takes office, Mr. Wheeler, 67, will be under pressure not only to demonstrate that he understands rapidly changing technologies, but also to make clear that his previous work as a top lobbyist for the cellphone and cable television industries will not prejudice his F.C.C. decision-making.
Mr. Wheeler will have to confront several issues almost immediately upon Senate confirmation and being sworn in. The commission is preparing for a complicated auction next year of bands of spectrum — the electromagnetic airwaves over which television, radio and cellphone signals travel.
The auction depends on the F.C.C. convincing television broadcasters to either sell their licenses to use spectrum in exchange for some of the auction proceeds or to willingly move to another spot on the dial, so that the F.C.C. can package and sell contiguous bands of airwaves.
Mr. Wheeler and the commission will also have to decide the extent to which various companies will be eligible to bid for the bands of spectrum. Some consumer advocates say they believe that AT&T and Verizon already control too much of the wireless phone market — roughly 70 percent — and should not be allowed to lock up more spectrum.
The companies, some members of Congress and others, however, want the F.C.C. to maximize revenue from the spectrum auction — which would mean allowing AT&T and Verizon to buy as much as they want.
In 2011, Mr. Wheeler wrote admiringly on his personal blog, Mobile Musings, about the lobbying agility of the National Association of Broadcasters, which had worked to scuttle what looked like a sure-to-pass auction plan then before Congress.
“Suddenly, when a spectrum sale seemed a fait accompli as a payment on the debt, it vanished,” Mr. Wheeler wrote. “No one is talking about it, but these things don’t happen by accident.”
Mr. Wheeler served from 1992 to 2004 as the chief executive of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, the cellphone industry trade group, and from 1979 to 1984 was chief executive of the National Cable Television Association. That has led some telecommunications watchdog groups to worry that he might favor those businesses over consumers.
But Mr. Wheeler at times has voiced proregulatory sentiments. In another 2011 column, he said that the government could have used the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile to assert more regulatory influence over the wireless industry.
Instead, he wrote, “the regulatory oversight of wireless carriers will continue to atrophy as the digital nature of the wireless business separates it from the legal nexus with traditional analog telecom regulation.”
The commission also is awaiting the outcome of a case before a federal appeals court that could decide whether the F.C.C. has the authority to make sure companies that offer broadband Internet access treat all users equally, rather than favoring some content over others.
That concept, known as open Internet or net neutrality, is a central pillar of Mr. Obama’s technology policy. When the F.C.C. approved its open Internet guidelines in 2011, Verizon sued to overturn them, almost before the ink was dry on the documents.
On Wednesday, Verizon congratulated Mr. Wheeler on his nomination and said it “looks forward to working with him and the commission to shape proconsumer and proinnovation policies in the communications marketplace.”
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