Share This Page

FCC chairman to step down; his legacy is debated

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

NEW YORK — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, on Friday announced that he's stepping down in the “coming weeks,” after a four-year tenure that's garnered mixed reviews for him and tangible progress in the industries he oversees.

The country's top telecommunications regulator told a staff meeting of his decision Friday morning. His impending departure was reported Thursday by several news outlets.

Genachowski, 50, was appointed in 2009 and has hewed a middle line between the desires of public-interest groups and the telecom industry, which hasn't enamored him to either side.

His tenure has seen continued adoption of broadband and ever higher Internet connection speeds, especially on the wireless side, but consumer groups saw the approval of Comcast's acquisition of NBC as a mistake, while AT&T Inc. suffered a severe blow when its acquisition of T-Mobile USA was blocked.

“For those of us who represent the public, Chairman Genachowski's term can best be described as one of missed opportunities,” said public-interest group Public Knowledge. Genachowski should have done more to assert the FCC's authority over broadband, which is lightly regulated compared to the telephone, and to prevent consolidation in the industry, it said.

In an interview, Genachowski defended the FCC's 2010 order that prohibits wired Internet service providers from blocking access to websites and services.

“We put in place the first rules to protect Internet freedom and openness, and the rules are working. We're seeing increased innovation and investment in Internet applications and services and also in Internet networks and infrastructure,” Genachowski said. “I believe we've established an open Internet as a business and social norm in the U.S.”

President Obama worked with Genachowski at the Harvard Law Review.

, said he brought to the FCC a “clear focus on spurring innovation, helping our businesses compete in a global economy and helping our country attract the industries and jobs of tomorrow.”

Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, commended Genachowski's FCC for its National Broadband Plan — the first comprehensive federal plan to stimulate the availability and adoption of high-speed Internet access — and for its efforts to put more radio spectrum to use wireless broadband.

“America's broadband economy is thriving, with record-setting private investment, unparalleled innovation in networks, device and apps, and renewed U.S. leadership around the world,” Genachowski said Friday as he thanked the FCC's staff.

Genachowski's departure will follow that of Republican Robert McDowell, which leaves the five-member commission with a 2-1 Democratic majority until Obama appoints a new chairman and commissioner.

Stifel Nicolaus analysts Christopher King and David Kaut said they believe the front-running candidate for next chairman is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former president of two major trade groups, for the cable and wireless industries.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.