By Brendan Sasso - 05/17/13 04:21 PM EDT
As FCC chairman, Wheeler would face a host of decisions affecting media and technology industries, including implementation of the agency's plan to encourage TV stations to give up their airwave licenses for auction to cellphone carriers. He may also have to decide whether to attempt to reinstate the agency's net neutrality rules if a federal court sides with Verizon and strikes them down.
Wheeler would succeed Julius Genachowski, who will step down as FCC chairman on Friday. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will act as interim chairman while Wheeler's nomination is pending.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has yet to schedule a hearing on the pick.
Wheeler served as the president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying organization for the cable industry, from 1979 to 1984. Later, he led CTIA, the lobbying arm for cellphone carriers.
He was a major donor and fundraiser for both of Obama's presidential campaigns and led the working group in charge of science, technology and the arts for Obama's presidential transition team.
While some consumer advocates and liberals have praised the pick, saying they expect Wheeler to be a forceful defender of consumers, others have expressed concern about his deep ties to the industries he would be in charge of regulating.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement earlier this month that he was "troubled" by Wheeler's lobbying past.
“The head of the FCC should be looking out first and foremost for the public interest and may have to stand up to some of our nation's biggest media and telecom companies," Sanders said.
In announcing the nomination, Obama praised Wheeler's extensive experience in the technology industry and said he would help grow the economy and protect consumers.
"Tom knows this stuff inside and out," Obama said.