After being confirmed unanimously by the Senate last week, former telecom industry insider Tom Wheeler has officially stepped up as chair of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC reports that Wheeler was sworn in this morning, replacing interim chair Mignon Clyburn. Wheeler has been widely lauded by telecommunications companies like AT&T, and public interest groups have expressed more tentative optimism about his appointment. Now, the FCC has released Wheeler's staff picks, which include advocacy group Public Knowledge co-founder Gigi Sohn.
Public Knowledge has been a longtime advocate of net neutrality, deconsolidation of corporate power, and expanded broadband access in its work with the FCC, and its members have praised Wheeler, despite likely differences in opinion. This pick may confirm hopes that he'll come to the table for debates on consumer rights and competition. As part of her appointment, Sohn will be cutting formal ties with Public Knowledge before taking the role of special counsel for external affairs. Several of Wheeler's other picks come from within the commission, including chief of staff Ruth Milkman and Diane Cornell, who has also worked with wireless telecom lobbying group CTIA. Others are from outside agencies, including the State Department.
Leaving aside Clyburn's relatively brief tenure, Wheeler follows former chair Julius Genachowski, who became known for championing universal broadband access and net neutrality but had uneven success at regulating the several corporate mergers that took place on his watch. Genachowski has since joined the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think-tank, as a senior fellow working on communications.