President Obama’s choice to be FCC chairman deftly steered clear of controversies in the first part of his confirmation hearing today at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation — which will be continued after a recess. Tom Wheeler says he’ll push ahead with the FCC’s effort to entice broadcasters to give up airwave spectrum so it can be auctioned to wireless broadband providers, although he called it a “monumental undertaking” that’s as complex as a Rubik’s Cube. He avoided taking a position on whether the FCC should regulate retransmission consent negotiations. Many lawmakers are frustrated by instances where an impasse in talks between broadcasters and pay TV providers left constituents unable to watch popular programs. “I look forward to looking into that issue and getting my arms around it” in light of recent and forthcoming court decisions, Wheeler said. “This is a situation that’s in flux.” Wheeler also said that he would look at facts, the law, and legal precedents when considering whether to approve mergers. Many Republicans have criticized the FCC for applying conditions to deals, which some consider to be a sly way of creating regulations without a public hearing. Wheeler, an investor who had lobbied for the cable and wireless phone industries, called himself “an unabashed supporter of competition.” He added that he also believes that the government should help to improve public access to broadband networks, promote universal service, and enhance public services. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who chairs the committee, said that he’s “certain” that Wheeler will be confirmed.
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