Wheeler Announces Plan to Leave FCC on January 20: Discusses His Tenure at the Commission

December 16, 2016–FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said today that he plans to leave the agency on Jan. 20, 2017, the day that the Trump administration takes over. “Serving as F.C.C. Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honor of my professional life,” Mr. Wheeler, who joined the FCC in November 2013, said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity. I am especially thankful to the talented Commission staff for their service and sacrifice during my tenure. Their achievements have contributed to a thriving communications sector, where robust investment and world-leading innovation continue to drive our economy and meaningful improvements in the lives of the American people. It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”

Mr. Wheeler’s refusal at times to confirm that he would step down after the election had angered some senators and created an obstacle to the confirmation of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a second term. The Senate completed its work last weekend until the 115th Congress opens next month without confirming Ms. Rosenworcel (TRDaily, Dec. 12).  As a result, Ms. Rosenworcel must leave her job when the current congress ends on Jan. 3.

Before the Senate left town, Mr. Wheeler had told Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) that he would step down immediately if it would help get Ms. Rosenworcel’s confirmed, an FCC official had said. FCC Chairmen generally leave the agency before a new administration of a different party takes over so today’s announcement is not a surprise. But there had been speculation in the media and among some FCC observers that Mr. Wheeler might remain at the agency as a Commissioner after the Trump administration came in.

If Mr. Wheeler had remained and Ms. Rosenworcel was confirmed, the Democrats would have had a 3-2 majority, even though a Republican would still presumably be chosen to lead the agency and could set the agenda. If Mr. Wheeler departed and Ms. Rosenworcel was confirmed, or Mr. Wheeler stayed and Ms. Rosenworcel was forced to leave, it would have led to a 2-2 deadlock among Republicans and Democrats. With Mr. Wheeler and Ms. Rosenworcel both leaving, Republicans will have a 2-1 majority.

One of the Republican Commissioners – Ajit Pai or Mike O’Rielly – would be expected to be named acting Chairman. By tradition, that choice typically goes to the senior Commissioner of the president’s party – who is Mr. Pai.

An FCC official said earlier this week that the Senate’s failure to vote on Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination to another term was not surprising, citing a statement by Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) that a 2-1 Republican majority at the Commission would allow the agency to “begin to roll back the burdensome regulations it recently issued. In particular, he looks forward to working with the Republicans at the FCC and his colleagues in the Senate to reverse President Obama’s harmful regulations on broadband service providers that treat the Internet as a public utility,” an aide to the senator said last week (TRDaily, Dec. 8). Mr. Wheeler mentioned Mr. Johnson’s comment when asked during a news conference after today’s meeting if he had failed to communicate that he would step down if Ms. Rosenworcel were confirmed. He said during the meeting that the resignation he submitted to President Obama today, effective Jan. 20, “is keeping with the commitments that I have repeatedly made since March that I would cooperate with the wishes of the new administration to assure a smooth transition, and that I would follow the precedent that when the White House changes parties, the Chairman resigns regardless of the amount of time left in the term.”

He also said that in a follow-up letter from Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.) after a September hearing, the senator included a question showing that he knew Mr. Wheeler planned to step down after the election. He said he told the senator in a private conversation that he would step down.

At a March hearing, Mr. Thune asked Mr. Wheeler if he planned to resign after the new president took office to give that person a chance to name his or her own Chairman, as the senator noted is custom (TRDaily, March 2). “It’s a ways off. I understand precedent. I understand expectations,” Mr. Wheeler replied. “It’s probably not the wisest thing in the world to do to make some kind of ironclad commitment, but I understand the point you’re making.”

Such statements did not seem specific enough for some senators. Mr. Thune told reporters after the hearing that while he supported Ms. Rosenworcel’s confirmation, Mr. Wheeler’s refusal to commit to stepping down after a new president was sworn in might be causing senators to maintain holds on her nomination. Mr. Wheeler noted today that when asked last week if he would step down immediately if Ms. Rosenworcel were confirmed, he said that he would.

