Lobbyists React to Wheeler’s FCC Nomination, Clyburn’s Status as Acting Chair

WASHINGTON —Tom Wheeler’s nomination as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is generating the usual flurry of statements. The president nominated Wheeler to the post today, and appointed sitting commissioner Mignon Clyburn as interim chair, the first time a woman will hold the position.

Wheeler previously ran the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and was president of the CTIA: The Wireless Association. He’s now a partner with venture capital firm Core Capital Partners, which he joined in 2005.

“NAB welcomes the nomination of Tom Wheeler as chairman of the FCC. He has the experience and temperament to serve the agency with distinction, and we look forward to working with him.” That was Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.

From CEA Chief Gary Shapiro:

“The FCC plays a vital role in the lives of all Americans. CEA and its 2,000 technology industry member companies look forward to working with Wheeler and his colleagues to help the FCC advance technology innovation through spectrum reallocation and other groundbreaking issues. Wheeler is experienced, qualified and certain to make a difference as FCC chairman.”

Public Knowledge President and CEO, Gigi Sohn, said, “As someone who has known Tom for years, I believe that he will be an independent, proactive chairman who will not allow the FCC to become irrelevant as broadband becomes the dominant mode of communication in this country.”

And from the old boss to the new boss, outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Tom personally and professionally for almost 20 years.… I can attest to Tom’s commitment to harness the power of communications technology to improve people’s lives, to drive our global competitiveness, and to advance the public interest. The FCC’s role has never been more essential, and with Tom’s deep policy expertise and his first-hand experience as a technology investor, he is a superb choice to advance the FCC’s mission of promoting innovation, investment, competition, and consumer protection.”

Not everyone was enthused.

Politico cited one critical group that did not sign the letter—Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. It quoted him as saying, “I am skeptical that the former chief lobbyist of the wireless and cable industries will be capable of holding his former clients accountable for their ongoing shortcomings.”

Also, as the former head of two trade associations, Wheeler “does not appear to be” someone who can stand up to industry, says Free Press President Craig Aaron.

Clyburn, the ranking Democrat after the exiting chairman, may lead the commission for several months, depending on how long it takes for Wheeler, and whomever the Republican nominee will be, to receive Senate confirmation.

“I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to lead the Federal Communications Commission as interim chairwoman during this transition period, and I thank President Obama for this incredible and historic honor,” she said.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council noted that just last week, MMTC and 49 other organizations, including the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Alliance for Women in Media, wrote to the president to encourage him to nominate FCC commissioners that would prioritize minority and women’s issues. The letter cited the disproportionately low representation of women and minorities in media and telecom ownership, procurement, employment, and entrepreneurship in industries overseen by the commission.

The MMTC said Clyburn has supported minority and women’s issues since becoming a commissioner in 2009. Wheeler, too, has a reputation for promoting diversity and innovation, according to MMTC, which also says both bring years of practical business experience to their roles as well.

The NAB’s Smith offered this on Clyburn’s appointment: “NAB salutes President Obama’s historic selection of Mignon Clyburn as acting chair of the FCC. Commissioner Clyburn is a trailblazer and role model for millions of women, and her commitment to serving the public interest is unquestioned.”

From PK: “We are delighted that Commissioner Clyburn has been appointed acting chair of the FCC. During her time at the agency, she has been a passionate voice for the underserved and underrepresented.”

And Genachowski: “It has been a great honor and pleasure to serve with Commissioner Clyburn for the past four years. Mignon is a strong, experienced, and thoughtful leader. She has distinguished herself through her work to modernize universal service and promote competition, and as a champion for closing America’s digital divide. With this appointment, Mignon will also distinguish herself as the first woman to lead the FCC. I congratulate my friend and colleague on this honor.” With that, Genachowski said he would leave in mid-May.