Obama pegs campaign backer, telecom insider to chair the FCC

Tom Wheeler
Awaiting approval to take over FCC

As Federal Communications Chairman Julian Genachowski prepares to vacate his seat in mid-May, President Obama has put his hat in the ring for Tom Wheeler, a former top telecom industry lobbyist, to replace him.

Reports surfaced yesterday that Obama would nominate Wheeler for the job, and today those reports have come to fruition.

In a statement on the nomination, Genachowski called Obama's selection of Wheeler and appointment of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn as Acting Chairwoman "excellent selections."

"At this exciting time in this important sector, I can attest to Tom's committment to harness the power of communications technology to improve people's lives, to drive our global competitiveness and to advance the public interest," Genachowski wrote of the capitalist whom he appointed chairman of the FCC's Technological Advisory Council in 2010.

Work to do

Wheeler still faces Senate approval, but as Deadline reports Obama expects "a speedy confirmation process," though as with anything in Washington, speedy can quickly hit road bumps.

The new nominee contributed more than $245,000 to Obama's reelection campaign, according to Yahoo News. He was also reportedly active during the 2008 campaign and served on the president's transition team after he was elected.

Wheeler, if selected, would come into an agency that's evolved alongside a changing industry, though the FCC still has much work to do.

One of Genachowski's unfinished projects is the freeing up of TV airwaves for wireless internet access. During a summit talk yesterday, Genachowski, as reported by The Hill, said auctioning off airwaves will boost competition among cellphone carriers.

Allowing AT&T and Verizon to dominate the market would be a "very bad thing for our innovation economy," he noted, while singling out Sprint and T-Mobile's growth. It was thanks to the FCC's efforts the No. 3 and No. 4 carriers have moved up in a healthy competitive market, he said.

The next FCC chairman, whether or not it's Wheeler, will inherit an industry and agency in an important period of transition and growth. Hopefully, whomever it is will be up to the task.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.