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Wheeler Confirmed as New FCC Chairman

WASHINGTON—Longtime telecom industry veteran Tom Wheeler was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped his opposition to the nomination after meeting with the nominee. The Senate also confirmed Michael O’Rielly as a new Republican commissioner.

Tom Wheeler Cruz had held up the Wheeler nomination on objections that, based on past statements, he was afraid that Wheeler would attempt to enforce disclosure requirements on political ads without Congressional authority. After the meeting, Cruz released a statement saying he was satisfied that such enforcement would not be on the top of Wheeler’s list.

“In our meeting this afternoon, Mr. Wheeler stated that he had heard the unambiguous message that trying to impose the requirements of the DISCLOSE Act, absent congressional action, would imperil the Commission’s vital statutory responsibilities, and he explicitly stated that doing so was ‘not a priority,’” Cruz said after the meeting on Tuesday.

Wheeler is the former head of 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. O’Rielly is a 20-year veteran of Capitol Hill, and in his most recent job, was an adviser to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Republican minority whip. He previously was a staffer for Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In a statement following the confirmation, Wheeler said he was “humbled” by the nomination and emphasized the importance of the Internet in the FCC’s future actions. “What excites me about this new responsibility is how we are at a hinge moment of history; the Internet is the greatest communications revolution in the last 150 years,” he said. “We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users’ rights are respected.”

Wheeler’s confirmation elicited the usual rash of “we look forward to” statements from Washington lobbyists with added appreciation for Mignon Clyburn, who has filled in for the chairman position after the resignation of Julius Genachowski earlier this year.

“NAB strongly supported the nominations of both Tom Wheeler and Michael O'Rielly and we are pleased with their confirmation,” said NAB President Gordon Smith. “We also salute the superb job done by Mignon Clyburn during her tenure as acting chair. Broadcasters look forward to working with a full complement of commissioners in the months and years ahead. Local radio and TV stations will continue our evolution to new distribution platforms, mindful that broadcasting remains an indispensable source of news, entertainment and lifeline information to communities across America.”

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, now head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said “We congratulate Tom Wheeler and Mike O’Rielly on their confirmations to serve on the Federal Communications Commission and look forward to working with them in their new positions. Both individuals bring an abundance of experience and deep knowledge of media, technology and telecommunications that will serve them well as the commission considers important policy issues.”

CEA President Gary Shapiro said that association applauds the Senate on the confirmations of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. “Chairman Wheeler takes the helm of the FCC at a critical time where action is required to reallocate spectrum for wireless broadband and other services,” he said. “Our nation needs strong FCC leadership to make this goal a reality. CEA and its more than 2,000 member technology companies look forward to working with Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner O’Rielly and the full FCC on spectrum reallocation and other issues vital to innovation and our nation.”

Clyburn was equally effusive: “I congratulate Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly on their Senate confirmations. Tom brings a tremendous depth of experience, talent, and knowledge that will serve him well as the leader of this critically important agency. I have no doubt that he will be an outstanding FCC Chairman.”

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), also congratulated Wheeler and O’Rielly on their confirmations. “Tom Wheeler will be a strong advocate for consumers and the public interest at a time when the FCC is facing decisions that will shape the future of our nation's telephone network and the wireless, broadband, and video industries. And Tom will be a partner in giving students access to the latest technology in their classrooms so they have the skills to compete and succeed in the 21st century workforce. I look forward to working with both Tom and Mike to harness the power of technology for every American, no matter where they live.”

Also see:
Obama Nominates Tom Wheeler for Top FCC Post

Obama Nominates Michael P. O'Rielly for FCC