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Blog Posts by Tom Wheeler

The IP Transition: Starting Now

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
November 19, 2013 - 12:05 PM

Our communications networks are changing – and fast. What some call the “IP transition” is really a series of transitions; a multi-faceted revolution that advances as the packets of Internet Protocol (IP)-based communication replace the digital stream of bits and analog frequency waves. The impacts on networks have already begun and will be profound. Fiber networks are expanding. Bonding technology is showing interesting possibilities with regard to the nation’s traditional copper infrastructure. Communications protocols are moving from circuit-switched Time-division Multiplexing (or TDM) to IP. And wireless voice and data services are increasingly prevalent, empowering consumers to connect at the place and time of their choosing.

This is what I have called the Fourth Network Revolution, and it is a good thing. History has shown that new networks catalyze innovation, investment, ideas, and ingenuity. Their spillover effects can transform society – think of the creation of industrial organizations and the standardized time zones that followed in the wake of the railroad and telegraph.

But the future of networks can be hard to see, especially in moments of great change. When Alexander Graham Bell offered Western Union all rights to his telephone patents in 1876, the response was a curt dismissal. A Western Union memorandum concluded that “[t]his ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”

The way forward is to encourage technological change while preserving the attributes of network services that customers have come to expect – that set of values we have begun to call the Network Compact.

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Opening Day at the FCC: Perspectives, Challenges, and Opportunities

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
November 5, 2013 - 02:34 PM

Today I had the privilege of meeting with the staff of the Federal Communications Commission for the first time as Chairman. I am grateful to the President and the Senate for the confidence they have placed in me and look forward to working with the superb professionals at the FCC.

Over the last six months Chairwoman Clyburn has kept this agency running in top form. There was nothing “Interim” in her chairmanship. Chairwoman Clyburn and her colleagues addressed tough issues and came to important conclusions. Mignon Clyburn is a leader and the American people and this agency are better off because of her leadership.  

I know from conversations with the Chairwoman that she brushes off such compliments and talks about the great team at the FCC, especially Michele Ellison who took time from her important “day job” to serve as Chief of Staff. Michele and all of the members of Chairwoman Clyburn’s staff also deserve a huge thank you.

As I waited for the Senate’s decision I boned up by reading the speeches of Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai. And while awaiting confirmation Commissioner O’Rielly and I actually spent time together in the same jury pool at the DC courthouse. It will be an honor to work with these dedicated individuals and to be stimulated by their intellect. Former Chairman Genachowski put us all on a course to a better broadband future and I am very cognizant that we are all building on his accomplishments.

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Launching the TAC Blog Series

November 12, 2010 - 01:57 PM

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:157:height=100,width=75]]Last Thursday afternoon I had the honor of chairing the first meeting of the FCC’s new Technical Advisory Council, or TAC. The TAC exists under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which follows a proud tradition of providing the Federal Government with outside consultation, dating back to the George Washington Administration and the first President’s Committee on the Whisky Rebellion. Thankfully our Council’s challenge does not involve such physically dangerous circumstances! This is the 5th TAC that the FCC has convened and in this iteration, our Council has been charged with another specific, critical task: To help the Commission identify important areas of innovation and develop communications and technology policies that will drive job creation and economic growth.

Our TAC has been convened at a dynamic time at the FCC and for the communications and technology industries. When the first TAC was suggested in the 1990’s, the FCC was an agency overseeing multiple analog networks. The digital world has changed that. IP has pushed activity to the edge and innovation has followed. The Census Bureau estimates that most of the net employment gains from 1980-2005 came from firms younger than 5 years old—and those firms looked more like the distributed networks that connected them than they did the centralized networks of old.

Amidst this change, the challenge for the TAC in its advisory role is to answer several questions.

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