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Cable Lobbyist Tom Wheeler Confirmed As New FCC Chief 242

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the jealous-of-australian-data-caps dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Senate confirmed Tuesday the nomination of a new chairman to the Federal Communications Commission. Wheeler is a former investor and head of telecommunications industry groups. President Barack Obama said, when announcing Wheeler as his choice in May, that 'for more than 30 years, Tom has been at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we've seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.'"
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Cable Lobbyist Tom Wheeler Confirmed As New FCC Chief

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  • thank you sir (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:41PM (#45281839)

    may i have another?

  • Dare to Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:45PM (#45281895) Homepage Journal

    Dare to Hope; Prepare to be Disappointed.

  • Regulatory capture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:48PM (#45281951) Journal

    Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

    Regulatory capture occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called "captured agencies".

    Federal Communications Commission

    Legal scholars have pointed to the possibility that federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had been captured by media conglomerates. Peter Schuck of Yale Law School has argued that the FCC is subject to capture by the media industries' leaders and therefore reinforce the operation of corporate cartels in a form of "corporate socialism" that serves to "regressively tax consumers, impoverish small firms, inhibit new entry, stifle innovation, and diminish consumer choice". The FCC selectively granted communications licenses to some radio and television stations in a process that excludes other citizens and little stations from having access to the public.

    Michael K. Powell, who served on the FCC for eight years and was chairman for four, was appointed president and chief executive officer of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a lobby group. As of April 25, 2011, he will be the chief lobbyist and the industry's liaison with Congress, the White House, the FCC and other federal agencies. Meredith Attwell Baker was one of the FCC commissioners who approved a controversial merger between NBC Universal and Comcast. Four months later, she announced her resignation from the FCC to join Comcast's Washington, D.C. lobbying office. Legally, she is prevented from lobbying anyone at the FCC for two years and an agreement made by Comcast with the FCC as a condition of approving the merger will ban her from lobbying any executive branch agency for life. Nonetheless, Craig Aaron, of Free Press, who opposed the merger, complained that "the complete capture of government by industry barely raises any eyebrows" and said public policy would continue to suffer from the "continuously revolving door at the FCC".

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:52PM (#45282005) Journal
      This is why a lot of people say it's better to do government operations as close to the people as possible. That is, if it can be done at a city level, do it at a city level. If it can be done at a state level, do it at a state level. Only a few things should be done at the national level.

      The farther things get from the people, the easier it is for them to be corrupted (or rather, if some town gets corrupted, it doesn't affect people outside that town).
      • And you think regulating radio interference could be done at a state level without massive consequences?

        • by khallow (566160)

          And you think regulating radio interference could be done at a state level without massive consequences?

          I can't speak for the earlier poster, but standards could be set at the federal level and regulated at state level. So yes, I do think that could be done.

          I don't see a lot of issues from the current approach aside from regulation of rather pointless things like naughty words and the aforementioned regulatory capture.

          • by n1ywb (555767) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:27PM (#45282571) Homepage Journal

            Frequency coordination is already done at the state level to a certain degree. Vermont Public Radio, for example, hired a guy and bought expensive software to perform propagation prediction so they could buy up as many frequencies as possible for low power translaters beating out the other stations (of which there aren't very many this being Vermont).

            A close associate of mine is the amateur radio frequency coordinator for the state of Vermont. He's responsible for coordinating repeater frequencies in conjuction with his counterparts in other states (and Candada) as necessary.

            In general all licensed radio users are required to meet certain requirements WRT not interfering with other licensed users so while they fight over bandwidth there is also necessarily some cooperation, especially on the local level, b/c most frequencies above 30mhz do not typically propagate very far (except during solar cycle maximae, like we're in now; 10m is open!)

            None of this really has anything to do with the fact that an industry shill is sitting in "the big chair".

          • I can't speak for the earlier poster, but standards could be set at the federal level and regulated at state level. So yes, I do think that could be done.

            Because states *love* implementing federal standards, as the Obamacare rollout clearly shows.

            • by khallow (566160)

              Because states *love* implementing federal standards, as the Obamacare rollout clearly shows.

              And if that aspect of Obamacare hadn't been found unconstitutional, those states would be implementing that particular "standard" at considerable expense.

