The FCC, which has been run by just three commissioners for several months, will soon be back up to full force. The Senate yesterday confirmed former telecom trade association and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler as the new FCC chairman, also confirming long-term Congressional staffer Michael O’Rielly as FCC commissioner.
In a statement, Wheeler noted that the telecom industry is in the middle of important changes. “What excites me about this new responsibility is how we are at a hinge moment of history; the Internet is the greatest communications revolution in the last 150 years,” he said. “We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users’ rights are respected.”
Wheeler is generally viewed favorably by telecom industry stakeholders, who perceive that he is already up to speed on key telecom industry issues. For example, he chaired the Technical Advisory Council that President Obama created in 2010.
O’Rielly comes to the FCC from his position as an adviser to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Republican minority whip. He also has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees telecom-related issues.
“Both nominees are highly qualified for their positions,” said Walter B. McCormick Jr., president and CEO of telecom trade group USTelecom in a statement, adding that “we look forward to working with them on the critical issues that face the nation’s communications industry and consumers.”
McCormick didn’t specify the “critical issues,” but I think most telecom industry stakeholders would agree that they include such thorny items as the TDM-to-IP transition, Universal Service reform, retransmission rights, spectrum policy, and more.
While at venture firm Core Capital Partners, Wheeler regularly wrote blog posts that offer some hints about how he might view some of these issues.
He has noted, for example, that “the PSTN is a casualty of the digital world” and that “the rules for 21st century spectrum allocation need to evolve from the avoidance of interference to interference tolerance.”