The Wall Street Journal is reporting that President Obama will nominate Tom Wheeler as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a choice that has been anticipated for weeks. Wheeler was the top choice to replace Julius Ganachowski, who said he would step down in late March.
Wheeler’s history as a former cable and wireless lobbyist (he was the president of the National Cable Television Association and as well as the former CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association) might give some pause, although other chairpersons have had close industry ties, including Genachowski, who was an entrepreneur but also a former executive for media company head Barry Diller — an area regulated by the FCC. Wheeler is currently a managing director at D.C.-based firm Core Capital Partners.
So, rather than presend the revolving door between politics and industry doesn’t exist, we’ll point out that Wheeler has the backing of some influential people in the telecommunications regulatory environment from both sides of the aisle. From a letter to President Obama endorsing Wheeler signed by 11 former regulators and industry veterans:
Tom has had an impressive career in the telecommunications and high-tech field that makeshim eminently qualified for this position. He has consistently fought on the side of increasingcompetition, including representing the cable television and wireless industries in their early years whenthey were the insurgents challenging the established players. He has started or helped to start multiplenew, high-tech companies that created quality American jobs while pushing the frontiers of technological innovation. He understands the importance of reclaiming the pro-competition, pro-innovation, pro-growth regulatory ideal.
From our perspective at GigaOM, what’s most important here is what Wheeler will have to face in his upcoming session, should he get approved by Congress. He’ll be dealing with a controversial spectrum auction that seeks to get broadcast TV owners to give up their spectrum for mobile data use, as well the transition from a copper-based wireline network to an all IP-based network. He has written a blog (the last post was in December), so go check it out for perhaps deeper insights on how he may regulate the internet going forward.