FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Bows to the Inevitable

Chairman Tom Wheeler
Santa Clause brings early presents for some US Telcos
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Santa comes early for some as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler set to step down

If you had of asked AT&T and Verizon what they would like for Christmas, the departure of the Obama-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would have been high on that list.

Questions surrounding his departure came thick and fast following Trump’s surprise election win.  Wheeler has confirmed he will depart on Trump’s Inauguration day, January 20th 2017.

Wheeler will end his three-year term as head of the FCC next month, leaving at a time when not only is the FCC’s future in doubt, but also its history. Republican FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, who both voted against the Open Internet Order, have both already promised to roll back regulations. “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation,” Pai said at an event in Washington, DC, last week.

“President-elect Trump has repeatedly noted the detrimental impact of the current stifling regulatory environment on the American economy overall, and he has promised fast relief,” O’Rielly said at the same event. “I particularly like his call for the elimination of two regulations for every new one created.”

“When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler chairman, many people voiced open suspicion of a man who had led two major industry trade associations,” Harold Feld of the digital rights advocacy group Public Knowledge said today in a statement. “But rather than be the lapdog of industry some feared (or hoped for), Tom Wheeler proved himself to be the most ferocious watchdog for consumers and competition in nearly two decades.”

Chairman Tom Wheeler FCC Highlights (Master of the House)

  • Chairman Tom WheelerReclassified fixed and mobile broadband as Title II common carrier services.
  • Used Title II authority to impose net neutrality rules that forbid blocking, throttling, and giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.
  • Decided that content providers and network operators should be able to file complaints against ISPs about rates charged for network interconnection.
  • Preempted state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent the expansion of municipal broadband providers.
  • Raised the definition of broadband from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps/3Mbps, a move that helps justify further regulatory actions designed to promote competition (such as the municipal broadband decision).
  • Refused to approve Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
  • Pressured Sprint to abandon a potential acquisition of T-Mobile.
  • Voted to create a software replacement for CableCard, forcing cable companies to make TV channels available to makers of third-party devices and software.
  • Proposed a $100 million fine against AT&T, saying the company throttled unlimited data plans without adequately notifying customers about reduced speeds. (AT&T is trying to lower or eliminate the penalty.)
  • Stepped up enforcement in general, with a $3.5 million fine against two small carriers that failed to protect the personal information of low-income customers; various fines against cellular carriers for bill cramming; a $40 million fine to TracFone for throttling and capping “unlimited” data; fines against hotel chains related to Wi-Fi blocking; and more.
  • Pressured wireless carriers into unlocking cell phones so they can be used on competitors’ networks.
  • Pressured Verizon Wireless into dropping a plan to throttle customers who pay for unlimited LTE data.
  • Imposed new rules against robocalling over the objections of a lobby group that represents Google, Netflix, and other Web companies.
  • Handed T-Mobile USA a victory in a fight against AT&T and Verizon Wireless over data roaming charges.
  • Set limits on the amount of spectrum Verizon and AT&T can buy at an upcoming auction, boosting the chances of T-Mobile and other smaller carriers.

More Here [Washington Post]

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