By Drew Clark and Doug Barclay
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 - President Barack Obama’s law school classmate and friend Julius Genachowski plans to announce his departure from the Federal Communications Commission in a briefing at the agency on Friday morning.
Among the key accomplishments during Genachowski’s tenure at the agency include:
- The issuance of a comprehensive National Broadband Plan that brought together leading experts and set a framework for government approach to a divergent policy problem;
- The development and implementation of system for “secondary auction” of broadcast television spectrum, paving the way for broadcasts to withdraw from the airwaves, yielding the radio spectrum for higher-value uses;
- Undertaking key efforts, with the Department of Justice, in the effort to thwart the proposed merger of wireless providers AT&T and T-Mobile;
- The implementation of a Connect America Fund, and a Mobility Fund, together with other initiatives to overhaul the dated Universal Service Fund;
- A stabilization of the once-contentious issue between telecommunications and technology companies over network neutrality rules.
When participating in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Genachowski received the accolade as the "spectrum chairman" from the head of the association.
One public interest group commenting early on Genachowski’s pending departure was quite critical. Public Knowledge called his tenure “one of missed opportunities,” citing his failure to solidify network neutrality rules and his approval of the Comcast/NBC Universal merger.
On the other hand, the non-profit group said that Genachowski “deserves credit for defending both the Commission’s data roaming rules and unlicensed spectrum, for permitting DISH Network to provide terrestrial wireless service, and for releasing the staff report that helped to end AT&T’s attempted takeover of T-Mobile. But 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.”
Genachowski’s announcement followed the announcement on Wednesday that Commissioner Robert McDowell will also step down. The twin resignations leave the commission with a 2-1 majority for the President’s party, with Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworsel and Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai.
The twin resignations will make it easy for the President to nominate the Republican and the Democrat to succeed Genachowski and McDowell. Members of the agency who are not of the president’s party would generally be selected by Senate Republicans.