The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission made headlines on Feb. 26 when his agency approved new rules changing the way the government regulates broadband Internet service providers (ISPs). The rules allow the FCC to make it unlawful for all Internet providers to block, slow or charge more to deliver certain types of web traffic. Wheeler was pressured to adopt this strategy late last year by the White House.
• CLAIMS TO FAME
After years as a chief lobbyist for the telecom industry and a top fundraiser for President Obama, Wheeler was appointed to head the FCC in November 2013. Two months later, a federal court of appeals chucked the agency’s four-year-old Net-neutrality rules on a legal technicality, putting the FCC at the center of a tumultuous public debate.
• CURRENT CHALLENGE
Wheeler argues that the new rules are necessary to ensure the Internet remains an even playing field. But broadband providers–such as Comcast and Verizon, among others–say the new rules stand in the way of the free market and will destroy innovation and slow investment in the digital infrastructure.
• BIGGEST CHAMPIONS
Most technology CEOs, including Chad Dickerson of Etsy. He gave a heartfelt and widely shared speech in February thanking Wheeler for his leadership in “protecting the free Internet.”
• BIGGEST CRITICS
Michael Powell, head of the telecom industry’s National Cable and Telecommunications Association, as well as most ISPs, which stand to lose millions in potential fees. They have suggested that they will sue the FCC on the grounds that the agency lacks the legal authority to implement the new rules.
• CAN HE DO IT?
The FCC has seen its previous Net-neutrality rules thrown out by federal courts–twice. This time around, Wheeler says the FCC’s language will stand up under scrutiny. But the litigation is expected to last for years.
–HALEY SWEETLAND EDWARDS
This appears in the March 16, 2015 issue of TIME.