Tom Wheeler is known more as a lobbyist for cable and wireless industries; he had played a decisive role in every telecommunication policy and innovations in the last three decades. However none of his earlier stints in various capacities have evoked more interest than his tenure as the Chairman of the Federal Communication Commission.
The last few months Mr. Wheeler’s utopian guidelines for net neutrality, a concept where users should have equal access to any legal online content, has become a butt for criticism. There are more than 3.7 million comments which have been made and many argue that Mr. Wheeler’s plan does not go too far to protect an open internet.
Mr. Wheeler’s long history as a lobbyist or investor in different companies which he seeks to regulate has been one of the reasons for a lot of criticism. After completing a year in the job, it can be safely said that he has established himself as a formidable opponent to the industries he represented.
A fierce debate rages about the future of the open internet and the impact on the online experience if the Federal Communications Commission changed the rules. Mr. Wheeler makes his presence felt and its effects can be seen all around. He along with the Justice Department’s antitrust division put a spoke in the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, the third- and fourth-largest cellphone companies and it culminated with Sprint’s parent, SoftBank, to abandon the deal. Mr. Wheeler has strongly hinted that mobile broadband will be subject to the same regulations as wired broad band.
Mr. Wheeler, 68, said in an interview last week “Sitting on the other side of the desk in this office is really a fascinating experience. I used to come into this office, and I was cocksure. ‘This is the answer; what’s important is what’s needed for my client.’ But as I’ve said many times, I have an entirely different client now.”
Mr. Wheeler looks every bit the lobbyist with towering height; he is so tall that he leans backwards. Graduating from Ohio State University, he worked on the 1968 Senate campaign for John J. Gilligan in Ohio. He helped to pass the 1984 Cable Act, an Act which largely deregulated the cable industry. He pushed through the 1996 Telecommunications Act which was to replace the archaic 1934 Communications Act while at the helm of the wireless association. He was pivotal in getting the cable industry behind the creation of C-SPAN and also gave weight to the E-Rate program, which provided funding for advanced telecommunications connections for schools and libraries.