FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Resigns, Expresses Regret About Public Safety Communications

FCC, National Broadband Plan, Wireless January 15th, 2009

, Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, January 15, 2009 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday resigned from his position, effective Inauguration Day.

Of all the issues that took place during his chairmanship, from March 2005 until next week, Martin expressed the strongest regret about the lack of interoperable communications networks for public safety officials.

He also expressed general satisfaction with the pace of the transition to digital television – with some reservations about backlog of applications for digital set-top box coupon vouchers at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Martin, who made the announcement of his resignation at the January meeting of the FCC, released a 12-page dossier of the “principal achievements of the FCC” under Martin.

The first item on the list was “promoting broadband deployment,” including what the agency described as “a careful balance of promoting investment in broadband infrastructure and innovation, while expanding affordable access and sustaining an open internet.”

The report also touted wireless broadband, including the effort to push broadband through vacant television channels, fostering innovation, promoting greater competition in the cable industry, protecting consumers from indecency and promoting public safety.

Still, in an interview after his announcement, Martin said that the biggest job left undone was not persuading any private sector companies to bid on a block of spectrum, dubbed the “D” block, in the auction of frequencies that will be vacated in the transition to digital television. The auction took place in 2007.

“The biggest task that we were unsuccessful … at is unsuccessfully getting someone in the private sector of taking on the burden of building out a public safety and broadband network in the D block,” Martin said.

“The commission either put too many burdens on that auction, and/or was too vague on what those burdens would end up being,” Martin continued. “Either way, there was no one on the private side that was willing to take on the responsibility of trying to build out a nationwide interoperable public safety network. And I think that is certainly the biggest thing left undone.”

Martin said he would serve as a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. – the same departure job assumed by the three previous chairmen of the FCC.

Martin also expressed general confidence that the transition to DTV, scheduled by current law on February 17, 2009, would be a success.

He said that changing the date – as proposed by the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama – would undercut the key message of a date-certain transition that government officials have been pushing for the past year.

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