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

in FCC/National Broadband Plan/Wireless by

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.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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