Chairman “Wheeler had decided in March that he would follow Commission precedent and step down if the Republican nominee were elected,” an FCC official said today. “However, Wheeler assumed that Hillary Clinton would likely win, which meant he couldn’t give a departure date in case her team needed him to stay on as Chairman for an extra few months to help with the transition. After the election, Wheeler had conversations with Democratic leaders, who firmly told him not to announce he was stepping down because it would complicate efforts to confirm Rosenworcel. When Sen. Reid’s team reached out to say that there was a potential offer on the table if he agreed to step down immediately, Wheeler agreed.  If she gets confirmed before January 20, he will keep that promise.”

Mr. Wheeler also said he has enjoyed his time at the agency. “Sitting in this chair has been the greatest privilege of my professional career. I want to thank all of my colleagues. It’s been a team effort,” he said during the meeting. “You know when you put five Type-A personalities together, lots of interesting things happen, including you’re not always going to see eye to eye. The headlines got built around our differences, but the facts are that together, we accomplished a lot. Looking back on these three-plus years, I’m proud of what this Commission accomplished.”

Regarding the prospect that the next FCC might overturn or curtail one of the major achievements of his tenure—the adoption of open Internet rules that, based on the Title II authority established by the agency’s reclassification of broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service, passed muster with a federal appellate panel—Mr. Wheeler said that the Administrative Procedure Act requires that decisions be made on a record developed by the agency.

“There will be a burden to demonstrate [to the courts] what has changed so drastically” since the 2015 adoption of the open Internet order, he told reporters during a news conference after the meeting.  “It’s going to be necessary to identify [how] all of the sudden the facts have changed so dramatically,” he added.

In response to a separate question about whether he regretted not seeking a compromise on net neutrality that might have garnered bipartisan support, the Chairman said, “A majority is a majority.”  He added, “It’s hard to negotiate with people who say no at the outset.”

During the meeting, he thanked FCC staffers, including particular people who worked in his office, and said he disagreed with those who argue that the agency should roll back regulations, which is expected to occur under a Republican-led Commission. He said that the FCC’s role is crucial in the 21st century due to the importance of connectivity to Americans. “Those who chant that government is the problem are wrong and their chant is dangerous,” he argued. “Government isn’t some faceless them, it is us. It is ‘we the people’ who govern ourselves, and government is where we come together to collectivity address common challenges.”

Mr. Wheeler added, “If we don’t use government to argue these issues out, it doesn’t mean that decisions won’t be made, it just means that decisions will be made without the input of the people. The cry for a laissez-faire government that walks away from market oversight is also highly dangerous to both consumers and those who operate in the market, and this is especially true in our interconnected world. Because eliminating regulation does not mean that there will be no oversight, it only means that the regulation will be provided by other rule makers in other countries who might be incented to make rules that benefit their companies and their traditions.”

When asked about his legacy, he replied, “You know I hate this legacy question. Whatever the legacy, it’s been determined by what we did.” In addition to adopting the open Internet order, during his tenure, the FCC adopted broadband privacy rules, modernized the E-rate and Lifeline programs, moved forward on the technology transitions, preempted municipal broadband restrictions in Tennessee and North Carolina (a decision that was overturned by an appeals court), and continued reforming inmate calling rates (although those actions are also tied up in court).

However, his priorities of acting in the agency’s broadband data services and set-top box proceedings were not realized.

On the wireless front, the FCC launched the world’s first spectrum incentive auction, freed up spectrum for 5G services, completed its 3.5 gigahertz band rules, streamlined the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and adopted 911 indoor location accuracy rules.

The FCC also took a number of actions to help those with disabilities, including an item adopted today on the transition from TTY (text telephone) to real-time text (RTT) technology (see separate story).

On the merger front, deals approved during his tenure included those involving  Charter Communications, Inc., Time Warner Cable, Inc., and Bright House Networks; AT&T, Inc., and Directv; and Altice N.V. and Cablevision Systems Corp. Other deals did not get through or were not proposed due to opposition, including Comcast Corp./Time Warner and Sprint Corp./T-Mobile US, Inc.

Mr. Wheeler’s colleagues praised him today in written statements and in remarks at the meeting, even those who often disagreed with him on policy issues and FCC management. A number of outside stakeholders also weighed in, including members of Congress, public interest groups, industry.

Public interest advocates noted that Mr. Wheeler, whose mantra was “competition, competition, competition,” was viewed suspiciously by their community when he was nominated because he had led the main cable TV and wireless industry trade associations.

Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn said Mr. Wheeler “has made a bold impact on this agency and the ecosystem.” “The American consumer has benefited greatly in his quest for competition, competition, competition … and consumer protection,” she added. She highlighted FCC actions to adopt the net neutrality order and modernize the Lifeline program.

Ms. Rosenworcel thanked Mr. Wheeler for “what has undeniably been an activist agenda.”

“Like his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, Chairman Wheeler brought passion and tenacity to the playing field each and every day,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “Despite our differences in many areas of communications policy, I commend him for his years of public service. It has been a privilege to serve alongside him, and I wish him well in his future endeavors.”

“I truly thank Chairman Wheeler for his public service to our country,” Mr. O’Rielly said. “While we may not have always agreed on the substance or procedures of Commission work, Tom is passionate about his views and committed to solving communications problems, including our work together on Rate of Return reform.”

“Chairman Wheeler has served this country with distinction,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). “He has worked tirelessly to make our communications networks fair and open and to ensure that all Americans have access to the Internet.  He has worked to make our nation safer and our economy stronger. I thank him for his service.

“I urge President Obama to renominate FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel when the 115th Congress begins,” Mr. Reid added. “For far too long, Commissioner Rosenworcel’s nomination has been held hostage to partisan games. Chairman Wheeler has made clear to me that he will step down before January 20th if Commissioner Rosenworcel is confirmed. There is now no reasonable excuse for Republicans’ inaction. Senator [Mitch] McConnell [R., Ky.] and Senator Thune have personally committed to confirming Commissioner Rosenworcel, and they should honor that commitment as soon as possible next Congress.”

“Few leaders at the FCC have known how better to expand horizons by promoting competition in the telecommunications marketplace than Tom Wheeler,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D., Mass.). “From preparing students for the global economy through the modernized E-Rate program, to promoting net neutrality as the governing principle of the internet, to ensuring online privacy protections, Tom Wheeler has led the FCC and our nation through an important pro-consumer, pro-competition era. Tom Wheeler is a telecommunications titan, and I thank him for his tremendous service to the American people.”

“No one who worked with him can doubt his tenacity and passion for telecommunications policy,” Sen. Thune said. “His public departure announcement follows longstanding precedent and helps the incoming administration transition the FCC to reflect the outcome of the November election.”

“I commend Chairman Wheeler for his service and for following the tradition of stepping down in advance of a new administration,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), chairman of the communications, technology, innovation and the Internet subcommittee. “I look forward to working with President-elect Trump to appoint and confirm well-qualified nominees to the Commission who are committed to acting within the statutes and avoiding regulatory overreach.”

“During my tenure in Congress, I have had the privilege to work with seven Chairmen and two Acting Chairs of the FCC. Tom Wheeler’s leadership stands the tallest with an historic record of reshaping the telecommunications and technology landscape, making the U.S. a leader across all sectors,” said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D., Calif.), ranking member of the House communications and technology subcommittee. “He has strengthened the public safety network; he made networks open, fast and fair for all Americans; assured low income Americans that they, too, would share in our country’s technological age; and advanced spectrum to keep our economy growing for decades to come.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.), chairman of the House communications and technology subcommittee and the chairman-elect of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “Few FCC Chairs have served during a more dynamic and controversial time. While Tom and I have not agreed on every issue, we’ve shared a passion for expanding access to broadband communications to underserved areas of America. I wish him every success in the future.”

“Chairman Wheeler has done more to promote competition and consumer protection than any Chairman in recent memory,” said Gene Kimmelman, president and chief executive officer of Public Knowledge. “Consumers owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his steadfast commitment to making our digital future fair and accessible for all. Though Americans are losing a great consumer protection champion, we will all benefit from his legacy and the policies he’s leaving behind.”

Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, said, “When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler Chairman, many people voiced open suspicion of a man who had led two major industry trade associations. But rather than be the lapdog of industry some feared (or hoped for), Tom Wheeler proved himself to be the most ferocious watchdog for consumers and competition in nearly two decades. In the days ahead, the public must be prepared to fight vigorously to keep the consumer protections he created.”

In a news release, Public Knowledge highlighted a number of actions taken during Mr. Wheeler’s tenure, including pushing through the open Internet order, extending the Lifeline program to broadband service, thwarting the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger and imposing conditions on other deals, adopting broadband privacy rules, adopting rules for the incentive auction, bolstering enforcement activities, updating its inmate calling rules, and updating 911 rules.

