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Reaction to Wheeler, O’Rielly Confirmation

Industry executives pleased to work with both on the commission as it gets back to full strength

Good wishes poured in for FCC Chairman nominee Tom Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly, the nominee for the open GOP slot on the commission.

The Senate confirmed both nominations Tuesday evening. They could take their place at the agency late this week or early next.

Wheeler is an investor and former cable and telecom lobbyist while O’Rielly was an advisor to Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn congratulated Wheeler and O’Rielly. Of Wheeler, she said he “a tremendous depth of experience, talent, and knowledge that will serve him well as the leader of this critically important agency.” And with his “extensive public policy expertise and understanding of the communications landscape,” O’Rielly will be an invaluable asset, she said.

The Senate Commerce Committee earlier voted out the Wheeler and O’Rielly nominations. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., noted that Wheeler will be a “strong advocate for consumers and the public interest at a time when the FCC is facing decisions that will shape the future of the nation’s telephone network and the wireless, broadband, and video industries. Rockefeller looks forward to working with both Wheeler and O’Rielly to “to harness the power of technology for every American.”

Lobbying organizations, too, lent their support.

NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said the organization supported both nominations and also salute the “superb” job done by Mignon Clyburn during her tenure as acting chair of the agency. “Broadcasters look forward to working with a full complement of commissioners in the months and years ahead. Local radio and TV stations will continue our evolution to new distribution platforms, mindful that broadcasting remains an indispensable source of news, entertainment and lifeline information to communities across America.”

CEA President/CEO Gary Shapiro, too, thanked Clyburn for her “terrific, honorable and exemplary leadership as acting chairwoman.”

Shapiro said, “Chairman Wheeler takes the helm of the FCC at a critical time where action is required to reallocate spectrum for wireless broadband and other services. Our nation needs strong FCC leadership to make this goal a reality.”

Public Knowledge President/CEO Gigi Sohn noted that Clyburn has accomplished a lot in her short tenure as acting chair. Of Wheeler, she said: “We expect that he will work to preserve a strong FCC that will ensure an open, universally accessible and affordable communications system that serves all Americans.”

Public Knowledge worked with O’Rielly some years ago when he was a staffer for then-Sen. John Sununu and found him to be a smart and strategic partner, according to Sohn. “We look forward to working with him again in his new role.”

Free Press President/CEO Craig Aaron said, “We look forward to working with the new chairman and the newest commissioner to create an FCC that actually looks out for the public interest.”

Aaron continued: “We had plenty of questions about the choice of Mr. Wheeler, but what matters is what you do once you’re sitting in the big chair. And there is a lot to do: connecting all Americans to the wonders of the open Internet, encouraging meaningful competition, diversifying media ownership, and making sure that this crucial agency has the power to protect people everywhere when predatory or powerful corporations step over the line.”

He suggested that Wheeler has an opportunity to transform the media, technology and this agency for the better. But that will require a different approach to this powerful pulpit from most of the chairmen who came before him. The new chairman has been in Washington for many years, and we hope one of the first things he will do is commit to going outside the Beltway, getting away from the lobbyists, and meeting face-to-face with the American people.

Clyburn’s approach could be a model for Wheeler, Aaron added, noting that she accomplished a great deal in a short time and “engaged a wide range of stakeholders.”