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New FCC head Tom Wheeler sets the tone: 'competition does not always flourish by itself'

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Tom Wheeler was sworn in as the new head of the FCC yesterday, and today he began to outline what the agency may look like under his stewardship. In a post on the FCC blog, Wheeler touts networks as a fundamental driver of growth for humanity itself. "There is no doubt that today we are living history in the midst of the fourth great network revolution," he writes, calling back to the printing press, the railroad, and the telegraph as other revolutionary examples that changed the world forever.

The difference with today's networks, he writes, is that they are evolving and changing more rapidly than we've ever seen before — and the FCC will need to adapt in a similar fashion if it's going to prove effective in its mission. Promoting competition is a vital part of that mission, Wheeler says, calling the FCC "a pro-competition agency", but he also makes clear his definition of competition isn't a hands-off, market-only solution. Acknowledging that "competition does not always flourish by itself," he writes that competition "must be supported and protected if its benefits are to be enjoyed."

"The connective technology that will define the 21st century flows through the FCC."

The Wheeler pick had been applauded by telecommunications companies, causing some to worry about his stance on issues like net neutrality. Today's post seems to address those concerns on several fronts, with the new chair also underscoring that networks have fundamental responsibilities when it comes to the way they treat their users. "A change in technology may occasion a review of the rules," he writes, "but it does not change the rights of users or the responsibilities of networks."

Wheeler closes with a call to action, calling the FCC the "Optimism Agency" of the US government. "The connective technology that will define the 21st century flows through the FCC," Wheeler writes. "In so many ways our new networks are integral to challenges as diverse as education, energy, and health care. The 21st century economy begins here."