Six Revealing Quotes From Obama's New FCC Nominee, Tom Wheeler

The potential chairman wrote prolifically about tech on his blog.

President Obama is said to be preparing to nominate Tom Wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission. According to The Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron, the nod could come by as early as tomorrow afternoon. Wheeler's a noted venture capitalist and a top former lobbyist for both the wireless industry and the cable companies, making him a very well-connected pick. Incidentally, Wheeler was also an Obama bundler, contributing over $245,000 to the president's reelection campaign.

Wheeler now faces confirmation by the Senate, but that's perhaps the last place to turn for insight into what the candidate really thinks on tech policy. A far more interesting set of opinions can be found on Wheeler's blog, which he's kept since May 2007. I've pulled together some of the best clips below:

On net neutrality, Wheeler tried to convince network operators to back the FCC's policy:

Rules that recognize the unique characteristics of a spectrum-based service and allow for reasonable network management would seem to be more important than the philosophical debate over whether there should be rules at all. ... The wireless industry’s initial reaction to net neutrality was to question its need and warn of “unintended consequences.” Accepting the inevitability of the concept, however, and working to maximize its positive effects – from appropriate network management, to flexible pricing and even new spectrum – could be the opportunity for a big win. 

On media paywalls, Wheeler had some tough love for news companies:

Clinging to the comfy economics of scarcity by moving content behind pay walls won’t bring yesterday back. ... The name of the game is how to make money out of abundance, not how to maintain scarcity. 

On the privatization of space exploration, Wheeler likened NASA to a telecom monopoly:

NASA was the Bell Labs of Space. Like Bell Labs they delivered important innovations and added to our national pride. To continue a 20th Century command-and-control model in an era of distributed development is not in the best interest of NASA, however. We were once told the telephone network was so complex and essential to national security that it had to be protected from competition. Now we hear the same warnings with regard to the space program. 

On reallocating spectrum more efficiently, he argued for a kind of lightly managed chaos:

Exhibit A for 21st century spectrum planning is WiFi. Operating in unlicensed spectrum, WiFi is a cacophony of competing claims for use of the spectrum. The characteristics of Internet Protocol (IP) packets allow WiFi in a Starbucks hotspot, for instance, to operate more efficiently that the licensed spectrum on the sidewalk outside.

Spectrum has always been allocated based on the physics of analog signals. Blocks of megahertz were allocated and then licenses were assigned within those allocations based on a single overriding purpose: to keep the signals from interfering with each other. Guard bands were often added to make doubly sure a signal licensed for one purpose didn’t interfere with a signal authorized for another purpose. ... Digital networks, in contrast, eschew perfection in favor of self-ordered chaos and from that chaos come greater capabilities and expanded capacity.

On Internet privacy, Wheeler proposed entrusting network operators rather than content providers or Web companies themselves:

Since Apple and Google have shown their true colors regarding consumer privacy, network operators could become the consumers’ privacy protector by not allowing such information to pass without consumer consent. It’s not that the use of information is bad – it’s whether I as a consumer have any control over the use of the information I create. A trusted wireless operator could become my information banker, securing my privacy and permitting withdrawals on my terms rather than Silicon Valley’s terms. 

Wheeler hinted at his favor for 2011's failed AT&T/T-Mobile merger—not because it would've been good for consumers, or for the businesses themselves, but because it would've given the FCC more jurisdiction to regulate mobile broadband:

... An AT&T victory in the appeal of the Justice Department decision would reopen the FCC’s ability to determine appropriate public interest protections.

The government’s decision to block AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile will have more than structural repercussions for the wireless industry. If the Justice Department prevails in court the backdoor to imposing a new regulatory regime on wireless will have swung shut. On the other hand, an AT&T court win will trigger government regulation that could ultimately spread to all wireless carriers. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.