FCC Chairman Leaves as Trump Enters

December 15, 2016
By: Paula Bernier

Big news on the communications regulation front: Tom Wheeler (News - Alert) has announced that he plans to vacate his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, 2017—the same day Donald Trump is inaugurated.

While leadership changes at the FCC (News - Alert) are to be expected in light of the country’s transition to a Republican president, this change is rather abrupt. And it will only add to the new administration’s workload to get new agency and cabinet leaders installed.

For many of us, Wheeler will be missed. Appointed by President Obama in 2013 to head up the FCC, Wheeler has been a dynamic leader with a great deal of experience in communications regulation and technology. During his reign, the FCC approved The Open Internet Rule, a net neutrality effort that aims to keep the internet free and open. Under his leadership, the FCC also recently released a 219-page order to overhaul its existing privacy rules. The rules give customers greater control over the data they give telecommunications companies. He has also helped pave the way to make more spectrum available for 5G.

“Just as bipartisan support helped enable the incentive auction, there is growing bipartisan interest in the next big thing in spectrum policy: 5G,” Wheeler wrote recently. “With very fast speeds, scale to support billions of sensors, and reduced latency, 5G will allow us to realize the full potential of so many promising, yet nascent broadband-enabled breakthroughs. It won’t just improve existing commercial and government uses, but also applications still on the horizon, like Internet of Things and connected cars.”

“Fundamentally, we’re approaching 5G as we have with previous generations of wireless by adopting a flexible use policy and assuring that spectrum is available to be deployed when the private sector has arrived at the requisite technical standards and network architectures. This approach made us successful as global leaders in 4G LTE (News - Alert).” 

Before joining the FCC, Wheeler was managing director of tech venture capital firm Core Capital Partners. But before being named to head up the FCC, Wheeler was best know as the head of CTIA (News - Alert), the wireless association. 

Edited by Alicia Young