After nearly four years leading the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Julius Genachowski said today he will leave his post in the coming weeks. That has further fueled recent speculation over wh
o will replace him.
Leading candidates listed in published reports include Karen Kornbluh, President Obama’s ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Lawrence Strickling, an assistant secretary for Commerce and head of the White House’s tech and advisory policy; and Tom Wheeler, a technology and telecom venture capitalist and Obama fundraiser.
Genachowski, who assumed the FCC post in June 2009 and fills one of the three Democratic seats on the current commission, praised the FCC’s staff and highlighted the work of the commission, including efforts to increase access to broadband.
“Over the past four years, we’ve focused the FCC on broadband, wired and wireless, working to drive economic growth and improve the lives of all Americans,” Genachowski said. The FCC has “taken big steps to build a future where broadband is ubiquitous and bandwidth is abundant, where innovation and investment are flourishing.
“To connect all Americans to broadband, we adopted a landmark overhaul of multi-billion dollar universal service programs, modernizing them from telephone to broadband and creating the Connect America Fund and the Mobility Fund, an unprecedented commitment to broadband infrastructure,” he says.
Genachowski also mentioned policies to increase mobile devices. “To unleash the enormous opportunities of mobile, we pioneered incentive auctions and other cutting-edge spectrum policies,” he said.
FCC commissioners have issued statements on Genachowski’s planned departure. Commissioner Robert McDowell — who himself just announced his planned departure — said Genachowski “brokered the first comprehensive federal entitlement reform in a generation with our 2011 landmark modernization of the FCC’s universal service subsidy program.”
The reform was “badly needed,” but eluded several previous FCC administrations, those led by both Republicans and Democrats, but Genachowski “succeeded,” McDowell said. The overhaul’s “end result included market-based incentives that are already saving American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars while bringing broadband to unserved areas,” he added.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said Genachowski “relentlessly highlighted the need for additional spectrum to fuel the growing demand for wireless services. As a result, on his watch the agency just started a proceeding to put in place incentive auctions designed to facilitate the voluntary return of airwaves that will be repurposed for new mobile broadband use.”
Commissioner Ajit Pai said, “Whether the issues we have faced are challenging or mundane, Chairman Genachowski consistently has made a genuine effort to find common ground.” He “deserves great credit for highlighting the need to make additional spectrum available for mobile broadband.”