              But OTOH implementing standards for radio frequency use is a valid exercise of the Commerce clause and thus it doesn't matter if those states like it or not.

              • Because states *love* implementing federal standards, as the Obamacare rollout clearly shows.

                And if that aspect of Obamacare hadn't been found unconstitutional, those states would be implementing that particular "standard" at considerable expense. But OTOH implementing standards for radio frequency use is a valid exercise of the Commerce clause and thus it doesn't matter if those states like it or not.

                What "aspect" are you talking about? IIRC it's always been a carrot on the stick thing for implementing, otherwise the feds would do it for them. They didn't *have* to implement the standards, and therefore most of them refused, even though the states that did implement their own exchanges fared far better than those that didn't. Abortion is another example. According to SCOTUS it's protected by the constitution. How are those southern states doing in regard to protecting that constitutional right? Or

                • by khallow (566160)

                  What "aspect" are you talking about?

                  In the US Supreme Court case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius [wikipedia.org], it was determined that "was not a valid exercise of Congress's spending power, as it would coerce states to either accept the expansion or risk losing existing Medicaid funding" as Wikipedia put it.

                  The point here is that states will pick and choose what they want to implement if given the option.

                  And why do you think that is an issue with respect to regulation of radio spectrum? We don't get worked up over how states implement rules on jay walking or murder, for example.

          • Standards can be well set by NGOs as well. Take a look at ANSI or ISO - the key is having a well balanced membership of the participating members. When you've seen failures of ANSI/ISO standards, the failure of that balance is a likely source.
        • The FCC we have now isn't very good, so I'm open to exploring alternatives.
          • Yes, but EM radiation doesn't respect state borders. It doesn't matter how hard you wish for the theory to work, the practice demands a broader scope. It's part of why broadcasts were one of the first things [europa.eu] the EU started regulating when Europe started economically uniting.

            Being opposed to censorship because "public airwaves" is a weak concept is fine. Thinking you can just ditch the structure because your political philosophy says you can is, well, silly.

            • Thinking you can just ditch the structure because your political philosophy says you can is, well, silly.

              Just as silly as closing your mind to alternatives because......I don't know why you are closing your mind.

              I can think of a few potentially workable alternatives......another poster already replied to you with one that might work, and is worth thinking about. Not being open to alternatives is, well, silly.

              • What alternatives have you proposed. You just kinda said "smaller government" then pretended that was enough. It's a lame excuse for an argument.

      • by P-niiice (1703362)
        You'd have a better chance doing it centrally. Problem is, this central agency is already bought and paid for.
        • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:10PM (#45282311) Journal

          Problem is, this central agency is already bought and paid for.

          At risk of pointing out the obvious, that's a good part of why you don't have a chance of doing it centrally.

          You think it sounds easier centrally, because you think, "If I were in charge, we could........." but you are not in charge, and good luck getting a non-corrupt person in charge and keeping him there. Do you REALLY think you have a chance of getting a less-corrupt president than Obama in the next election?

          However, if your goal is to get a less-corrupt mayor......that is a lot more achievable for someone like you.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by P-niiice (1703362)
            Central agencies do stuff all over the planet, and do them well, unless you contention is that Americans are inherently less honest. If corruption is a problem, the risk of corruption doesn't change, but now you have companies having to do 50 times to work in order to comply. It makes no sense to do it otherwise.
            • And central agencies do stuff poorly all over the planet.

              The point is, things that can be done locally are better done locally. Not everything can be done locally. I don't know why you are having trouble understanding this.
              • by P-niiice (1703362)
                The point is, things that can be done locally are better done locally. But why is that necessarily true? What issue exists that can't be overcome by a good process? I understand the desire for local control and have no problem with it, I'm just trying to understand why it's believed that that's always best, when I can't think of a reason why except for "ideologically it's what I want".
                • Human nature.

                  Whether having to face the people they're selling out, face-to-face, assists in the development of the mythical "politician's conscience", or just the fact that they know that keeping the scale local rather than continental makes it much more likely that they'll get caught with their hands in the til, I don't know.

                  But it's easier to keep a clean house when it's a 2000 ft^2 than when it's a 30 story hi-rise.

      • by FreeUser (11483)

        This is why a lot of people say it's better to do government operations as close to the people as possible. That is, if it can be done at a city level, do it at a city level. If it can be done at a state level, do it at a state level. Only a few things should be done at the national level.

