Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman: Wireless Industry's Former Chief Lobbyist

[Posted May 28, 2013; updated October 30, 2013]

A wireless industry publication alleged that Mr. Wheeler suppressed and biased the research from the nation’s largest mobile phone health research project.

Tom Wheeler, head of the CTIA from 1992-2004, nominated by the White House to become the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has received Senate confirmation.

RCR Wireless News, an industry publication, alleged that Mr. Wheeler suppressed and biased the research from the nation’s largest mobile phone health research project while he served as head of the CTIA, the wireless telecommunications industry association. Wireless Technology Research was a six-year, $28 million research program funded by mobile phone carriers and manufacturers from 1993 to 1999.

The strategies allegedly used by the CTIA were similar to those employed by the Tobacco Industry for many decades to downplay the dangers of cigarette smoking. After six years of litigation by the Department of Justice, a Federal court finally found the Tobacco Industry guilty of fraud and racketeering in 2006.

How long will it take before the curtain is pulled back on the Wireless Industry’s longstanding strategy to co-opt the scientific community, and suppress and bias the research on the health effects of cell phone and wireless radiation? 

RCR Wireless News has been reporting about the wireless and mobile phone industry for industry executives since 1981. It is the official show daily for some of the industry's biggest trade shows including the CTIA. (1)

RCR Wireless News reported in December, 2000 (2):

“In ‘Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age,’ Dr. George Carlo-the epidemiologist who managed the six-year, $28 million research program for the cellular-phone industry-and veteran syndicated columnist Martin Schram document how Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, allegedly exerted his influence during the research program while loudly touting it as independent.”

“Carlo, hand-picked by Wheeler in 1993 … ran an organization known as Wireless Technology Research L.L.C. WTR managed cell phone-cancer research with money from mobile-phone carriers and manufacturers.”

“The book …is a blistering indictment of the cellular industry and government policy makers. The authors blame industry, federal regulators and Congress for failing the nation’s 107 million wireless subscribers by not following up on new studies showing DNA breaks, genetic damage, increased cancer and other health problems from mobile-phone radiation.”

“Schram and Carlo conclude that Wheeler’s intervention in matters of public relations, funding and personnel ultimately undermined the scientific foundation of the mobile phone-cancer research program itself.”

The book made the following allegations against Mr. Wheeler (2):

  • “In a Nov. 26, 1993, memo … Wheeler outlined a strategy on how the cellular industry and Food and Drug Administration would react in tandem to a then-upcoming CBS `Eye-to-Eye’ program on cell-phone health questions. In the memo, Wheeler pondered how to deal with then-FDA scientist Mays Swicord, who wanted the government to conduct industry-funded cancer studies. Wheeler, who suspected Swicord of leaking key documents to reporters, did not want FDA to do the work, according to the authors.” 
  • “In a 1994 memo, Wheeler raised objections to a draft of a mobile-phone manual that, among other things, advised consumers how to limit radio-frequency radiation from mobile phones. The book says Wheeler succeeded in getting the industry consumer safety document watered down.”
  • "In a September 1994 memo, Wheeler mapped out ‘a pre-emptive strike’ on Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) by highlighting to Markey the involvement of Harvard University. Wheeler, according to the book, even had a backup plan to curry favor with Markey that, if necessary, would ‘send all cash through Harvard.’ “
  •  “At a July 11, 1993, meeting at CTIA headquarters, the book says Wheeler and former presidential secretaries Jody Powell and Ron Nessen coached Carlo on how to speak to the press about cancer allegations, agonizing over Carlo’s every word.” t the 1993 meeting, when Nessen asked Carlo what cell-phone research had concluded to date, Carlo replied, ‘So far, so good.’ Pressed further by Powell, Carlo added, “We have reviewed about 400 papers, and there are no `red flags.’ And we are still reviewing more.” But Wheeler, Nessen and Powell, according to the book’s authors, thought Carlo sounded too wishy-washy. So Wheeler spoke up, ‘We need to say phones are safe. We need to reassure our customers.’ “ 
  • That tack won Wheeler a reprimand from FDA official Elizabeth Jacobson in July 1993 for publicly stating in advance that ‘we expect the new research to reach the same conclusion, that cellular phones are safe.’” (2)

RCR Wireless News reported in May, 1996 (3):

“CTIA’s Wheeler told RCR health and safety assessment monies are spent on information dissemination connected with the WTR research ‘because people like you and others ask for it’ and ‘we have a responsibility to get information out.’ Asked what that information is, Wheeler said it includes telling the public that wireless phones are safe.”

“’Our position is there is no scientific linkage,’ said Wheeler. ‘It is a well-known fact.’ “
“That stance, propagated by CTIA while research is still underway, has raised concerns in the federal government and the wireless telecommunications industry about the potential to undermine research.”

“Dr. Elizabeth Jacobson, deputy director for science at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, chastised Wheeler three years ago about comments at a press conference that she said “seemed to display an unwarranted confidence that these products will be found to be absolutely safe.”

“’Our job as a public health agency is to protect health and safety, not to `reassure consumers,’” added Jacobson. An FDA spokeswoman said the letter was accurate at that time, but declined to comment on CTIA public relations in connection with WTR research or on WTR’s funding problems.” (3)

RCR Wireless News reported in December, 2005 (4):

In a class action lawsuit filed against the cell phone industry for failing to disclose to consumers that scientific studies differ on whether mobile-phone radiation can cause health problems, the plaintiffs’ lawyers made the following allegation:

“Wheeler sent a memorandum in the early 1990s suggesting deletions of statements from a public manual on responsible cell-phone use then being drafted by a CTIA committee. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said the deletions acknowledged or implied cell phones could pose a health risk.”

“Do not operate your transportable cellular telephone when holding the antenna, or when any person is within 4 inches (10 centimeters of the antenna).’ Crossed out are the next statements: `Otherwise, you may impair call quality, may cause your phone to operate at a higher power level than is necessary, and may expose that person to RF energy in excess of the levels established by the updated ANSI (America National Standards Institute) standard. … If you want to limit RF exposure even further, you may choose to control the duration of your calls or maintain a distance from the antenna of more than 4 inches (10 centimeters).”‘ (4)

(1) Wikipedia. “RCR Wireless News.” URL:

(2) Jeffrey Silva. “Carlo book points finger at CTIA, Wheeler.”  RCRWireless. December 18, 2000. URL:

(3) Jeffrey Silva. “Research Fund May Fall Short of Goal.” RCRWireless, May 27, 1996. URL:

(4) Jeffrey Silva. “Amended health lawsuit bypasses cancer question.” RCRWireless.   December 19, 2005. URL: