Wheeler Exit Reaction Continues to Flow In

Reaction continued to flood in over the electronic transom Thursday following Tom Wheeler's announcement he had tendered his resignation to the President and will exit Jan. 20.

The American Cable Association wished Wheeler well, but also wished he had done more to reform the retransmission consent regime.

"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," said ACA President Matt Polka.

Related: Analysis—Tom Wheeler's FCC Legacy

"The decision not to fully address the broken retransmission consent regime was a disappointment," he said. "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."

Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, pointed out that Wheeler would be making one of his final appearances at the 2017 CES show Jan. 5, and added his thanks to Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who will also be exiting, in her case in early January. 

Related: FCC Transition Team Meets With Wheeler

"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," he said. "As our world becomes more connected and devices become powerful hubs for our connected lives - from wearable technology to smart home devices to self-driving cars - we need additional licensed and unlicensed spectrum now more than ever. Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Rosenworcel have been key drivers of freeing up the spectrum we need, and consumers will benefit from their legacy."

“We thank Chairman Wheeler for his service and express our gratitude for his commitment to expanding next-generation broadband access to the American people," said USTelecom president Walter McCormick. "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. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.” 

“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 Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications 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."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, provided a cordial send-off, but mostly for leaving.

“I wish Chairman Wheeler well in his future endeavors,” said Thune. “No one who worked with him can doubt his tenacity and passion for telecommunications policy. 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,” added Wicker. “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.”

That last was a reference to Republican run-ins with the chairman over what they argued was his overreach on issues like network neutrality, set-top boxes, broadband subsidy reform, preemption of state laws limiting municipal broadband, and broadband privacy rules.

David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, was pleased at the announcement.

“Taxpayers and consumers can finally breathe a sigh of relief that Wheeler is stepping down," Williams said. "Wheeler took a benign federal agency and turned into one of the most intrusive and regulatory driven agencies in history. From promulgating nonsensical net neutrality regulations that would have stymied the growth of the internet or the ill-fated Set-Top Box plan to opposing free data for consumers, Wheeler was out of touch with consumers and reality.”

Common Sense Media was pleased for another reason.

"Chairman Wheeler has been an incredible champion for America's children over the past years," said Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer. "He's led the way on major progress for kids in the classroom and at home through his extraordinary leadership on E-Rate 2.0 and the Lifeline program.  He has also been a great advocate for all consumers and moderate and low income families. His legacy of work on behalf of kids stands for itself and it is critical for the next Administration to take a clear-eyed view at what chairman Wheeler accomplished for America's children and protect those important gains moving forward."

“I thank the Chairman for his service and dedication to competition in the mobile ecosystem,” said Competitive Carriers Association president Steven Berry, “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.  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.

"Tom Wheeler built a truly historic record of achievement as Chairman of the FCC," said Mike Copps, special advisor to Common Cause and himself a former Democratic FCC chair. "At the pinnacle of his achievement is net neutrality.  All those who understand the critical importance of this will best honor Tom now by joining together to preserve what his FCC did from the onslaughts of those who would reverse the rules, reverse the power of an open internet, and reverse history itself."

"Strong willed and strong armed, this Chairman did it his way, and while LPTV suffered greatly in the process," said Mike Gravino, director of the LPTV Rights Coalition. "[W]hat can you say about someone who has given these last few years to public service? 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."

"Chairman Wheeler connected thousands of anchor institutions, fought to close the digital divide, and ushered the FCC into a future-ready era," said John Windhausen, director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Coalition. "Most notably, he oversaw the modernization of the E-rate program that promoted greater fiber investment to serve schools and libraries. 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.

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.