At our deadline yesterday, it still wasn’t completely official, but CTDaily now can report that Tom Wheeler will be facing a Senate vetting panel soon, and most industry reaction has been favorable. According to President Obama, who nominated him to be the next chairman of the FCC late yesterday afternoon, Wheeler “has been 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. He’s in charge of the group that advises the FCC on the latest technology issues. He’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products." Here are more one-liners:
- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski: “At this exciting time in this important sector, I can attest to Tom’s commitment to harness the power of communications technology to improve people’s lives, to drive our global competitiveness, and to advance the public interest.”
- Craig Silliman, senior vice president/Public Policy at Verizon: “(Wheeler’s) experience and leadership will serve the commission well as it addresses policies involving the rapidly changing broadband and wireless industries. Verizon looks forward to working with him and the commission toshape pro-consumer and pro-innovation policies in the communications marketplace.
- CTIA President/CEO Steve Largent: “Tom has a deep understanding of communications issues, a passion for hard work and creative thinking, a diverse background that spans the realm of the Internet world and a keen understanding of how mobile wireless broadband can drive our economy and innovation.”
- NCTA President/CEO Michael Powell: “With his significant experience in both the private and public sector, Tom is an exceptional choice to lead the commission during a time when the telecommunications marketplace is experiencing significant innovation and incredible change.”
- American Cable Association President/CEO Matthew M. Polka: "The ACA is heartened that the President has nominated someone as competent as Tom Wheeler…He has spent his career in the communications industry – running a company that invests in new entrants in the high-tech field, representing vital industry sectors and serving on government panels.”
- Comcast Chairman/CEO Brian L. Roberts: “(Wheeler’s) vast knowledge of the communications industry as well as his proven leadership will be invaluable as the commission sets its course for our nation’s digital future.”
- Gary Shapiro, president/CEO at the Consumer Electronics Association: “As the former president of the National Cable Television Association and the former CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association, he understands the impact of government actions on innovation and competitiveness…Wheeler is experienced, qualified and certain to make a difference as FCC chairman.”
- Broadband for America Co-Chairs Harold Ford Jr. and John Sununu: “Mr. Wheeler’s experience makes him uniquely qualified to help modernize FCC policies so they encourage the massive investments in broadband infrastructure our economy needs, and on which the American people depend…Pending his confirmation, we look forward to working with Mr. Wheeler to ensure that the FCC’s policies continue to encourage the type of private investment and innovation that has made this Internet revolution possible.”
If You Think You Know Wheeler, Think Again
Wheeler’s nomination could be a communications-regulation game changer, but industry players shouldn’t predict the future by looking at the past. Comments Jeffrey S. Silva, senior policy director/Telecommunications, Media and Technology at Medley Global Advisors LLC, who has known Wheeler for decades, “Our sense is Wheeler’s agenda will be mission-driven in terms of reconciling federal regulations with fast-moving telecom, media and technology sectors and seeking complementary legislative fixes where needed, all within the context of a still-evolving IP-based, multiplatform broadband universe that the Administration would like to expand and leverage in furtherance of economic growth and job creation.”
For those in the broadband industry who think they know Wheeler by reputation, Silva has some advice: “If telecom, media and tech firms believe they have a reliable handle on how they might fare under a Wheeler FCC based on his resume, they likely will be forced to reconsider in time…Wheeler will make the trains run on time, and he will strive to keep regulatory uncertainty at a minimum. He is decisive, does not shy from controversy and is not averse to correcting mistakes in short order.”
However, the analyst notes that, while Wheeler has held high cable and wireless office in the past, being a government official is virgin territory, and he probably will tread lightly at first. The role as chairman “will test all his experience, technology expertise, policy smarts and political savvy,” Silva concludes.