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 they cite the most is net neutrality -- the rules that prohibit Internet service providers from favoring some traffic over other traffic, thereby giving themselves or their partners a competitive advantage.
Or anyway, that was the main concern until Wednesday, when it was revealed that 37 Democratic senators had written President Obama a letter asking that he nominate current FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to the top post. The request has complicated matters even further for Obama. Rosenworcel would be the first woman to head the FCC. But so would Mignon Clyburn, another female commissioner. She not only has more seniority than Rosenworcel does, she happens to be the daughter of Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.
"Obama will have to make somebody unhappy," declares Bryan Fung of the National Journal. "Either he'll have to snub someone related to a key figure in the House, or he'll have to upset a handful of allies in the Senate."
Or he can decide to make everybody unhappy, except perhaps himself and maybe some of his check-writing business pals, by going with Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who donated the maximum allowed $5,000 to Obama's 2012 reelection campaign and bundled at least another $500,000 from other donors. In 2008, he bundled a sum less than that, but more than $200,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Wheeler was president of the National Cable Television Association in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and he was a lobbyist with the Cellular Telecom and Internet Association from 1998 to 2003. At least until the Democratic Senator's letter came to light, Wheeler was being described as the likeliest choice.
Whomever Obama chooses is likely to be someone who will guard the FCC's current rules on net neutrality, which were enacted over the objections of the panel's Republican members in 2010. Nevertheless, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who is running for a senate seat in that state, made a point on Thursday of demanding that any nominee have an "understanding of net neutrality, an understanding of the non-discriminatory principles that are baked into the Internet from its origin."
Among the other names that have been mentioned as possible nominees are Karen Kornbluh, the ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; and Larry Strickling, who currently heads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an advisory agency housed in the Commerce Department.
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
Tune in at 1:30 Eastern time to hear what Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg have to say about Net Neutrality.
The dynamic duo last spoke of their combined thoughts on broadband in March. In October 2009 Google and Verizon posted their common principals. Below is their joint filing to the FCC earlier this year. Google and Verizon will update their public policy blogs: Google and Verizon. Updated below.
2:10 Call closes.
2:05 Siedenberg MORESeth Weintraub - Aug 9, 2010 1:17 PM ET
Consumer advocates try to reach Google and dissuade them from redefining Net Neutrality
Update: Political action group MoveOn.org has sponsored a similar initiative as well as Bold Progressives.
Based solely on the words of Eric Schmidt last night and not the reports by the New York Times, consumers have reason to worry about Google's new stance. I've outlined the slippery slope that prioritizing packets could cause here.
A consumer group called Save the Internet is MORESeth Weintraub - Aug 5, 2010 4:09 PM ET
|Apple set for showdown on Capitol Hill over corporate taxes|
|Make $30 an hour, no bachelor's degree required|
|Stocks: Focus on Apple, Carnival and JPMorgan|
|Best Buy's sales spook investors|
|Carnival flounders after profit warning|