Serving since 2009, Genachowski refocused the commission onto broadband communications. His planned departure has provoked speculation about a successor.
Julius Genachowski became FCC chairman in 2009. (File photo)
Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski plans to leave the agency in the coming weeks. Genachowski has led the FCC since 2009.
On Genachowski’s watch, the FCC has shifted its focus to broadband communications. The commission’s 2010 open Internet order made network neutrality the law of the land, although the order is being challenged in a federal court case that is due to be decided as early as April. The FCC overhauled the Universal Service Fund, which helps subsidize the costs of bringing telephone service to rural and remote communities, to include funding for broadband. More bandwidth is expected to come online for wireless broadband, thanks to a planned reverse auction of spectrum by broadcasters, proposed by the FCC and passed into law by Congress in 2012.
The FCC has "taken big steps to build a future where broadband is ubiquitous and bandwidth is abundant," Genachowski said in remarks to FCC employees on March 22. It’s also revitalized its own reputation as a good place to work and as an incubator of talent – U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel was its managing director from 2009 to 2010. The 2010 Office of Personnel Management Employee Survey named the FCC the "most improved" agency in the government.
Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn is expected to take over as interim chairwoman, but the agency is expected look outside for a new leader. Larry Strickling, who heads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the Commerce department, is a top candidate to take over. NTIA manages the spectrum portfolio of civilian government agencies, which are increasingly under pressure to relinquish or share spectrum with commercial users.
Other possibilities include Tom Wheeler, a former head of trade associations representing the cable television and wireless telephone industry. Like Genachowski, Wheeler is a former fundraiser for President Obama, and has deep ties to the administration. Karen Kornbluh, ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development at the United Nations, is another communications policy expert with deep ties to the Obama administration whose name comes up as a possible FCC head.
There’s no word on where Genachowski is headed. Communications Daily reported the Obama administration offered him the post of ambassador to Brazil, but that he turned it down. In his remarks to FCC staff, Genachowski only said he would have "ongoing engagement" in the technology and communications sector.
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