How a onetime ally of Comcast and AT&T turned the tables on industry

Author: 

Once pilloried by consumer advocates and comedian John Oliver as a shill for big business, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler took many by surprise as he brought challenge after challenge to the dominance of the companies he once represented. “I have always been the insurgent versus the incumbent,” he said.

Welcoming the votes of his Republican colleagues when it was politically convenient, forging ahead unilaterally when it wasn't, Chairman Wheeler sought to turn a staid federal office better known for policing celebrity wardrobe malfunctions and distributing airwave licenses into a consumer protection agency that would shape U.S. companies and technologies of the future. But now a dark cloud looms over Wheeler's legacy as Republicans — led by President-elect Donald Trump — prepare to undo some of the most significant regulations approved under his watch. No policy inspires as much fury among technologically minded Republicans as net neutrality, a signature FCC initiative that turned Internet service into a kind of 21st-century utility. Subjecting Internet providers to the same obligations that traditional phone companies must meet, Wheeler's decision to ram the policy through over conservative objections led to intense outrage from his political opponents. A federal court upheld the rules in the face of an industry lawsuit, appearing to settle the matter once and for all.


How a onetime ally of Comcast and AT&T turned the tables on industry