No lame duck FCC decisions, says Wheeler

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Or better yet, dead stop.

Tom Wheeler is leaving any significant decisions on telecommunications policy to the incoming Trump administration and the new republican majority that will follow on the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC chairman spoke after a very brief open meeting yesterday, saying he has not spoken with anyone from the incoming Trump administration, but he is bowing to pressure from republicans in congress, who want him to walk away from the table now. Wheeler’s answer was okey-dokey and, according to a story in FierceWireless by Colin Gibbs, told reporters that his decision to yank nearly everything off of the FCC’s agenda…

…was obviously a consequence of the requests to avoid action on issues that were deemed controversial during this transition between administrations. Certain of my colleagues identified the items on today’s proposed agenda as controversial and asked they not be considered today. I hope that this doesn’t mean that these issues won’t be quickly addressed after the transfer of leadership from this agency.

In other words, it’ll be up to the next FCC chairman and his or her majority to decide if wholesale broadband facilities and services will be regulated and how rural mobile subsidies will be structured – those were the two biggest issues that were put on hold yesterday. Don’t expect new open access requirements for set top boxes, either. Even the privacy rules adopted last month might yet be withdrawn.

He blamed the controversy on big telecoms companies, saying “all of these matters are so-called controversial, because they are opposed principally by the largest incumbent firms in the sector”.

Wheeler’s surrender might have been coordinated with the lame duck Obama administration, but it was so sudden and so complete that you have wonder if there isn’t a different motive behind it. He’s a successful lobbyist and power broker who operated over the decades with equal skill in republican and democratic administrations. If his goal is to continue that career, then he might have reckoned that he’ll be better positioned if he doesn’t piss off the new boss.