* Wheeler was former head at cable and wireless lobby groups
* Consumer advocates hope he will promote competition
* Commissioner Clyburn will be FCC acting chairwoman
(Adds industry background, comments)
By Alina Selyukh and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, April 30 President Barack Obama will
nominate venture capitalist and former wireless and cable
lobbyist Tom Wheeler on Wednesday to head the Federal
Communications Commission, according to a White House official.
After decades in and around Washington telecom circles,
Wheeler would take the reins of the FCC as the industry prepares
for a major reshuffling of ownership of radio airwaves and as
the agency tries to catch up to rapidly changing technology.
He has the rare support of both industry groups and a number
of consumer advocates.
Wheeler has served as an informal adviser to Obama in recent
years and has been a big fundraiser for his political campaigns.
He went into the venture investing business after years at the
helm of the National Cable Television Association and then the
wireless industry group CTIA.
Wheeler did not respond to a request for comment. He will
succeed current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who plans to
leave for the Aspen Institute think tank in coming weeks.
"Tom Wheeler is an experienced leader in the communications
technology field who shares the president's commitment to
protecting consumers, promoting innovation, enhancing
competition and encouraging investment," the White House
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday
in disclosing Wheeler's nomination.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, will take over as
acting chairwoman until the Senate confirms the nomination, the
official said. She will preside over a commission that includes
one other Democrat and one Republican because Obama has yet to
fill another open Republican seat on the usually five-member
Wheeler's lobbying past has concerned some public interest
groups as well as Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay
Rockefeller, a Democrat who wanted his former staffer and now
junior FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to get the post.
'FAVORS THE LITTLE GUY'
But overall, consumer advocates have embraced Wheeler's
candidacy, noting that he joined both trade groups while the
industries they represented were young and competing against
"He's interested in competition and promoting new
technologies," said Andrew Schwartzman, a prominent Washington
public interest advocate, who said Wheeler understands the need
to challenge market leaders. "His mind-set is of somebody who
favors the little guy."
Schwartzman was one of several consumer advocates who
earlier this month backed Wheeler in a letter to Obama.
A notable co-signer was Susan Crawford, a telecommunications
policy expert who had been a favorite of consumer groups to lead
the FCC. Crawford posted a tweet on Tuesday that described
Wheeler as "a good man" with "experience and gravitas."
At the same time, many in the telecommunications industry
have touted Wheeler's private-sector experience, noting that he
founded and invested in many tech-based companies and expressing
hope that his lobbying experience will make him more sympathetic
to letting markets, not the government, set the industry's pace.
In a 2011 blog, Wheeler hinted that he favored a
controversial and ultimately shelved merger deal between AT&T
and T-Mobile, sparking speculation that he may be open to
more consolidation in the wireless industry.
However, the blog post also suggested the FCC would have
been able to levy heavier regulation over the newly merged
company because of monopoly concerns.
On Tuesday, few industry groups or companies commented on
Wheeler's upcoming nomination before it was formally announced.
The National Association of Broadcasters, whose relationship
with the FCC has cooled as Genachowski shifted the agency's
focus to expanding broadband access, simply said Wheeler had
"the experience and temperament to serve the agency with
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Sandra
Maler, Carol Bishopric and Eric Beech)