Michael Calabrese, director of the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Project, said, “Tom Wheeler did more to promote a productive and competitive wireless future for America than any previous chairman. He insisted that network neutrality should apply equally to mobile networks, he rejected mergers that would have reduced mobile market competition, and he opened huge new sources of wireless spectrum by pioneering the sharing of grossly underutilized frequency bands.”

Sarah Morris, director-open Internet policy at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said, “Chairman Wheeler left an indelible mark on our country’s communications policy. Under his leadership, and with the support of Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel, the FCC worked tirelessly to protect consumer interests. The FCC enacted historic rules to preserve an open internet and protect consumer privacy, thwarted the harmful Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable, and reformed the Commission’s important E-rate and Lifeline programs—all within a framework grounded in improving competition and innovation and promoting a vision of the internet as an open platform for all voices.”

“Yet as we celebrate the many, many accomplishments of the FCC under Chairman Wheeler, we also recognize the uncertain future ahead. Protecting the legacy of these reforms will be a top priority for OTI as we move forward under new FCC leadership,” Ms. Morris added.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said, “When Tom Wheeler was named to head the FCC, we voiced serious reservations about how a former industry lobbyist could do the job. But he proved us wrong. We haven’t agreed with him on every decision, but time and again Wheeler showed a willingness to stand up to industry pressure, listen to voices outside the Beltway and — perhaps most importantly — to change his mind.

“His legacy will be as one of the most effective chairs ever to hold the post — judged rightfully not by the number of unanimous votes but by actual accomplishments,” Mr. Aaron added. “Wheeler didn’t come into this job as a Net Neutrality champion, but he will be remembered first and foremost for his leadership on that crucial issue and for the standing ovations he earned on the day of the FCC’s historic vote.”

Mr. Aaron continued, “He shares the credit with two colleagues, Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, for the Net Neutrality victory and for many of the FCC’s most important accomplishments in a generation, including reforming the Lifeline program, standing against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, and establishing broadband-privacy protections. Unfortunately, the next administration has promised to undermine and overturn the major accomplishments of the Wheeler FCC. Industry lobbyists are dusting off their worst proposals. And the team leading the agency’s transition has even called for abolishing the FCC. … We call on the next administration and the new Congress to build on Wheeler’s legacy by appointing future chairs and commissioners who are willing to put people first — instead of rubber-stamping industry demands.”

Jonathan Schwantes, senior telecom policy counsel for Consumers Union, praised Mr. Wheeler’s tenure, saying he “put consumers first in developing groundbreaking new policies and took the Commission’s mission of serving the public’s interest to heart. From ensuring an open internet for all, to giving consumers more control over how their broadband provider uses their personal information and spearheading the push to tackle robocalls, the FCC took significant actions to protect consumers under his direction. Chairman Wheeler’s leadership will be sorely missed but he leaves behind an impressive legacy that will continue to benefit consumers for years to come.”

“Chairman Wheeler connected thousands of anchor institutions, fought to close the digital divide, and ushered the FCC into a future-ready era. Most notably, he oversaw the modernization of the E-rate program that promoted greater fiber investment to serve schools and libraries,” said John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. “Because of Chairman Wheeler’s efforts, students can now take part in digital learning, library patrons can take online courses, and the unemployed can apply for jobs. Not only did Chairman Wheeler improve Internet access for schools and libraries, he also bolstered consumers’ privacy protections and made broadband affordable for low-income families. Chairman Wheeler’s actions have enabled millions to fully participate as citizens of the 21st century, strengthened democratic values, and paved the way for our country to thrive in the future.”

The Coalition for Local Internet Choice thanked Mr. Wheeler “for his unwavering support for local Internet choice and for his efforts to remove barriers that prevent rural, urban, and tribal communities from enabling new broadband deployment. As FCC Chairman, Mr. Wheeler gave voice and support to the principle that all communities deserve access to modern broadband infrastructure, which is essential for 21st Century economic competitiveness, educational opportunity, democratic discourse, and quality of life. Mr. Wheeler was a hero in the FCC’s effort to enable localities in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee to serve their rural neighbors with state-of-the-art fiber networks. We honor him for his years of leadership on behalf of the principle that America is built on great local communities and that local broadband initiatives have an essential role to play in removing our country’s urban-rural broadband divide.”

