FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been rumored to be leaving the Commission for some time, and this morning he made it official: he will be stepping down from his post "in the coming weeks." Genachowki's announced departure from the FCC comes just days after Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowellannounced his own exit.
Genachowski made his announcement in remarks to FCC staff this morning. During his remarks, he said, "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. And thanks to you, the Commission’s employees, we’ve 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."
"To unleash the enormous opportunities of mobile, we pioneered incentive auctions and other cutting-edge spectrum policies. To fuel America’s innovation economy, we put in place the first rules to preserve Internet freedom and openness. To drive competition and empower consumers, we opposed and modified transactions where necessary, deployed technology to drive transparency, and took unprecedented enforcement actions. We helped harness the power of digital technologies to give students a better chance, people better health care, and make Americans safer in their homes and communities, while also guarding against digital threats and strengthening cybersecurity."
"Today, America’s broadband economy is thriving, with record-setting private investment; unparalleled innovation in networks, devices and apps; and renewed U.S. leadership around the world. While there are challenges ahead in this fast-moving, globally competitive sector, a revitalized FCC is prepared to continue taking them on. I’m deeply grateful to President Obama for his vision, friendship, and the opportunity to serve our country. I’m proud of what we’ve done together to harness technology to advance the American dream for the 21st century. I know you’ll continue to fight hard to fulfill this agency’s vital mission, and I look forward to continuing to work together until my last day at the agency, and to count you as family and as an inspiration for long after that."
Politico notes that nominations to agencies such as the FCC are often paired with a nominee from each party, making a Senate confirmation easier. President Obama could either promote one of the other Democrats already on the FCC (Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel) or nominate a new Chairman. Ajit Pai remains the only Republican among the FCC Commissioners.
Genachowski was named Chairman of the FCC in 2009, and oversaw approval of the massive Comcast-NBC Universal deal, as well as a number of major mobile carrier deals. However, he fought the potential merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. He also pushed for expansion of wireless broadband across the country, while indecency fines, which grabbed headlines under the previous administration, was less of an issue during his tenure. Changes to the media cross-ownership rules, while still a hotly-debated topic, did not come to pass under Genachowski either.
In a statement, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said, "NAB salutes Chairman Genachowski for his years of service at the FCC. The FCC chair is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in Washington, and yet Julius consistently performed with dedication and focus. We may have disagreed on occasion, but America's broadcasters wish him well in his journeys ahead."