Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War

Category: Americas
Author: Tom Wheeler
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by tzs   2019-01-24
You should look deeper. Wheeler has had an interesting career.

At one time he was head of the main cable industry trade group, back when cable was trying to be David to the TV network's over-the-air Goliath. This was when cable was just about video, because cable internet had not yet been invented.

Later, he was head of the main cellular and wireless trade group, when they were the newcomers for both voice and data, against the big wired telecommunications companies.

These past positions had a lot of people worried when he was appointed FCC chairman, over concern that he would favor industry. What most observers failed to notice was both of those positions were at times when their respective industries were the upstarts, going against established monopolies or near monopolies, trying to bring competition and wider services to consumers. In other words, he represented those industries at a time when being pro-cable or pro-wireless, respectively, was being pro-consumer.

When he was at the FCC, several decades after his association with the cable industry, and about a decade after his association with the wireless industry, when the interests of those industries and consumers had diverged, he tended to go with the consumer side. The cable and wireless companies were definitely not fans of Wheeler's FCC actions, fighting in court against almost everything he did.

In the 20 or so years between the job representing the cable industry and the job representing the wireless industry, he was a founder or major executive in several companies, including at least one that failed due to lack of net neutrality. Some of these companies have been telecommunications related, but some had nothing to do with that (e.g., one is in aerospace components, and one or more have been in banking).

He's also a former director of PBS and was chairman and president of the National Archives Foundation. He's combined his interest in American history and telecommunication in a well reviewed book about the Civil War called "Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War" [1].

Dismissing him as merely a "political operator" seems rather shallow.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061129801/