“Under Chairman Wheeler the FCC has done much to include the deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind communities in the technological advances of our nation,” said Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc., and Gallaudet University. “We appreciate the commitment of Chairman Wheeler, his fellow Commissioners, and the FCC as a whole to the cause of equal access to telecommunications and technology, and look forward to continuing work with the FCC to explore ways to improve the lives of all Americans.”

“We thank Chairman Wheeler for his service to the American people as leader of the Federal Communications Commission,” said NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell, a former FCC Chairman. “Chairman Wheeler has presided over the Commission during a period of significant change and exciting innovation in the communications marketplace. Chairman Wheeler’s mantra from the beginning of his tenure has been ‘competition, competition, competition’ and he should be proud that American consumers are enjoying the benefits of today’s vibrant and highly competitive video and broadband sectors.”

American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew Polka said, “Although we did not see eye to eye on some very big issues, ACA appreciates that Chairman Wheeler was an able steward of the nation’s communications laws and was someone who always gave independent cable the opportunity to be heard and receive full and fair consideration. The decision not to fully address the broken retransmission consent regime was a disappointment.

“But under Chairman Wheeler’s direction, the FCC did take some key steps  to curb TV stations’ abuse of their regulatory advantages over smaller multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), including, but not limited to, the FCC’s landmark decision in March, 2014 to ban retransmission consent collusion among non-commonly owned TV stations serving in the same local market. Moreover, in numerous Orders, in response to ACA’s requests, the FCC provided small cable, broadband and phone providers with exemptions, waivers, extended compliance deadlines and granted other special considerations to ease their regulatory burdens,” Mr. Polka said.

“Under his leadership, the FCC made historic reforms to Universal Service, focused on the importance of technology transitions, modernized the way the commission looks at the voice market by eliminating archaic regulations, and committed the agency to a public-private partnership approach to cybersecurity that will serve as a model for years to come,” said USTelecom President and CEO Walter McCormick Jr.

“His leadership in opening up additional spectrum for mobile broadband has positioned the United States as a global wireless leader,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA. “Despite our differences regarding broadband and Internet policies, Chairman Wheeler always approached our debates with a shared commitment to better serving consumers. We wish him well in all his future endeavors.”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, said, “We thank Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Rosenworcel for their service, particularly their leadership in implementing the world’s first TV broadcast spectrum voluntary incentive auction. … Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Rosenworcel have been key drivers of freeing up the spectrum we need, and consumers will benefit from their legacy.”

Craig Silliman, Verizon Communications, Inc.’s executive vice-president-public policy and general counsel, said, “During his chairmanship we did not always agree on all issues, but we found that his door was always open and he sought to balance the concerns brought forth from all sides. We’re also grateful for his leadership in helping unleash spectrum for 5G, a historic decision that will help preserve the U.S. global leadership position in wireless.”

Bob Quinn, AT&T, Inc.’s senior executive vice president-external and legislative affairs, said, “It would be disingenuous to suggest that we did not have significant differences with the direction the FCC took under Chairman Wheeler.  However, Chairman Wheeler has been a respected leader in the video and wireless industries for over 30 years with many accomplishments. Following that illustrious career, and when most people would have hung up their spikes, he chose to enter public service where he was a dedicated and tireless advocate.”

“While there are many facets to Chairman Wheeler’s legacy, I especially applaud his work to create a 600 MHz spectrum auction that facilitates competitive carriers’ access to spectrum,” Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steve Berry said. “Establishing a spectrum reserve and facilitating a timely, safe, and efficient post-auction repack – as well as advancing other competitive policies including small geographic license sizes that provide all carriers an opportunity to acquire critical spectrum resources, will undoubtedly benefit the industry and more importantly, consumers.  Under his leadership, competitive carriers received greater clarity on how to facilitate competitive roaming arrangements to better serve consumers.  Likewise, I thank the Chairman for his attention to adopting industry consensus proposals on nationwide non-geographic number portability, Hearing Aid Compatibility, the migration from TTY to RTT technology, and to Universal Service funding for wireless carriers, which I hope comes to fruition through bipartisan consensus in the days ahead.”

