Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why the Senate Should Reject Tom Wheeler

From:  Counter Punch

Another Industry Crony at the FCC?

President Obama’s nomination of Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the height of cynical cronyism and industry-pandering. He should not be confirmed.   Obama, in fact, could not have found a worse nominee than Tom Wheeler to head this most significant regulatory agency – one with long tentacles into all our lives whether we know it or not. Wheeler is the last person who should have his hands on the levers of the FCC, though he’s been aching to do just that for decades.
Wheeler has far too many conflicts of interest and industry biases to head the FCC. The FCC, regulates the nation’s airwaves and all communications plus its accompanying infrastructure, including all broadcasters, cable companies, telephone-service providers both wired and wireless, satellite communications and the Internet. FCC is at a crucial juncture regarding decisions on new airwave auctions, further media consolidation, net neutrality, and most importantly the updating of the nation’s obsolete exposure standards for radiofrequency radiation. The stakes are high. These decisions will affect all U.S. citizens for decades to come in ways great and small.
Below are 12 good reasons why the U.S. Senate* should reject Tom Wheeler:
1. Wheeler’s financial conflicts.  As the managing director of Core Capital Partners LP in Washington, D.C., Tom Wheeler helps manage a $350 million venture capital firm that invests primarily in the high-growth technology sector – all with potential business involving the FCC. Founded in 1999, Core Capital has invested in over 45 companies and partnered with over 100 others with a focus on wireless information technology, communications, infrastructure, security, cloud-based software, digital media and technology-enabled service areas. Examples of Core Capital’s investments include PureWave Networks, which develops outdoor base stations for the 4G wireless networks; Twisted Pair Solutions, which makes mobile communications software interfaces, BridgeWave Communications, an outdoor gigabit wireless infrastructure/interface company, among many others. (See:  for portfolio information.)  Nearly all of Core Capital’s clients rely on friendly FCC regulation, lax radiofrequency radiation exposure standards, or more importantly no regulation at all. In 2008,FierceWireless included Tom Wheeler in their top ten all-time list of people who helped shape the wireless industry. Wheeler is on a mission and it goes way beyond regulating the quality of our connectivity.
2.  Wheeler’s professional conflicts/bullying. Wheeler headed two major industry trade groups: the National Cable Television Association from 1979 to 1984, which includes the largest US cable companies — Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter Communications; and the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association,  now called CTIA – the Wireless Association, which includes the four biggest wireless companies — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA.  CTIA, founded in 1984, includes not only wireless carriers, but their suppliers, service providers, and manufacturers of wireless data services and products. CTIA advocates at all levels of government and claims to coordinate the industry’s voluntary best practices and initiatives. Their behaviors indicate otherwise, however, and Tom Wheeler set their tone years ago. In 2010, CTIA sued the city of San Francisco over that city’s first-in-the-nation law that point-of-sale information regarding a cell phone’s radiofrequency radiation level, and its specific absorption rate (SAR) be made available prior to sale. It also required a handout be made available saying that the World Health Organization determined radiofrequency radiation to be a 2B possible carcinogen. It was a simple right-to-know law containing the same radiation exposure information buried in company literature deep within the box, available only after purchase. (Increasingly that information is now available only online.) CTIA sued on First Amendment grounds. Apparently making them tell the truth goes against their right to obscure. The 9th Circuit Federal Court agreed with CTIA and on May 7, 2013, the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors revoked the law because they did not want to open taxpayers to a potential $500,000 penalty in attorney’s fees for CTIA. They were also humiliated into accepting a permanent injunction against the right-to-know ordinance just to make sure they didn’t come back with anything similar in the future. Despite scores of letters and petitions from across the country encouraging San Francisco to stay the course, CTIA’s bullying worked. And for good measure, CTIA not only sued but also moved CTIA’s annual conference, traditionally held in San Francisco, to Texas, thereby taking significant revenues out of the California economy. These are all punitive tactics, honed under Wheeler while at CTIA and continued by his predecessors.  Other states are considering similar legislation. On May 2, 2013, Rep Andrea Boland (D) Maine reintroduced The Children’s Wireless Protection Act. It would require that retailers provide a flyer stating the same information about the World Health Organization’s classification, require that manufacturers’ manuals provide language to avoid direct cell phone contact with the head and body, as well as information on how to reduce excessive exposure, if one chooses, such as limiting use by children, keeping a phone away from reproductive organs, and operating it with a wired headset. The bill would also require retailers to label cell phones at point of purchase with stickers stating the following: “This device emits radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Avoid direct contact.”  (Full text: : Rep. Boland says it’s time to give Maine constituents fair warning of the serious, potentially lethal ramifications of cell phone use, now associated with gliomas – the deadliest form of brain cancer, among other problems. But the ruling in San Francisco has had a chilling effect, just as intended by CTIA. Boland’s bill was tabled until further notice on May 8th . Pennsylvania, Oregon, New York and others are also considering such legislation.  Hopefully these other states will have more pluck than San Francisco. CTIA’s aggressive behaviors are well documented and were considerably ramped up under Tom Wheeler’s long tenure. He will institute those behaviors in favor of industry if affirmed at the FCC. Expect an FCC ruling that makes point-of-sale information illegal at the state level, a lot more litigation, and bullying.  MORE

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