FORTUNE -- Tom Wheeler's appointment as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission was about as friction-free as could be, despite the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz threatened to block the nomination over his supposed worries about rules governing disclosure of who pays for political ads. A meeting with Wheeler seems to have calmed Cruz's fears.
Otherwise, Wheeler faced little opposition: He's a former industry lobbyist, but he also has spoken out on issues enough to reveal that he's not in anybody's pocket, and is much more of a policy wonk than a player. He won endorsements from both industry and public-interest groups.
His effectiveness, though, might end up being determined less by how he runs the FCC than by circumstance. That's especially true when it comes to network neutrality rules, which bar Internet service providers from favoring or disfavoring particular flows of online traffic. For instance, Comcast (CMCSA) can't slow down video feeds from Netflix (NFLX), or speed up feeds from NBC, which it owns. Net neutrality advocates warn that if ISPs are given power to discriminate among sources of data, the Internet will cease to exist as we know it and will be just another medium largely controlled by a handful of giant companies.
What happens with net neutrality might end up being determined by a lawsuit filed by Verizon (VZ) against the FCC claiming that the rules violate speech rights. Wheeler has represented both the cable and the wireless industries as a lobbyist, and those are the industries that want more power to control the data that flows over their networks.
But that doesn't necessarily mean Wheeler won't fight hard to preserve the FCC's rules. He represented both of those industries long before either of them were providing Internet service. At his nomination hearing earlier this year, he extolled the benefits of light regulation of industry, but he also said he favors "protecting competition with appropriate oversight to see that it flourishes."
He'll have to employ that worldview on a whole bunch of different matters other than Net neutrality, including mergers and, perhaps what will perhaps be his most challenging and complex task: managing the upcoming spectrum auctions.
For all the scrutiny he's gotten, and for all the support he's won, he remains a bit of a cipher. It's hard to know just what he'll do.
There has been some concern about Tom Wheeler's lobbyist past and his role as a top Obama fundraiser. Is it warranted?
FORTUNE -- "Competition is a power unto itself that must be encouraged. Competitive markets produce better outcomes than regulated or uncompetitive markets."
That's a platitude that could easily have been uttered in the late 1990s, when financial markets were being deregulated. Or during the 1970s, when the airlines were being deregulated. MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Jun 19, 2013 3:37 PM ET
Whomever President Obama nominates to replace outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, there will be political fallout.
FORTUNE -- There are lots of different issues that the Federal Communications Commission can affect: from media ownership rules to broadband deployment to whether broadcasters must pay insanely large fines for "wardrobe malfunctions" and people swearing during live awards ceremonies. But as observers try to guess who might replace outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the issue MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Mar 29, 2013 6:52 AM ET
A curated selection of the day's most newsworthy tech stories from all over the Web.
Today, the FCC votes on Internet regulations that would mandate that companies treat all kind of Web content equally -- though as they are now, the rules would not apply to wireless data. Venture capitalist and former California State Controller Steve Westly explained why the net neutrality proposal announced by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is a must-have. (CNN MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 21, 2010 6:00 AM ET
A round-up of the companies, deals, and trends that made headlines.
Every day, the Fortune staff spends hours poring over tech stories, posts, and reviews from all over the Web to keep tabs on the companies that matter. We've assembled the day's most newsworthy bits below.HP (HPQ) selected ex-SAP executive Léo Apotheker to take the vacant CEO spot once held by Oracle's Mark Hurd. "Leo is a strategic thinker with a passion MORE JP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 1, 2010 6:45 AM ET
A round-up of the companies, deals, and trends that made headlines.
Every day, the Fortune staff spends hours poring over tech stories, posts, and reviews from all over the Web to keep tabs on the companies that matter. We've assembled the day's most newsworthy bits below.It's official: AOL (AOL) is acquiring TechCrunch, video distribution start-up 5Min media, and Brizzly web-app maker, Thing Labs. (Terms were not disclosed.) (All Things Digital) In a lengthy, MORE JP Mangalindan, Writer - Sep 29, 2010 6:30 AM ET
As Google moves into (and starts to depend on) ISPs' business, is it having an easier time seeing things from their point of view?
It's now clear that Google underestimated the public's desire for true net neutrality over both wireless and wired services -- something the company quickly discovered after issuing a joint policy recommendation with Verizon last week.
Google tried to explain its thinking with a couple of posts, but so far MORESeth Weintraub - Aug 15, 2010 10:18 PM ET
Just about everyone has an opinion on this, now Google fires back at the perceived "myths."
Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel for Google (GOOG), today posted a six-part Myth/Fact sheet which attempts to "separate fact from fiction."MYTH: Google has "sold out" on network neutrality. MYTH: This proposal represents a step backwards for the open Internet. MYTH: This proposal would eliminate network neutrality over wireless. MYTH: This proposal will allow broadband providers to MORE Seth Weintraub - Aug 13, 2010 11:11 AM ET
Google and Verizon may have struck a deal on how information flows (or doesn't) on the Net. But the repercussions were felt throughout the tech world.
When Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) held a conference earlier this week to discuss their neutrality proposal, it seemed that every company, government agency and journalist who had a toe in the digital world went to work figuring out what was in it for them: MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Aug 12, 2010 1:30 PM ET
Unrestricted access rules for wireless networks would hurt users more than help them. They just don't realize it.
Earlier this week, Google and Verizon brokered a compromise on the definition -- or at least, their definition -- of net neutrality, a set of rules that ideally, would ensure that no company could place data-access restrictions on Web content, sites, platforms, and associated equipment. The deal itself sparked controversy over whose interests MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Aug 11, 2010 10:46 AM ET
|American Airlines, US Airways to form largest air carrier Monday|
|Japan's economy looks weaker after GDP revision|
|Boost for trade as global deal struck|
|AMC gives rewards program members insider access to IPO|
|2 million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords stolen in massive hack|