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Change We Can Believe In? Cable/Wireless Industry Lobbyist Will Now Head FCC

Phillip Dampier April 30, 2013 Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband 5 Comments


President Barack Obama will shortly nominate a former top cable and wireless industry lobbyist as his choice to represent the interests of the American people at the Federal Communications Commission.

Thomas Wheeler, who has been a telecom industry insider for at least 30 years and today serves as a venture capitalist, will have enormous influence over how the FCC manages the public airwaves, broadband, and wireless spectrum.

The Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon that President Obama may make a formal announcement as early as this Wednesday, with current FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn serving as interim chair until Wheeler is seated.

Wheeler is expected to take a more industry-friendly attitude at the FCC. As Stop the Cap! noted after reviewing several years of Wheeler’s personal blog, the future FCC chairman would have approved the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, considers Google, Apple and other technology companies challenging telecom public policy part of a “Silicon Valley mafia,” and praised AT&T’s chief lobbyist as a visionary that could define the wireless industry’s future.

Wheeler’s regulatory philosophy offers that mergers and acquisitions present an opportunity for regulators to impose certain temporary conditions on deals, offering the best opportunity to influence a short-term regulatory outcome. But such preconditions are often mild, quickly expire, and are predictable for the companies involved. When Comcast sought merger approval for its deal with NBCUniversal, one concession was to sell discounted Internet access for poor families — a service Comcast had earlier plans to offer but withheld as a bargaining chip during merger approval talks.

Currently there are 5 comments on this Article:

  1. elfonblog says:

    NO, I do not believe we can trust this man to represent the best interests of the customers.

    This is literally the fox in the henhouse.

    Barack Obama, you should be hopelessly ashamed of yourself.

    What’s next? Will Susan Crawford take a job as a telcom lobbyist?

    • What I can’t understand is why Susan Crawford is supporting Wheeler. Either he has pulled off the best Secret Agent Man routine for consumers ever as an industry insider, or she is being hopelessly optimistic.

      Having reported on the telecom industry since the late 1980s, I have seen where this goes too many times. Personal connections, industry groupthink, and disconnection from consumer/constituent interests always adds up the same way: regulatory agencies that cater to provider interests, not our interests.

      • elfonblog says:

        I doubt she’s enthusiastic about Wheeler. But imagine what would happen if she openly opposed him… she’d be instantly muckraked and discredited. Strings would be pulled and we’d never hear her name in public again. She needs to wait for him to make his inevitable blunders so she can expose him in a professional manner. She may not be -planning- to be our future FCC Commissioner, but she knows she’s qualified, and quite able to demonstrate that.

        • txpatriot says:

          Susan Crawford never stood a chance to be Chairman; a Commissioner maybe, but never chairman.

          By supporting him, she remains in his good graces. She’s as political an animal as anyone else and she knows what needs to be done to continue to move in such circles. Being a hardline doctrinaire is not the way to get things done in DC.

          As for Wheeler, I don’t think he’ll be in the hip-pocket of Industry as much as you guys think. Yes he has an industry background, but I’d prefer to have a Chairman who knows something about the industry than someone who doesn’t. And stepping into public service means he has to see things from a much broader perspective (the “public interest”) than just the short-term interest of shareholders and company management. Give him a chance.

          I wonder who Obama will nominate to fill the Republican seat?

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