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Tom Wheeler: A Chairman Stirring It Up

Tom Wheeler switched sides, and he is making darn sure that the industries he previously represented know it.

Wheeler became chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November 2013. He was president/CEO of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) from 1979 to 1984, and from 1992 to 2004, he was president/CEO of CTIA — The Wireless Association.

In September, he attended CTIA’s Super Mobility Week, where he announced on stage, “Today I have a new client, the American people.” He promised to “aggressively represent the best interests of my client.”

He has incurred the ire of the cable and wireless industries, taking strong anti-industry stances on issues of carrier competition, network neutrality, broadcast-spectrum incentive auctions, and Net neutrality.

He said the FCC would “continue to be skeptical of efforts to achieve that scale through the consolidation of major players.” He warned that the “absence of meaningful competition invites government regulation.” He said that “competition doesn’t always ensure openness.” And he has hinted that when the FCC finalizes open-Internet rules, it might not carve out exceptions for the wireless industry as it did in 2010 when it promulgated its first set of rules, which were struck down by a court.

During the next two years, Wheeler’s FCC could change the way carriers go to market, and how consumers use their services.