        The farther things get from the people, the easier it is for them to be corrupted (or rather, if some town gets corrupted, it doesn't affect people outside that town).

        That's great in theory, but in practice it often doesn'

        • Please re-read the last sentence
        • And let's not even talk about the 'tiny town where sheriff Cletus is the law, and only his cousins and the high school football team are above it' problem.

          Not much of a regulatory capture issue, since there just isn't much on the table; but small-scale governance offers some thrilling opportunities for misgovernance according to humanity's oldest tribal atavisms...
        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          That's great in theory, but in practice it often doesn't work that way. Local and state governments are often far more corrupt than the federal government. Illiinois has had several of its former governors go to jail...

          See?

          It does work much better at the state and local level then.

          When was the last time you saw a President go to jail or even fear it from cr@p they've pulled in office.

        • by Zordak (123132)

          and a supreme court acting as a wholly owned subsidiary of our corporate masters

          I'm really with you, except on this point. Federal judges, and especially Supreme Court justices, are notorious for being wild cards. In retrospect, some of the most notoriously liberal judges have been appointed by Republicans (think Brennan and Blackmun), and some (though fewer) of the most notoriously conservative have been appointed by Democrats (think Hugo Black). Once they're in office, they are essentially little dictators. They don't have to run for reelection. They can't be fired without being impe

      • by compro01 (777531)

        The farther things get from the people, the easier it is for them to be corrupted

        I draw this statement into question given that the corruption problem basically starts at the city level (franchise agreements, etc.) and metastasizes up from there.

        • If corruption is local, it's your own fault. At least, you have a lot more power to change things in a town of 300,000 than in a country of 300,000,000.
      • Unfortunately the isolation of consequences really doesn't work that way. The Butterfly Effect [wikipedia.org] is very much in play. If ignoring the neighbors didn't ruin the neighborhood I would very much be in favor of sitting back, laughing at and otherwise enjoying the plight of fools.
        • You don't have enough power to control your neighbors and make them good. That is true whether power is at the federal level or at the local level. Fortunately, the tea party doesn't have power to control you, either.
          • It may not be possible to create "droids" but it is certainly possible to influence behavior. A law that prohibits driving monster trucks through my yard will take care of a substantial portion of said traffic.
      • Ironically the cable networks work by buying off the municipal governments to ensure a monopoly. It regulating cable was done at a higher level it would be better for the common man.
      • Distributed systems have a downside just as powerful that works against them: Divide and Conquer.

        The real issue is separation of powerful influences. Too much narrow thinking prevents people from thinking outside government.

        Private political power is the #1 problem today. The founders did nothing to separate private powers, except they didn't have corporations (in name only, they were nothing like they are today - and certainly corporations were NOT people.)

        Your small components of government might be more

    • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:04PM (#45282225)
      "Regulatory capture", what a nice sounding name for Graft [wikipedia.org]: ", a form of political corruption, is the unscrupulous use of a politician's authority for personal gain."

      I guess that is what you have to call corruption and graft now it is so common/the norm amongst our ruling elites. Brings new meaning to the phrase "politically correct"...

      • Not entirely: "Regulatory capture" is the term for a process (often a complex, multi-channel one) where a regulated sector comes to exert control over the relevant regulatory body.

        'Graft', and its utility for rewarding... cooperative... officials is one technique; but a variety of other factors come into play: if most of the perceived expertise about an industry works in that industry, regulatory job openings tend to be filled by people who have expertise; but also have personal and past professional con
      • They are not quite the same thing. Generally, they are the same thing but I choose to thing of the newer term "regulatory capture" as distinct; a reflection of our modern times.

        Today's "graft" is far more systematic and organized, the players a many times more powerful. The fall into despotism combined with modern psychology allowing for more than was possible a century ago. So for me, I see "graft" vs "Regulatory Capture" as the difference between "gang crime" and "union of criminal enterprises."

        Graft can

    • It's the most sure-fire way to make sure that the outcomes of elections don't really matter.

    • by TopherC (412335)

      This claim (regulatory capture) would be possible to argue against if only internet access in the US were cheaper or as cheap as it is in other countries without subsidies. We know [slashdot.org] that's not true, therefore we have a market (and government) failure. Case closed.

