Wheeler quits FCC reopening battle over net neutrality
16 December 2016 | James Pearce
Tom Wheeler has announced his intention to step down from his role as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Wheeler has been at the helm of the US regulator for more than three years, during which he’s enacted a number of controversial policies, including the introduction of net neutrality rules last year and customer privacy rules in October.
Prior to working for the FCC, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry. He held positions including president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and as CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA).
Wheeler’s announcement comes during a time when his position was expected to come under increasing scrutiny by incoming US President Donald Trump. Trump has been a vocal opponent of net neutrality, the idea that all internet traffic is equal, and criticised the FCC’s regulations when they were first announced.
When naming his transition team, Trump appointed fierce FCC and net neutrality critics Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison to the FCC division, casting doubt on Wheeler’s future.
His resignation raises questions about the future of the US's net neutrality laws, a battle Wheeler fought vehemently in public and in court against AT&T, Verizon, and other operators, over the last year.
Wheeler, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, has now said he will leave the regulator 20 January 2017, with Trump yet to name his replacement.
Wheeler said: “Serving as F.C.C. Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honour of my professional life. I am deeply grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity. I am especially thankful to the talented Commission staff for their service and sacrifice during my tenure.
“Their achievements have contributed to a thriving communications sector, where robust investment and world-leading innovation continue to drive our economy and meaningful improvements in the lives of the American people. It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”
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