D.C. Reacts to Wheeler Exit From FCC

Reaction was swift in Washington at the news that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will be exiting Jan. 20, when the Donald Trump Administration officially takes over.

"Chairman Wheeler advanced key policies, like Net Neutrality, strengthening the Federal Communications Commission’s role as a watchdog for consumers and content creators, and ensuring that Latinos and other people of color have equal opportunity to be heard on the internet," said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

Wheeler has pushed for making the internet a more competitive alternative to traditional video, including via his effort to “unlock” set-top boxes.

"Chairman Wheeler’s tenure has given us much to build upon and we must preserve an internet that is affordable and open to all, create policies that allow culturally relevant programming to thrive and continue to open doors for more Americans with affordable and reliable phone and internet service,” said Nogales.

"Chairman Wheeler has upheld the public interest, recognized the power of communications to strengthen communities, and acted to modernize and reform programs that bring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband to all Americans," said Adrianne Furniss, executive director of the Benton Foundation. "His legacy is the opportunities for all Americans to connect to jobs, education, healthcare, and family. As we enter this holiday season, I am thankful for Chairman Tom Wheeler’s gifts to the American people."

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

“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."

Michael Powell, president of NCTA: The Internet & Television Association, knows a little something about the job having himself been chairman of the FCC. He suggested that the competition Wheeler has championed is in full bloom.

“We thank Chairman Wheeler for his service to the American people as leader of the Federal Communications Commission," said Powell. "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.”

“It would be disingenuous to suggest that we did not have significant differences with the direction the FCC took under Chairman Wheeler," said Bob Quinn, AT&T executive SVP of external and legislative affairs. "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. We wish him and Carol happiness and health in the future.”

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

“Few leaders at the FCC have known how better to expand horizons by promoting competition in the telecommunications marketplace than Tom Wheeler," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who pushed for set-top box reform, strong broadband privacy rules, and Title II reclassficiation, all of which Wheeler also supported. "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.”

“Few FCC Chairs have served during a more dynamic and controversial time," said incoming House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Grege Walden (R-Ore.). 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 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," said Sarah Morris, director of Open Internet Policy for New America’s Open Technology Institute. "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. We applaud Chairman Wheeler for these and numerous other accomplishments, and we are grateful for the thoughtfulness with which he approached his policymaking."

“Verizon thanks Chairman Wheeler for his dedication and hard work at the FCC. 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," said Verizon EVP Craig Silliman. "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. We wish Mr. Wheeler well as he moves onto new endeavors.”

“We thank Chairman Tom Wheeler for his service and dedication to the American people," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. "A fierce competitor, Wheeler always liked a good fight, especially when he had the American consumer in his corner.

“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," said Mobile Future chairman Jonathan Spalter. "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. Chairman Wheeler has our thanks for his service to our country, and I wish him all the very best as he begins his next chapter.”

“Tom Wheeler set an ambitious agenda at the FCC and proved to be a thoughtful Chairman," said Telecommunications Industry Association interim CEO David Heard. "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. As he takes the next step in a truly distinguished career, we thank him for his dedicated service to the country.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.