New FCC chief promises Internet focus

Tom Wheeler, who was confirmed Tuesday as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, promised to focus on promoting the Internet. 

"What excites me about this new responsibility is how we are at a hinge moment of history; the Internet is the greatest communications revolution in the last 150 years," Wheeler said in his first public statement following the Senate vote.

"We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users’ rights are respected.”

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Expanding broadband Internet access was the leading goal for Julius Genachowski, who stepped down as FCC chairman in May. He repurposed a federal fund to subsidize the expansion of broadband in rural areas and pushed to provide more airwaves for cellphone carriers.    

But one of Genachowski's signature achievements in Internet policy is currently in jeopardy—a federal appeals court is weighing Verizon's lawsuit to overturn the agency's net neutrality rules, which require Internet providers to treat all websites equally. If the rules are struck down, it will be up to Wheeler to decide whether to try to reinstate them. 

In his statement, Wheeler said he expects to be sworn into office in the coming days.

He will takeover from acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, who will continue to serve as one of the five FCC commissioners.

"Tom brings a tremendous depth of experience, talent, and knowledge that will serve him well as the leader of this critically important agency," Clyburn said in a statement. "I have no doubt that he will be an outstanding FCC Chairman."

The Senate on Tuesday also confirmed Michael O'Rielly, an aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), to one of the two FCC seats reserved for Republicans.