Democratic Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Thursday that he will be leaving the agency on Donald Trump’s inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2017.
It has been customary for FCC chairman to step down at the start of a new administration, but Wheeler for months had refused to commit to do so, angering Republican lawmakers.
His departure will mean the commission will have a 2-1 Republican majority when Trump begins his term, according to Politico.
The body is normally made up of five commissioners, but in addition to Wheeler’s departure, the Senate did not act on Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel’s renomination to the FCC before it recessed. Therefore her tenure will end on Dec. 31.
Senate Commerce Committee chairman Sen. John Thune, R-N.D., had been waiting on a commitment from Wheeler to step down before taking up the renomination to avoid the possibility of the commission retaining a 3-2 Democrat majority into the Trump administration.
Thune said late last month there’s “no question” that Wheeler’s indecision is “a complicating factor.”
If Wheeler refused to resign, his term would end in 2018.
Wheeler said in a statement announcing his departure, “Serving as FCC Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honor of my professional life. It has been a privilege to work with my fellow commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”
Variety reported that “Trump has been widely expected to install new leadership at the agency, and he recently recruited two conservative economists — Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison — for his transition team to focus on the FCC and telecom policy, and both are considered in the running as Trump’s FCC chairman pick.”
“Wheeler’s tenure was marked by controversy in what was once a relatively sleepy agency. The FCC has become ground zero for large tech debates on high-profile items like regulation regarding cable set top boxes and net neutrality — rules that Donald Trump’s incoming administration is expected to reverse,” according to The Hill.
Trump tweeted in 2014 regarding net neutrality:
Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2014
Fellow Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz believe net neutrality gives the FCC authority it should not have to oversee the internet. Earlier this year, he argued that by classifying the Internet as a public utility, the FCC would force people to “go to government regulators to get permission to launch some new website, to do something novel, on the Internet. That is lunacy,” Breitbart reported.
“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have also opposed net neutrality.
Episode one of WJ Today touches on the accusations of Russian influence in the presidential election, Trump’s cabinet picks, and the future of the Democratic Party.
Listen to “Episode 1: The Trump Transition” on Spreaker.
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