The White House will soon name former telecommunications industry lobbyist and businessman Tom Wheeler as the head of the Federal Communications Commission, sources familiar with the matter have confirmed to The Verge. President Obama is expected to make the announcement on Wednesday, setting the stage for Wheeler to replace the outgoing Julius Genachowski. Wheeler currently works with venture capital group Core Capital, but he spent over a decade as head of the CTIA wireless industry group, leaving in 2004. Before that, he served as president of the National Cable Television Association.
A 2002 Los Angeles Times profile describes Wheeler as "the rock star of telecom," crediting him with helping to fuel a major spectrum expansion for the mobile phone industry. He's also not a surprise pick for the FCC chairmanship, either. Similarly to Genachowski, who helped with Barack Obama's campaign, Wheeler was named as a member of Obama's Presidential transition effort following the 2008 election; his name was floated as a possible replacement not long after Genachowski stepped down in March.
So far, responses from public interest groups have been mixed. Free Press said that "on paper" Tom Wheeler did not look like someone who would "stand up to industry giants and protect the public interest," but Public Knowledge — which characterized Genachowski's tenure as "one of missed opportunities" — had more praise to offer. "Some have expressed concern about Tom's past history as the head of two industry trade associations," wrote Public Knowledge head Gigi Sohn. "But his past positions should be seen in light of the times and in the context of his other important experiences and engagement with policy."