President Obama Nominates Financier and Former Telecom Executive Tom Wheeler as FCC Chairman
On Wednesday, May 1, President Barack Obama announced that he has nominated Tom Wheeler to be the new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. If the Senate confirms the nomination, Wheeler will replace Julius Genachowski who announced his resignation from the FCC in March. Pending Wheeler’s confirmation, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn -- the agency’s soon-to-be senior Democrat -- will serve as the Commission’s acting chairman.
Wheeler, 67, has served as an informal adviser to Obama in recent years and has been a major fundraiser for his political campaigns. He has a background as a venture capitalist and as a lobbyist for the communications industry. He is the former President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA, now known as National Cable & Telecommunications Association) and former Chief Executive Officer of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA). Currently, he is a Managing Director at Core Capital Partners, a venture capital firm in Washington, DC.
Obama, who made the announcement from the State Dining Room in the White House, said that 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.”
As technology continues to shape the way that Americans do business and communicate, Obama said that Wheeler will help the FCC fulfill a very important mission: “[Wheeler will give] businesses and workers the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy, and making sure we’re staying at the cutting edge of an industry that again and again we’ve revolutionized here in America.”
Currently, Wheeler is Chairman of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council and Chairman of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy (ACICIP). Wheeler was a fundraiser for Obama during both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. In 2009, Wheeler led the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group that was responsible for the science, technology, space and arts agencies. Wheeler has served on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board since 2011.
Wheeler is the author of Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails, a book on Abraham Lincoln’s use of the telegraph. “Mr Wheeler has experienced the revolution in telecommunications as both a policy expert and advocate, as well as a businessman,” states the author page for Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails. “As an entrepreneur, he started or helped start multiple companies offering new cable, wireless and video communications services. As a policy expert he has been intimately engaged in the development of the government's telecommunications policy at both the legislative and regulatory level.”
Also in March, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell -- a Republican -- announced his resignation. There has been no announcement by the White House as to who will be nominated to replace McDowell, although it is not unusual for nominations to fill Republican and Democrat vacancies to be paired, smoothing their way through the confirmation process.