Back when President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2013, many people were skeptical about the fact that a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist is now supposed to protect consumers from the cable and wireless industry. However, few can argue that Wheeler didn't feel burdened by his professional background seeing how much he did to enact and enforce net neutrality regulations in the United States and how his policy prevented Comcast from acquiring Time Warner back in 2015, 17 months into his tenure. Following the surprising outcome of this year's US presidential election, many industry sources speculated that Wheeler will be stepping down from his position once the incoming Trump administration takes office on January 20th. Today, the FCC Chairman confirmed these rumors.
In a press release published today, Wheeler stated that his current role has been "the greatest honor" of his professional life and thanked President Obama for giving him the opportunity to head the FCC for the last three years. The FCC Chairman also thanked his staff and other Commissioners for their contributions to the agency during his tenure, adding that he's been privileged to regulate the industry during a "period of historic technological change." Wheeler will be leaving his office on January 20th, the day Trump is scheduled to swear in as the 45th President of the US.
While this is obviously big news for the FCC and the industry it regulates, few industry experts are surprised by this turn of events. After all, virtually all of Wheeler's policies are heavily opposed by Republican politicians, including the President-elect Donald Trump who obviously has his own ideas for how communications in the US should be regulated. More specifically, it's likely that the incoming Trump administration will take another look at net neutrality rules put in place by Wheeler and possibly abolish them, while the FCC itself may have its jurisdiction limited under the new government, at least if Trump's pick of transition advisors is any indication. Then again, Obama's appointment of Wheeler in 2013 also worked out differently than many people expected, so one can't be too quick to jump to conclusions. However, one thing is almost certain – the telecommunications industry in the US is bound to go through some significant changes shortly after the new administration takes office next month.