Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler announced in a press release that he will be resigning on January 20 2017, Inauguration Day. Wheeler has served as chairman for three years.
“Serving as F.C.C. Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honor of my professional life,” he said, closing with, “It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”
Wheeler’s term was set to last through 2018, but in stepping down ahead of the new administration he is adhering to custom. The FCC is comprised of five members, in a 3-2 ideological split with the majority belonging to the party of the president. But since the Senate didn’t reconfirm another Democratic member earlier this month, there will be a 2-1 Republican majority at the beginning of the Trump administration.
During his tenure, Wheeler came out as a proponent of net neutrality, the idea that internet service providers should not provide varying levels of service (especially speed) to different websites. When the FCC passed the vote to regulate broadband and mobile companies like public utilities, effectively a move to preserve net neutrality, Wheeler called it “the proudest day of my public policy life.”
With Wheeler’s resignation, the Republican FCC majority Trump will be inheriting when he takes office, and FCC transition team heads who are opposed to net neutrality, it’s not looking good for the free and open internet.