FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to step down in January 2017

The Federal Communications Commission has been led by Chairman Tom Wheeler for the past three years, but Wheeler intends to end his run at the FCC on January 20, 2017. Wheeler announced the news via press release on Thursday, and offered the following official statement about his decision:

Serving as F.C.C. Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honor of my professional life. I am deeply grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity. I am especially thankful to the talented Commission staff for their service and sacrifice during my tenure. Their achievements have contributed to a thriving communications sector, where robust investment and world-leading innovation continue to drive our economy and meaningful improvements in the lives of the American people. It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.

Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, was nominated by President Obama to head the FCC in 2013. His appointment initially drew the ire of consumer advocate groups, because of his background. Wheeler’s record in his position has shown that initial fears were misplaced, however, as he oversaw an FCC that enacted rules to protect net neutrality and withstood a challenge in a federal appeals court.

The writing was essentially on the wall for Wheeler, however, facing the prospect of a Donald Trump administration. As Recode pointed out, the Senate recently failed to reconfirm one of the FCC’s other leaders, Jessica Roseworcel, who has been a staunch advocate for net neutrality, a policy which Trump has opposed in public.