    • by CODiNE (27417)

      Like when the FCC removed the requirement for cable companies to pass all OTA signals through their cables for free and started to let them scramble them?

    • This, this a thousand times this.

      when I hear about the FCC this makes me sad.
      when I hear about the SEC this makes me mad.


      Lobbyists and former industry executives have no business working for either agency, let alone using the Revolving Door [wikipedia.org] over and over again, swapping between jobs as a regulator and jobs as a lobbyist/executive in the companies they supposedly regulate.
  • by chromas (1085949) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:48PM (#45281961)

    Tom has been at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we've seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives

    Changes? Like putting speed bumps on the highway?

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:54PM (#45282045)
    You know a government is corrupt when they don't even bother to hide it anymore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      First I laughed. Then I cried when I realized this wasn't a joke but reality.

    • by s.petry (762400)

      Are you not glad that all of those crazy conspiracy theorists were just "crazy conspiracy theorists"? Sarcasm aside, while nothing is currently changing at least myself and others can say "Told ya so!" and watch more and more of the reality we were telling you about unfold.

      For everyone now learning how bad reality really is, it may be worth making your own shiny new hat! [zapatopi.net]

    • Regulatory capture is an old problem that continues to spread but has been around for decades - the direct proof of the corruption has been lacking due to the pathetic press which itself has been captured in a similar way so it can't serve it's regulatory role either.

      THEY DO HIDE IT, the direct obvious unavoidable proof is not allowed out in the open and they will wage a political war against anybody who LEAKS such evidence (despite informed and reasonable people knowing all of it beforehand they didn't hav

  • At least we won't have to worry about any more lobbyists in Washington under this administration.
  • by fredrated (639554) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:07PM (#45282283) Journal

    Next up, we put bank robbers in charge of bank security, because who has more experience with bank security than bank robbers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The biggest bank robbers are the C?O executives, and they are in charge of bank security.
      • Executives are there to execute business strategy. They should be present in business; their interference with government regulations is questionable, although hiring these people for their expertise is justifiable.

        Consider however in a business, you require some form of top-down authority. Now you have a Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and Chief Executive Officer (i.e. Executive of Executives, the guy who decides we need a CFO and CIO and CTO). Now your business deals in a lot of I

    • That's kind of the point. Who does know about the needs of the communications industry? These regulatory industries have to deal with making rules to facilitate business strategy--that means they have to protect the interests of both small and large businesses. They need to know not about just engineering concerns, but also executive-level management concerns.

      How do you do that?

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:08PM (#45282293)

    All these revelations and new about the fcc, nsa, tsa, etc etc all serve to hammer home the same point: rules are for suckers, rules are for idiots, rules are for everyone else.

    As you as you reach a certain level of power, you ascend into a special clique where the only rules that matter are those that pertain to that clique. So break and bend the laws of the land, yes fine, but heaven help you if you transgress the pre-existing power matrix, that you commit some unforgivable faux pas at the dinner party, because then fuck you.

    I know all this - I've known it for years: the world is a dirty place filled with filthy, corrupt, disgusting characters where morals and regulations and laws are put in place largely to maintain order, not justice. And yet stories like this still never fail to fill me with an indescribable loathing.

    • by lgw (121541)

      I really like the way you out that. It's not about "the rich" vs everyone else, because if you're not a part of a powerful clique, your wealth won't help you, and if you know the right people, went to the right schools, and can be useful, wealth will flow your way as a beneficiary of the corruption.

  • Same as the old boss.

    Really we should just move the capitol to someplace like Iowa and start fresh.

    • by korbulon (2792438)

      Have you been to Iowa? Sure don't smell fresh.

      • Sounds like a great place to camouflage our politicians. I mean really who is going to notice a bit more bullshit in a state where they coat most of the ground with it in the spring.
  • by Seumas (6865) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:21PM (#45282463)

    I'm sorry, but I don't believe this whatsoever. I distinctly remember our president campaigning on an end to the revolving door of industry lobbyists and executives to head political positions and vice versa.

    A little googling later . . . : https://www.opensecrets.org/obama/rev.php [opensecrets.org]

    Oh. Well, then. . .

  • As being able to mod-up your own comments on Slashdot. I said almost
  • We appoint the fox to guard the hen-house.