“Chairman Wheeler has been a tenacious fighter on telecommunications issues during a period of remarkable change in the media landscape. We wish him well in whatever the future may hold,” said Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.

“Strong willed and strong armed, this Chairman did it his way, and while LPTV suffered greatly in the process, what can you say about someone who has given these last few years to public service?” the LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition. “For our industry, it means maybe we’ll finally get to meet one-on-one with the new Chairman, as this Chairman never granted us an audience of our own to discuss our issues, concerns, and needs.”

Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, said, “From the outset of his time at the Commission, Chairman Wheeler has recognized the vital and expanding role mobile broadband networks play in the economic and social life of our communities and families. I am grateful for his hard work to ensure broadband innovators and consumers alike have access to the spectrum resources we need to help sustain our mobile future.”

Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, said, “Chairman Wheeler led the FCC during a time of important technological change within the wireless industry. He understood the vital need for increased wireless infrastructure. We thank him for his public service and his commitment to the issues our industry sees as key to the future of mobile communications. Under his leadership, the FCC successfully sped up processes to upgrade infrastructure to 4G and cleared the runway for 5G deployment. WIA is grateful to Chairman Wheeler and his staff for working with us on multiple fronts to streamline the regulatory environment and deliver mobile broadband to more citizens across the country.”

Chip Pickering, CEO of Incompas, said that Mr. Wheeler “always liked a good fight, especially when he had the American consumer in his corner. … All Americans, consumers and businesses, have benefited from the Commission’s work over the past three years on access to new technologies and services, and we thank all five Commissioners for their hard work. Great challenges remain. There is still too much concentration of market power in our nation’s broadband infrastructure, and rural America is at significant risk of being left behind. More competition is the answer, and we look forward to working with Commissioners Pai, O’Reilly and Clyburn to fight for a better future.”

“Tom Wheeler set an ambitious agenda at the FCC and proved to be a thoughtful Chairman,” said David Heard, interim CEO of the Telecommunications Industry Association. “Along with our member companies, TIA has appreciated his leadership on spectrum policy and his efforts to advance next-generation mobile networks.  His work on Spectrum Frontiers has been particularly important, and will provide a large amount of the critical, high band spectrum needed to deliver 5G networks and ensure America can continue to lead the world in innovation.”

Drew Petersen, vice president-external affairs and communications for TDS Telecommunications Corp., said that Mr. Wheeler “represented the interests of consumers and communities during his tenure on the commission. Chairman Wheeler recognized the importance of investing in broadband services in rural areas. He also understood the economic and civic benefits those investments have on our country. Wheeler was pragmatic in his approach and his support for lifting up rural America with improved broadband services. The proposed Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) for rural rate-of-return carriers is a great illustration of Wheeler’s leadership on matters of rural broadband expansion. This program, once approved, will result in hundreds of thousands of rural citizens receiving upgraded, broadband connections.”

“I don’t question Chairman Wheeler’s motives in taking the actions that he did, but I do question his judgment,” said Randolph May, president of the Free State Foundation. “At a time when rapid technological change is driving increasing competition and consumer choice, Wheeler almost always defaulted to the most pro-regulatory position rather than the less regulatory, market-oriented one. The default presumption should have been the other way around.”

“Tom Wheeler has been – by far – the best FCC Chairman in the 45 years I have practiced communications law,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation. “He has been willing to take risks and expend political capital to advance his agenda.  And, unlike some predecessors, he hasn’t been afraid to confront Congress and powerful business interests when they stood in the way. I look forward to working with him in the fight to preserve and expand upon his legacy.”

As to what issues an acting Chairman Pai or O’Rielly might address, David Oxenford, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, noted in a blog posting that they “have been vocal in their dissents on several big issues for broadcasters – including the repeal of the UHF discount … and on other issues dealing with the ownership of television stations – including the decision to not repeal the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, and the decision to reinstate the FCC’s ban on Joint Sales Agreements in TV unless they are done between stations that can be co-owned.”

Marci Ryvicker, an analyst for Wells Fargo Securities LLC, said in a research note that “we believe that a 2-1 Commission would allow for expedited deregulation – clearly a much better option than having to wait until mid-2017. We expect broadcast and cable stocks to be UP on today’s news as another potential overhang has been removed.” – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com and Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

 

Courtesy TRDaily