When Julius Genachowski announced his impending departure as FCC chairman in late March, speculation was rampant as to who would be his replacement. Genachowski, an Obama appointee and longtime friend of the president, announced his resignation only days after the resignation of Commissioner Robert McDowell.
As the FCC prepares for a massive 2014 spectrum auction, it was clear that whoever was to replace Genachowski would need to be a titan in the broadband/wireless industry. On Wednesday, President Obama announced that Tom Wheeler, a longtime figurehead in the telecommunications industry, would be his nominee for the chairmanship. Like Genachowksi, Wheeler has long-term ties to the Obama Administration.
In 2009 Wheeler led the technology and science division of the Obama Biden Presidential transition project. Prior to his work with the administration in 2009, Wheeler served in administrative capacities in many telecommunications firms, including the National Cable Television Association and The Wireless Association. In recent years Wheeler has served as managing director of the D.C.-based venture capital firm, Core Capitol Partners.
As Wheeler waits for confirmation in the Senate, current FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will serve as acting Chairman. Like Wheeler, Clyburn has deep ties to the Obama Administration. Her father, Representative James Clyburn (D-SC) is currently the third-ranking member of the Democratic Party. At the press conference announcing Wheeler's appointment, President Obama referred to Wheeler as "the Bo Jackson of telecom." Bo Jackson was a former multi-sport athlete who excelled on both the baseball and football fields.
Though many in the telecommunications industry are applauding Wheeler as a smart choice, several Republican lawmakers have lambasted the appointment. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said that he is extremely disappointed in the appointment. With only one Republican remaining on the commission, Wheeler's appointment indicates the greater degree of control the Democratic party has over the FCC.