Wheeler Outlines Priorities

FCC nominee Tom Wheeler says that the top three challenges the FCC will be facing under his leadership are 1) implementing the spectrum auctions and creating a public safety network; 2) the IP transition--overseeing the transition from analog switched-circuit networks to Internet Protocol (IP) delivery (Wheeler has been chairman of the FCC's Technological Advisory Council, which has been wrestling with that IP transition); and 3) advancing civil society through communications, including the broadband buildout and promoting diversity.

That is according to the Republican staff memo for Wheeler's nomination hearing June 18 in the Senate Commerce Committee, citing Wheeler responses to questions from the committee.

The memo points out that Wheeler has said in the past that the FCC has the authority to impose merger conditions or spectrum auction rules "that might seem to be regulation in another guise." Republicans are concerned that the FCC will limit participation by the two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon, in the upcoming incentive auctions.

The Republican staffers point out that both House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) have raised red flags about that view in regards to Wheeler's nomination.

They also point out that the New York Times editorial board has labeled Wheeler "an industry man for the FCC." Wheeler is former head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and CTIA: The Wireless Association, as well as a venture capitalist and merger advisor. But Wheeler has pointed out to the committee that he was a consultant, not lobbyist, to Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless in 2005, and that he has not been a registered lobbyist for a decade.

Wheeler also was a campaigner and fund-raiser for the Obama Administration, so look for questions at the hearing about how much money he raised from telecommunications executives and how he would prevent that from  influencing his decisions.

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.