It’s been quite some time since we weren’t quite sure where the FCC Chairman was trying to steer the boat. But since he formally took over a month ago, Tom Wheeler’s agenda has seemed harder to get a handle on than past commissioners.
Everyone knew what barriers Michael Powell wanted to blast through, the fences Robert McDowell was going to be straddling, and the visions Julius Genachowski had in mind. But Wheeler doesn’t seem to fit in any particular bucket, or maybe he has just been moving too fast for the media to shove him into one.
He’s supposedly in sync with Obama, but managed to charm Ted Cruz enough to get confirmed without needing that nuclear option crap. He’s standing behind the FCC’s net neutrality rules, but somehow he’s ok with having fast lanes for those who pay. He’s been staking out a pro-market stance, while extolling the virtues of the AT&T/T-Mobile M&A smackdown, unlocked mobile phones, and fairness in spectrum allocation.
And yet, so far he seems to be having some success making the case that the apparent contradictions are artifacts of past rhetoric and not logic. Might he actually be savvy enough to get the polarized pieces of the beltway in his orbit actually working together? On Tuesday some House Republicans (Fred Upton and Greg Walden) even floated the idea of actually passing new legislation to bring telecom into the new era. And a prominent Democrat (John Dingell) actually didn’t immediately shoot it down.
More likely though, it’s just easier to maintain a nuanced stance now before there are actual votes to make and people to piss off. When the AT&T special access kerfuffle reaches the boiling point or the courts finish up with Verizon’s challenge to net neutrality, perhaps we’ll have a clearer idea where the Wheeler era will be going.
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