President Obama nominated former CTIA chief Tom Wheeler to replace Julius Genachowski as chairman of the FCC, and Wheeler will take over this spring or summer, pending Senate confirmation. Mignon Clyburn, the senior Democrat on the panel, will take over as interim chairwoman as Wheeler awaits confirmation.
Wheeler has been considered the front-runner for several weeks for the position, and a wide range of media reports indicated President Obama would nominate him. The other main option was Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
Wheeler was president of the CTIA from 1992 to 2004 before joining D.C.-based venture capital firm Core Capital Partners as managing director in 2005. Wheeler generally received praise following the announcement by President Obama.
"Tom has a deep understanding of communications issues, a passion for hard work and creative thinking, a diverse background that spans the realm of the Internet world and a keen understanding of how mobile wireless broadband can drive our economy and innovation," said CTIA President Steve Largent.
"I can attest to Tom's commitment to harness the power of communications technology to improve people's lives, to drive our global competitiveness, and to advance the public interest," Genachowski said. "The FCC's role has never been more essential, and with Tom's deep policy expertise and his first-hand experience as a technology investor, he is a superb choice to advance the FCC's mission of promoting innovation, investment, competition, and consumer protection."
If he is confirmed, Wheeler will be tasked to oversee the upcoming 600 MHz broadcast TV incentive auction, currently scheduled for next year. Wireless carriers, both large and small, are hoping to score valuable airwaves through the auction, but it remains unclear exactly how many broadcasters will agree to participate in the auction, which promises to pay broadcasters to give up their spectrum licenses for auction to wireless carriers.
"I've been mystified why broadcasters have declared jihad against the voluntary spectrum auction," Wheeler wrote of the incentive auction in 2011.
Wheeler will likely chair additional merger and acquisition activity in wireless. T-Mobile USA recently finalized its merger with MetroPCS, creating the new T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). Pending transactions include SoftBank's proposed investment in Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), as well as Sprint's proposed purchase of the rest of Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR)--both transaction are under attack from Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH).
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