Earlier today, the Senate confirmed Tom Wheeler as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission after Senator Ted Cruz lifted his objections to the nomination. Cruz was worried that Wheeler would fight for more stringent donor disclosure rules on political advertisements, but earlier today, Wheeler convinced Cruz that this was not a high-priority issue for him.
Wheeler has a long history in various sectors of the communications industry. He was formerly a leader of the cable industry and cellphone carrier lobby, and had most recently worked for a venture capital firm that funds tech startups. Those close industries ties gave some senators pause, but Democrat Jay Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee said that, "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." Rockefeller had previously expressed concerns back in the spring about Wheeler having potential conflicts of interest as chairman.
Wheeler said in a statement following his confirmation that at least some of his focus would be on the Internet, and said that, "We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users’ rights are respected." Part of that effort would go towards persuading television broadcasters to auction off their licenses so that they could be used by mobile carriers for data transmission purposes. But that plan basically means asking a television broadcasters to voluntarily go off the air.
The Senate also confirmed another member to the FCC's board, Michael O'Rielly. With Wheeler and O'Rielly's appointments, the five-member board is operating at full capacity for the first time since commissioner Robert McDowell and chairman Julius Genachowski left in May and June, respectively. Since then, the commission has be run by acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.