New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: 7 Things to Know (Analysis)

On Monday in Washington, D.C., Thomas Wheeler will be sworn in as the Federal Communications Commission’s 31st chairman since it was created in 1934.

STORY: Senate Confirms Thomas Wheeler As FCC Chairman

As is tradition, Wheeler was confirmed along with a Republican, Michael O’Reilly, a former Senate staffer, bringing the commission to full strength for the first time since Julius Genachowski resigned as chairman in May.

This isn’t just another chairman, however. Wheeler arrives with the explicit endorsement of President Obama, who, in announcing the appointment May 1 at the White House, praised Wheeler as someone who has been at the forefront of dramatic changes in the way people communicate.

“He’s like the Jim Brown of telecom, or the Bo Jackson of telecom,” Obama joked at the ceremony, comparing Wheeler to the two former football stars. “So Tom knows this stuff inside and out.”

Here are seven things to know about the new FCC boss:

1. Was Cruz in Control?

Wheeler was finally confirmed last week with support on both sides of the aisle, but only after a face-to-face, closed-door meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who famously filibustered against Obamacare and triggered the government shutdown. Cruz, grabbing the spotlight again, held up the appointment for weeks, demanding assurances that the power of the FCC would not be used to force complete transparency over who really paid for political advertising from third-party committees.

Cruz met with Wheeler, but before he made any statement on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed for cloture to force the confirmation vote despite Cruz’s objections — amid rumors that there were enough Republican votes to override Cruz’s hold.

When Cruz on Tuesday said he was lifting his hold, the guessing began about whether he had extracted a secret promise from Wheeler or if the first-term senator was just saving face.

“The rumors are flying all over the place, and they are highly contradictory,” says Andrew Schwartzman, a D.C. communications lawyer with ties to Democrats. “One theory is the phone company and carriers wanted Wheeler in because of the uncertainty of a temporary chairman. There’s only so much [Mignon Clyburn] could do without the mandate. And AT&T is from Texas. One theory is they went to Cruz and said, ‘Your presidential campaign is going to be really affected if you sit on this nomination for very long, so do some face-saving and cut it out.’ And the alternate view is that [Cruz] extracted some sort of commitment not to do this from Wheeler. And nobody knows.”

There was no immediate response to comment from AT&T. Wheeler did not respond to a request for an interview, and Cruz’s spokesperson would only provide his written statements.

2. In Sync With the President

At 67 years old, Wheeler will be the oldest person to accept the job of chairman and among the most experienced ever to hold the position.

He also has an unusually close relationship with President Obama, whom he has served as a fundraiser, heading transition teams and working with a special FCC committee created by the last FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, to advise the president on technology.

Wheeler first became aware of Obama after his wife, Carole Wheeler, read one of Obama’s books. They both became early, enthusiastic supporters. For nearly two months, the couple even moved to Iowa (where she is from) leading up to the 2008 Iowa caucuses to head up a field office. Obama took the district on polling day.

Wheeler has also been a bundler for Obama, raising more than $700,000, according to press estimates, to help him get elected twice. His past as a lobbyist and fundraiser has drawn criticism from some opponents, who claim his appointment violates a 2008 Obama campaign promise not to hire lobbyists.

STORY: How Long Will Sen. Ted Cruz Keep The FCC On Hold?

3. Spectrum Auction Will Be Priority One, Two and Three

Congress approved plans to auction off broadcast spectrum for the first time since 2008 by taking some that are underused and urging broadcasters to voluntarily return those which they no longer need in the digital age. The process has been difficult, and the compromises among business, government and public interest advocates have resulted in a hugely complex set of auctions and reverse auctions — all of which awaits final FCC action on the rules of the process.

It will be voluntary for broadcasters to return spectrum, and Wheeler is the one expected to do the jawboning necessary to make the auctions a success.

That is what will take up much of the chairman’s time in the early days of the FCC and may ultimately be what he is remembered for, predicts Dick Wiley, Republican former FCC chairman (1970-77) and now managing partner of the law firm Wiley Rein, an 80-member communications practice.

“The spectrum auction will be No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on his agenda,” predicts Wiley.

