New FCC chair shakes things up with first appointment

A number of folks here in Washington were surprised by just how supportive Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn was of Tom Wheeler’s nomination to head the Federal Communications Commission. Wheeler is a former head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., and what’s now known as CTIA – The Wireless Assn., to telecommunications interest groups that Sohn often clashed with as head of one of the leading industry watchdogs, but Sohn had nothing but nice things to say about Wheeler’s appointment.

Today, Wheeler returned the favor by naming Sohn as special counsel for external affairs for the agency, a new and presumably bespoke position created just for her.

Like, wow.

The appointment of Sohn should soothe, at least for now, the concerns of those in telecom policy circles who were worried about having a former telecom lobbyist at the head of the agency in charge of policing the industry. But among those unlikely to be thrilled with the idea that Sohn has the ear of the new chairman are the MPAA, RIAA, and other media industry groups who take a very dim view of Public Knowledge’s pro-consumer views on copyright.

It’s a very loud message of some sort from Wheeler to the media and telecom bar on K Street, and their water-carriers on Capitol Hill, but what exactly that message says is not yet clear.

I can’t wait to learn what it is exactly that a special counsel for external affairs for the FCC actually does.

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Paul Sweeting

Principal Concurrent Media Strategies

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