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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Stepping Down

15 Dec, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Future of net neutrality and proposed set-top box regulation in limbo

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Dec. 15 announced he would resign his position on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017.

Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist who headed the FCC for three years, is best known for reversing his position on “Internet fast lane” rules and pushing through net neutrality guidelines and regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

In doing so, the FCC characterized the Internet as a public utility, mandating that no company or service could block, throttle or grant paid priority for data transfer over the Web.

More recently, Wheeler proposed pay-TV operators be required to transition to apps and away from more-expensive set-top boxes to deliver video content into consumer homes. That proposal was shelved after Wheeler realized he did not have the necessary votes for passage among the five-member FCC commission.

In a statement, Wheeler thanked President Obama and his FCC staff for their contributions to a “thriving” communications sector.

“Serving as FCC Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honor of my professional life. It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cyber security, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”

Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, now special advisor to Common Cause, a public advocacy group, said Wheeler built a “historic” record of achievement.

“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.”

Michael O’Rielly, a frequent Wheeler opponent on the FCC, lauded his colleague’s dedication to public service.

“While we may not have always agreed on the substance or procedures of Commission work, Tom is passionate about his views and committed to solving communications problems, including our work together on 'Rate of Return' reform,” O'Rielly said.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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