4. TV Station Ownership Survey Way Behind Schedule

Rules governing ownership of TV stations are a hotbed of controversy (limits on ownership nationally and in any one market; rules prohibiting ownership of TV stations and a newspaper in the same market, among them).

The immediate problem is that the FCC — under the 1996 Telecom Act — must do a review every four years of the rules on media ownership. The current effort, entering its third year, has become hopelessly bogged down in business battles, court challenges and politics. It is so far behind schedule, the FCC is unlikely to compete the work by year’s end as required by law.

5. Future of Internet Awaits Appeals Court Ruling

Net neutrality (how the Internet will work as a business in the future) is another hot issue but one that is currently stalled, awaiting a decision by the appeals court (which is likely to come early next year).

Currently, carriers can’t discriminate against different types of traffic on their networks. That means Comcast can’t slow down your Netflix stream because it eats up too much spectrum.

Major distributors such as Comcast and Verizon have said that they should be free to charge people who use the Internet for things like video streaming more than others because they use more resources. Public interest advocates say that any rules that go beyond equal access to the Web for all at a relatively fixed cost would stifle innovation and give businesses who also distribute broadband too much control.

Rules passed under Genachowski have been challenged in federal district court, and a verdict is expected late this year or early next year. What Wheeler does on the issue will depend on the ruling and how many of the old rules are thrown out.

STORY: FCC Flooded With Complaints Over Miley Cyrus’ Racy VMA Performance

6. Wheeler Will Continue Obama’s Push for Universal Broadband

Universal broadband service at a very high level has been a basic tenet of the Obama administration’s approach under Genachowski. Wheeler is expected to continue the administration’s push to expand Internet access for all and upgrade the technology.

However, he may not continue Genachowski’s agenda to provide 100 million American households with access to 100 Mbit/s (megbits per second) connections by 2020.

“I don’t think they can turn the entire system into a common carrier,” says industry consultant Steve Effros, adding: “If the government was to pay for the broadband upgrade, it would cost over $300 billion, and that is not going to happen.”

7. Wheeler Known as a Manager Who Can Bring All Sides Together

Genachowski was not known as a strong manager, but rather someone who took a long time making decisions. Wheeler is likely to be the opposite in both areas.

“Tom knows how to work with people,” says Effros.

“I think the commission for many years now has tended to break down on partisan lines like everything else in Washington. If there was a criticism of Genachowski, it was that policy objectives got out of control,” says Schwartzman, predicting under Wheeler that the FCC will return to looking at “the practical effects on business of what it is doing.”

Wheeler is expected to be a chairman who can get the diverse players and his own commission to work together reasonably well.

Adds Effros: “He is an extremely competent, strong manager. People are looking to him to do a better job at what is ultimately the impossible task of making the trains run on time at the FCC.”

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Google will soon display your Google+ photo when you call an Android phone

Google’s desire to integrate social features into its mobile OS will soon see it use Google+ profile photos to identify Android callers. The new feature comes as an update to the new caller ID service in Android 4.4 KitKat, allowing the company to automatically match phone numbers from incoming and outgoing calls with names and profile photos associated with a registered account. Google staffer Attila Bodis notes that the feature will be enabled in “early 2014” but can only display names and profile photos if the user has verified their phone number and has discovery switched on. While the idea is to bring a sense of familiarity to phone calls, not everyone will see the merit of sending a headshot to people they call — so Google is offering a way to opt out. Simply head on over to this link, untick the checkbox and all of your Android-toting friends will no longer be able to see your beautiful face (unless, of course, they add it themselves).

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Packers’ Rodgers has fractured left collarbone

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is sacked by Chicago Bears’ Shea McClellin (99) and Isaiah Frey (31) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers left the game after the play. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is sacked by Chicago Bears’ Shea McClellin (99) and Isaiah Frey (31) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers left the game after the play. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, right, talks to Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler after an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. The Bears won the game 27-20. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers gives a thumbs up to fans as he walks back onto the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers left the game in the first half after being sacked by Shea McClellin. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is sacked by Chicago Bears’ Shea McClellin (99) and Isaiah Frey (31) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers shakes hands with Chicago Bears’ Tim Jennings (26) after an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers was injured in the first half of the game and did not return. The Bears won 27-20. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he has a fractured left collarbone and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be out.

