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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to make way for Trump appointee

With a Republican moving into the White House in January, a driving force behind net neutrality gets ready to move on.

Tom Wheeler's days at the helm of the FCC are numbered.

Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Federal Communications Committe Chairman Tom Wheeler will be stepping down from his post on January 20, the day of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

Appointed more than three years ago by President Obama, Wheeler oversaw the passage of net neutrality regulations centered on the idea that all traffic online should be treated equally. For instance, internet service providers shouldn't be allowed to create "fast lanes" that force content providers -- Netflix, for instance -- to pay extra to deliver their content to consumers at the fastest possible rates.

That seems almost certain to come under attack from an incoming Republican-appointed chairman and Republican-led Congress that's long been hostile to such rules.

In commentary published on CNET in October, ahead of the election, Wheeler acknowledged the challenges of the modern age but expressed optimism for where the country is headed. "Thanks to advances in communications technology, there's never been a better -- or more complex -- time to be a US consumer," Wheeler wrote. "Faced with many challenges, Americans should know that the FCC works every day to protect consumers."

In announcing his resignation Thursday, Wheeler said that during his tenure, the FCC "contributed to a thriving communications sector, where robust investment and world-leading innovation continue to drive our economy and meaningful improvements in the lives of the American people."