    Expect a wave of business-friendly rules coming out of the FCC as he writes in everything he's ever lobbied for.

    Maybe Bernie Madoff could be considered to chair the SEC next?

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:25PM (#45282539) Homepage

    Obama said that he would not allow lobbyists to server in government posts, but he put in a waiver procedure that permits it. Did this person go through that waiver procedure?
    FYI: Politifact information about the lobbyist promise [politifact.com]. There haven't been any updates there regarding this position.

  • Thud! (Score:5, Funny)

    by some old guy (674482) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:27PM (#45282563)

    The sound of the Last Obama Fan On Slashdot's forehead hitting the desk.

    • Re:Thud! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sideslash (1865434) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:42PM (#45283603)
      A lot of people will be mad at me for saying this, but President Obama has gotten a free pass for lots of bad stuff because of his race. If a white Republican congressperson started a movement to impeach him for (just to pick an easy example) waging war in Libya without congressional authorization, they would be called racist faster than you can say the words "colorblind society".
  • Another lobbyist? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Biosci777 (2785273) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:29PM (#45282599)
    This president promised he would boot the lobbyists; that they would not have access to his administration. The FCC appointment is only the latest evidence that that promise is broken. Conor McGrath wrote in the Journal of Public Affairs in September that Obama employs 119 (make that 120 now) former lobbyists.

    Wow. If I fall off the wagon and break my promise, I'm like any other human. But when I do it over and over again with no sign of regret or shame, that's different. That's a matter of character, and you would be right to be slow to trust me in other areas.

    • But when I do it over and over again with no sign of regret or shame, that's different. That's a matter of character, and you would be right to be slow to trust me in other areas.

      Silly, Obama can't run for reelection again. After cautiously, surreptitiously violating his campaign promises for the first four years, he can openly thumb his nose now. What are you going to do about it, boycott his presidential library?

  • by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:33PM (#45282671)

    Institute something modeled after the standard non-compete clause used by industry; except it would prevent any individual from holding a government position which directly regulates, affects or promotes the same sector or type of business they left the private sector for, to become a public servant.

    Conversely, once leaving public service, the individual would be enjoined from contacting officials on behalf of, promoting, lobbying or attempting to influence legislation for any business or industry, for a period of three years.

    A perfect clause would prevent someone from taking a job in any industry, after lobbying on its behalf, for a period of five years.

    Which would stop crap like this [newsmax.com].

    • by swb (14022)

      I think this is a great idea, but it sounds almost impossible to enforce.

      It would be pretty simple for a lobbying entity to hire a former public official in a consulting role without having them actually do any lobbying and instead only provide information sharing with people who do lobby. Even easier to do when the lobbying entity is a law firm and the public official is a lawyer, since there's non-lobbying work that they can do.

      And then there's the notion of just hiring them or placing them on a retainer

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:37PM (#45282719)

    Tom has been at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we've seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.

    Taking inspiration from Jon Stewart's commentary last night about the recent trend in cable news (namely CNN) anchor questions:
    I'll ask, "Is this a good thing or bad thing?"

    • I saw that segment and it was hugely depressing. This is what our country has come to. Is it a good thing... or a bad thing...?
      • I saw that segment and it was hugely depressing. This is what our country has come to. Is it a good thing... or a bad thing...?

        I'm going to say: bad thing ... [ CNN can quote me on that :-) ]

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:45PM (#45282837)

    After bailing out car companies and banks, paying off Wall Street, and making sure that people have to pay vastly inflated prices to health insurers under ACA, and after shoving many billions in the hands of energy companies (green and otherwise), I guess Obama is now turning his laser sharp crony-capitalist intellect towards screwing over the American people with another all time favorite: telecommunications.

    • by linuxguy (98493)

      > and making sure that people have to pay vastly inflated prices to health insurers under ACA

      Not true. At least for me here in Oregon, my insurance costs have gone down with the ACA. And that is without a dime of govt. assistance.

  • Remember, the chairman-before-last was Michael Powell who hit the revolving door going the other direction, so Wheeler arriving through the same door shouldn't come as a shock. It should still piss you off to the point of beating your ploughshare into a sword and sharpening your pitchfork.

  • Time to start working on the darknet in earnest.

  • We got hosed, Tommy. We got hosed.

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