Nominee is a former lobbyist, faces Senate confirmation.
President Obama will appoint former cable and mobile carrier industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission, according to multiple press reports. The news comes as no surprise -- Wheeler was considered the leading candidate for the post by telecom policy observers, even before the current occupant of the post, Julius Genachowski, announced his resignation.
Wheeler, former head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the mobile group CTIA, was an early backer of the presidential aspirations of then-Sen. Obama. During the transition, Wheeler led the administration's transition efforts to staff the technology, science, space and arts agencies. He currently advises the administration on policy as part of the Intelligence Advisory Board. Wheeler is a managing director with the venture capital group Core Capital partners.
A White House official told The Hill, "Tom Wheeler is an experienced leader in the communications technology field who shares the President's commitment to protecting consumers, promoting innovation, enhancing competition and encouraging investment."
As a former trade association head, Wheeler faces critics in the advocacy community. "The Federal Communications Commission needs a strong leader — someone who will use this powerful position to stand up to industry giants and protect the public interest. On paper, Tom Wheeler does not appear to be that person, having headed not one but two major trade associations. But he now has the opportunity to prove his critics wrong, clean up the mess left by his predecessor, and be the public servant we so badly need at the FCC," Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement.
Wheeler could also face a testy Senate confirmation. Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and 36 other Senate Democrats sent a letter to Obama in March urging the elevation of FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – a former committee counsel -- to the chairmanship.
Note: Wheeler also co-founded and is currently chairman of the news service SmartBrief, where FCW staff writer Adam Mazmanian previously worked as an editor.
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