Senate confirms new U.S. top telecom regulator

Senate confirms new U.S. top telecom regulator

WASHINGTON - The US Senate on Tuesday approved Tom Wheeler to be the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), enabling the agency to start operating under a permanent leader after a holding period of several months.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said earlier on Tuesday he had lifted his block on the nomination after meeting with Wheeler and receiving affirmation that the FCC would not pursue new disclosure rules for sponsors of political ads.

Some Democrats have suggested that the FCC's existing oversight authority over broadcasters could be used to force TV advertisers to name specific sponsors for each political spot they buy after legislating such rules failed in Congress.

Cruz and other Republicans have urged the FCC to avoid the political matter.

Wheeler was confirmed on a combined vote along with Republican Michael O'Rielly, who had been nominated to fill the fifth and final open FCC commissioner position.

"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 a statement late Tuesday.

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

The telecommunications industry welcomed Wheeler's confirmation, which pulled the FCC from a holding pattern without a permanent leader on several crucial initiatives, including a forthcoming major reshuffling of ownership of airwaves.

"Both individuals bring an abundance of experience and deep knowledge of media, technology and telecommunications that will serve them well as the Commission considers important policy issues," National Cable and Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell, himself a former FCC chairman, said in a statement.

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