FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s announcement this week that he will depart the agency in January wasn’t exactly a surprise, but he did keep things interesting after the election by dodging questions about when or if he would step down.
Reactions continue to stream in including the following from Michael Powell, president/CEO of NCTA, which given the recent clashes between FCC policy and NCTA’s publicly stated stances seems perhaps understated: “We thank Chairman Wheeler for his service to the American people as leader of the Federal Communications Commission. 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.”
Wheeler, who of course once headed up NCTA himself, had many worried as he started his tenure at the Commission that his lobbyist background would mean he’d be a “lapdog” for the telecommunications industry. That concern did not prove out, to put it mildly, as anyone who has paid even passing attention to the industry in the last few years knows.
The American Cable Association also wished Wheeler well, but was a little more pointed in its statement regarding the chairman’s resignation.
“Although we did not see eye to eye on some very big issues, 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,” ACA President/CEO Matthew M. Polka says.
Polka particularly noted the FCC decision not to fully address the “broken retransmission consent regime was a disappointment. 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.”
Polka also praised the FCC’s response to ACA’s requests in the last few years that offered small cable, broadband, and phone providers with exemptions, waivers, and extended compliance deadlines, and granted other special considerations to ease regulatory burdens.
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance openly celebrated Wheeler’s announcement. “This move comes after numerous calls for his departure after Donald Trump’s victory in November, and uncertainty whether Wheeler would commit to leaving,” TPA says in a statement.
“Taxpayers and consumers can finally breathe a sigh of relief that Wheeler is stepping down,” TPA President David Williams says. “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.”
Williams also gave a shout-out to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, and says TPA would like to see him as the next chair of the Commission. You can read more about other names that have been floated in this Wireless Week article.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of Wheeler’s fellow Democrats who the Senate recently declined to re-confirm, also will leave the agency next month.
“Making change in Washington is not for the faint of heart, but the Federal Communications Commission accomplished much under Chairman Tom Wheeler’s watch. It’s been a privilege to work with the Chairman and I’d like to thank him for his service to the Commission and to the country,” Rosenworcel says in a statement. “He brought a long history of experience in the communications sector to the job and proved himself to be a serious advocate for his positions and for consumers. His tenure at the agency will not soon be forgotten and I wish him the best in the future.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Cables + cable management