Obama nominates Tom Wheeler for FCC chairmanship

President Barack Obama said May 1 he will nominate Tom Wheeler, a technology entrepreneur and former lobbyist, to succeed Julius Genachowski as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Wheeler, 67, has served as president of both the National Cable and Telecommunication Association and CTIA, the Wireless Association, currently is an executive with Core Capital Partners, a $350 million venture capital firm based in Washington, D.C.

The president, who made the announcement during a brief ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, said Wheeler “has been at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”

In 2010, Wheeler served as the chair of the FCC’s Technology Advisory Council, which counsels the agency on emerging technology issues. “He’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products,” said Obama.

Wheeler beat out Jessica Rosenworcel, a current FCC commissioner, for the top slot at the commission. In March, some 30 senators, led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), wrote to the president to support Rosenworcel for the chairmanship.

Obama said in his role as FCC chairman, Wheeler will give “businesses and workers the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy, and making sure we’re staying at the cutting edge of an industry that again and again we’ve revolutionized here in America.” 

If approved, Wheeler will inherent an agency on a fast track to make dramatic changes to how the nation’s airwaves are used. Outgoing chairman Genachowski leaves the agency before key portions of his signature initiative, the National Broadband Plan, have been implemented. As Wheeler joins the agency, an incentive auction to entice TV broadcasters to give up spectrum followed by a repacking of the remaining broadcasters into a smaller swath of spectrum will be among the most important proceedings at the agency.

NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement posted on the association’s website that Wheeler possesses both “the experience and temperament to serve the agency with distinction….”

Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA, The Wireless Association, praised Wheeler in a statement on the CTIA website. "Tom has a deep understanding of communications issues, a passion for hard work and creative thinking, a diverse background that spans the realm of the Internet world and a keen understanding of how mobile wireless broadband can drive our economy and innovation,” said Largent.

“With his significant experience in both the private and public sector, Tom is an exceptional choice to lead the Commission during a time when the telecommunications marketplace is experiencing significant innovation and incredible change,” NCTA president and former FCC chairman Michael Powell said in a statement on the association’s website.

While Wheeler’s nomination awaits Senate approval, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn will serve as acting chairman of the agency.

The president also announced at the same ceremony his intention to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority.