Outgoing FCC Chair Tom Wheeler Heeded Democracy’s Call

Photo from #OaklandVoices: A Townhall On Our Right To Communicate featuring FCC Chair Tom Wheeler on January 9th, 2014.

Today, Federal Communications Commision (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced he is stepping down, effective January 20, 2017.

The following can be attributed to Malkia Cyril, Executive Director at the Center for Media Justice:

“The Center for Media Justice and the members of the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) honor the leadership of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Early on in his tenure, Chairman Wheeler signalled his intent to be a different type of leader at the Commission - agreeing to attend a town hall we organized with residents in Oakland, California.

At this event, and at many future events, Wheeler listened to the stories of low-income families whose children could not complete homework because they could not afford an Internet connection in their home. He heard testimony from Black families torn apart by the incarceration of a loved one, who could not afford the cost of a telephone call. He heard from the LGBTQ community about how the open Internet provided them with a safe space to seek communities of support online. Many of the concerns and struggles Chairman Wheeler heard from our members and allies served as the foundation for FCC action in the coming years.

During his tenure, despite industry roots, Wheeler proved to be a leader who heeded democracy’s call. Under his leadership, the FCC passed strong Net Neutrality rules after a public input process that heard from over 4 million Americans supporting an Open Internet. He worked in partnership with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to expand reforms that lowered the cost of prison phone calls. Under his leadership, the FCC modernized the Lifeline program to give low-income families an affordable Internet choice, protected broadband privacy, and blocked the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger that threatened consumer interests. Wheeler was a Chairman willing to act in defense of the public interest, and in defiance of industry pressure and partisan politics.

As an organization working with groups based in low-income communities and communities of color, the Center for Media Justice will remember Chairman Wheeler as a man who celebrated the leadership of women like Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel. While we did not always agree on every issue, and always believe more can be done to close the digital divide and protect the most vulnerable communities, no one can dispute that Chairman Wheeler is leaving a remarkable legacy.”