FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has informed his staff and President Obama of his intent to resign in the near future. Interestingly, I began this blog shortly after he assumed the role of chairman. I like many others wanted to see the FCC function in a less contentious manner than when under the guidance of Michael Powell. I, for one, believe he accomplished that objective, although votes on major issues by the FCC continued to be along party lines. Under Genachowski, the FCC continued to support the growth of new technologies (VoIP, Wi-Fi and broadband), competition, net neutrality and pursued changes to Universal Service Fund (USF) and InterCarrier Compensation (ICC). Obviously, we can disagree with how some rulings resulted over the course of his stewardship, but most of what the FCC acted upon needed either definition, support or alteration.
The media prefers to remind us of two acquisitions that went before the FCC, the successful acquisition by Comcast of NBCUniversal that disappointed reform advocates and the rejection of the purchase of T-Mobile by AT&T that disappointed free market supporters. Some say this was a balanced approached to his manner of decision-making but I prefer to think he and the commission approached the two decisions separately with no effort at providing two disparate groups something about which to cheer.
I choose to look at Genachowski’s tenure by examining FCC decisions that affected the broader scope of our industry. The FCC continued to leave an open path for VoIP to grow offering new opportunities to service providers and improving features and cost savings for customers. The FCC maintained its support for net neutrality albeit with some caveats that will need to be resolved but mostly protecting consumers. And finally, after years of delay and turmoil, the FCC established new rules for USF, ICC and created the Connect America Fund (CAF), which funds the deployment of broadband in underserved or unserved areas.
I don’t support every decision made by the FCC but I do prefer leadership that avoids acrimonious contention and makes sincere efforts to address the major issues for which it is responsible. However, I have some concern with regard to overreach by the FCC in its efforts to manage the direction of an industry so important to our economy and lives.
Obama has not announced who will be his pick for role of Chairman but several names have gained traction in Washington; Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former head of the cable and wireless trade associations; Karen Kornbluh, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Catherine Sandoval, a member of the California Public Utilities Commission; and Lawrence Strickling, an administration adviser on telecom and technology policy.
I have to learn more about these potential candidates to develop an opinion. My desire is that the chosen individual represent the interest of our nation over those of a given party or political group. That would be a harbinger of good things to come with so many important unresolved and pending decisions remaining.