Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has announced his resignation “in the coming weeks” today. Genachowski’s resignation ends a dramatic term in which he sought the expansion and reform of broadband Internet service by freeing extra airspace to be available to mobile phone companies from major television providers.
Genachowski’s decision to step down from the FCC has been expected for months, and as of yet, no one has been named to replace the chairman. His resignation has coincidentally come on the same week that GOP Commissioner Robert McDowell announced his decision to step down.
In the chairman’s term, Genachowski received both criticism and praise for his actions. Consumer group Public Knowledge stated that Genachowski deserves recognition for his defense of data roaming rules and his contributions in other areas in the telecommunications field, such as his direction of the release of a staff report that slammed AT&T and therefore ended their attempt to merge with T-Mobile. However, the organization added that “it remains to be seen whether those positive steps will mitigate the enormous consolidation that has taken place in the broadband marketplace under his watch.” Nevertheless, one of Genachowski’s most notable accomplishments was the $8 billion federal Connect America Fund (formerly known as the Universal Service Fund), a program that provides telephone service to rural and low-income citizens.
Genachowski’s resignation leaves some of his biggest projects unfinished, including a high priority plan by the FCC that seeks to provide extra airwaves, or spectrum, to be available for resale to mobile phone companies for use in broadband Internet service. Because the FCC has the ability to relocate broadcasters to other frequencies, known as repacking, it would free up space to set the extra broadband airwave plan into motion.
“Over the past four years, we’ve focused the F.C.C. on broadband, wired and wireless, working to drive economic growth and improve the lives of all Americans,” Genachowski told staff members on Friday. “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.”
Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.