New York Times questions Obama’s FCC pick


Tom WheelerA pledge was made in 2007 by then-candidate Barack Obama to keep lobbyists away from the federal agencies that regulate their businesses – which has the New York Times editorial board wondering why a former head of NCTA and CTIA is heading for the chair of the FCC.

NYT noted that nominee Tom Wheeler spent five years with NCTA and 12 years with CTIA before moving on to the world of venture capitalism. NYT wonders how effective Wheeler will be looking out for the interests of consumers when his past allegiance has been entirely on the business side of communications.

Delving even further into Wheeler’s past activities, NYT noted his history as a campaign contribution bundler for Obama. Although there is no way of knowing which contributors were brought in by Wheeler, NYT wonders how many of them are active in the field Wheeler is now going to regulate, senators willing. NYT suspects that many of them are in the communications field.

One use for incentive auctions of television spectrum, argues NYT, is to provide the opportunity for new, smaller and potentially innovative companies to get into the broadband business, alleviating the current situation where a handful of large corporations control most of the business.

And again, there are consumer interests. NYT concluded, “Surveys by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that a smaller proportion of Americans have high-speed Internet service at home and pay far more for it than consumers in nations like South Korea, France and Canada. Mr. Obama has said that he wants the United States to lead the world in telecommunications technology. The next chairman of the F.C.C. will need to have credibility and vision to carry that out.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Another FCC story, another snub for broadcasting. Just once, we’d like to see a mainstream analysis that says something along the lines of “the nominee expressed admiration for the job broadcasters have been doing as the primary deliverer of critical information to the citizens of the United States in times of crisis, and as the primary deliverer of news and entertainment all of the time. The nominee said it is important to protect the ability of broadcasters to continue providing these vital services, even as we expand new communications venues.”