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Wheeler: Competition Is Basic Value, But Sometimes Insufficient

FCC nominee Tom Wheeler says that his business experience will make him a better chairman, that that experience has taught him that competition is a basic value that must be encouraged and that competition is not always sufficient to protect other basic values, like universal service and the use of technology to enhance public safety and services.

That is according to his prepared testimony for his nomination hearing Tuesday (June 18) in the Senate Commerce Committee.

But his policy background will also come in handy. "I have seen the important role that policy can play - as either a boon to growth or a brake on innovation," he says, according to a copy of that testimony

"Universal service is a key tenet of the Telecommunications Act. We did this for electricity and basic telephone service; we can do it for broadband," he says.

As an example of the consumer-friendliness of competition, Wheeler points to DBS spurring cable into delivering digital services; competitive carriers and cable providing Internet access; and the introduction of PBS licensees that spurred digital cell service.

In his testimony, Wheeler talks about fighting against rules that limited cable's ability to compete while he was atop the National Cable & Telecommunications Association while also "helping lead the industry" to support the 1984 Cable Act.

Look for Wheeler to be asked about his lobbying background and how that will affect his decision-making. He is the former head of the NCTA and CTIA: The Wireless Association, as well as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), has expressed concern about that lobbying background. He also was a vocal supporter of his former top telecom aide -- FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel -- for the FCC chair Wheeler was nominated to.