Former cable and wireless phone lobbyist Tom Wheeler plans to step in officially as the FCC’s new chairman next Monday (Nov. 4), moving quickly to take command of the agency in the wake of his Senate confirmation, an FCC official said Wednesday.
The FCC source also said Wheeler and Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn spoke last night to discuss how best to orchestrate the changing of the guard. “They both talked about the importance of a smooth transition,” the source said.
Wheeler, who was nominated to the FCC’s top post by President Barack Obama on May 1, finally received Senate confirmation for the post Tuesday evening, shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released his long-time hold on a Senate confirmation vote for Wheeler.
Also receiving Senate confirmation Tuesday evening for a GOP vacancy at the FCC was Senate aide Mike O’Rielly. But sources said it was unclear when O’Rielly, who has been keeping his cards close to the vest, would step in at the FCC.
At deadline, Wheeler had yet to announce any FCC staffing positions for his new administration. But telecom industry players who have been playing key behind-the-scenes roles in Wheeler’s transition team — and who could be assigned to important positions in the Wheeler FCC — include Diane Cornell, vice president of government affairs for mobile satellite giant Inmarsat; Phil Verveer, a former State Department executive, and Ruth Milkman, chief of the FCC’s Wireless Bureau, sources said.
Cornell, a former FCC staffer, worked as vice president of regulatory policy for Wheeler when he headed the wireless industry’s CTIA lobbying group in Washington. Verveer, who stepped down as deputy assistant secretary of state for international communications in January this year, is a former FCC Cable and Common Carrier Bureau chief and veteran communications lawyer.
At deadline, it was unclear who would swear Wheeler in — a requirement before he can take his seat. But sources said he may have an informal ceremony, and then have a ceremonial swearing-in later.
Wheeler’s fellow Democrat Clyburn has been running the show at the FCC as acting chairwoman since Julius Genachowski stepped down earlier this year.
Cruz put a hold on Wheeler’s confirmation vote due to concerns that Wheeler might try to impose new disclosure requirements on some political ads, without Congress’ approval. But during a meeting with Wheeler Tuesday afternoon, Cruz said the FCC nominee made clear that he had “heard the unambiguous message” that trying to impose the disclosure requirements, absent congressional approval “would imperil the commission’s vital statutory responsibilities, and he [Wheeler] explicitly stated that doing so was ‘not a priority,’ ” Cruz said.
Wheeler’s confirmation drew complimentary reviews from industry trade associations.
His confirmation also drew a positive review from former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, who conceded in an interview with TVNewsCheck that he had been backing a different candidate: Karen Korbluh, one of his former staffers who is now a U.S. ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“I certainly thought she [Kornbluh] would be a great FCC chair, but that didn’t happen, and I also think Chairman Wheeler is going to be a great chair,” Hundt said. “That’s the bottom line…. What I told Tom at the time is I am very loyal to the people who work for me.”