Rodgers offered details of the injury on his weekly radio show on 540-AM ESPN on Tuesday. The 2011 NFL MVP got hurt after getting sacked by Shea McClellin on a third-down play during the Packers’ first series while he was scrambling outside the pocket. He hurt his left, non-throwing shoulder.

Rodgers called his injury “significant” and said he was in “some pain.”

Rodgers hasn’t missed a game due to injury since Dec. 19, 2010. Seneca Wallace finished 11 for 19 for 114 yards and an interception in the 27-20 loss.

The Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Associated PressSource:
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Chuck Liddell vs. military body armor (video)

Retired UFC legend Chuck Liddell found himself in the audience of some military personal recently. For some reason, the incomprehensible phenomenon of fans wanting fighters to hurt them for photos/videos occurred once more. We’ve seen this before, specifically with Liddell.

There’s a certain type of fan that evidently gets a *ahem* kick out of asking professional fighters to punch them, kick them and choke them. To them, it’s funny, we guess. To us, it would just be downright scary.

At least the latest fan turned punching bag had the quasi legitimate confidence boost of wearing body armor when he asked Liddell to kick him in the torso. It didn’t seem to do the soldier much good when Liddell hit him with a spinning back kick.

Chuck Liddell kick – 1, military body armor – 0. Check out the video above from the UFC’s television host Megan Olivi and see for yourself. Any psychologists out there, feel free to try and explain to Cagewriter the thinking behind asking pro fighters to hit you, uncontested. We’re stumped.

After the jump, our all time favorite fighter hitting fan videos – both featuring Alistair Overeem. Whereas Liddell specializes in obliging drunk fans and idiot radio show hosts, Overeem specializes in kicking little girls and punching female reporters. Really.

Alistair Overeem kicks little girl:

Alistair Overeem gut punches female reporter:

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda

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Google Helpouts Is Here to Help You With Basically Anything

Have you ever been working on something, a special project or something outside the realm of normal day-to-day work stuff, and you find yourself totally stuck? As in, you have absolutely no idea what to do next? Google wants to help.

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Nexus 5 Review: The Best Android Can Offer (Especially For the Price)

Nexus 5 Review: The Best Android Can Offer (Especially For the Price)This year, after having leakedmorethana shot-up sieve, the long-awaited Nexus 5 is here with Android 4.4 (KitKat) in tow. It’s most definitely one of the best phones you can buy, even if it doesn’t quite meet its inflated expectations.

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By 2016, most new IT spending will be in the cloud

According to Gartner, “The use of cloud computing is growing, and by 2016 this growth will increase to become the bulk of new IT spend. … 2016 will be a defining year for cloud as private cloud begins to give way to hybrid cloud, and nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017.”

Those are rather ambitious predictions, considering we’re just past our first projects and most enterprises are now ramping up a few more to run in parallel.

[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors’ 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld’s Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

Some of the predicted growth will come from simply calling traditional IT offerings “cloud”; such cloud-washing is nothing new. Still, the larger migration of applications will occur over the next few years, and a few enterprises are ramping up for them now. If everything goes on schedule, the Gartner growth prediction will come true.

I’m not so sure about the hybrid part of the prediction. Enterprises will use a variety of cloud models, including private and hybrid, resulting in a multicloud reality rather than a hybrid one. Already, enterprises are finding the cloud deployments that meet their requirements are more complex than private, public, or hybrid.

In whatever forms it takes at each enterpirse, cloud growth will largely be driven by the business, not IT. IT won’t push back on cloud computing in 2016 as much as it did in 2008, but I believe the push will still come mainly from those in the business who seek more cost-effective ways to provide IT services, decrease time to market, and increase agility.

That focus on cost may seem to argue for an infrastructure-focused push, but I believe the growth will be more around application development and application migration than infrastructure conversation and expansion. It’s the application side where the value lies, and where the real work needs to be done to take meaningful advantage of the fairly low-cost cloud infrastructure.

It looks like we’ll all be very busy in 2015 and 2016.

This article, “By 2016, most new IT spending will be in the cloud,” originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum’s Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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