FCC chairman announces his resignation

Genachowski is being praised for his focus on broadband and spectrum issues

By Grant Gross and Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service |  Government

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Friday he will soon step down, following months of rumors that he would resign early this year.

Genachowski will leave his post in the coming weeks, he said during an FCC staff meeting. He praised the FCC's staff for advancing an aggressive agenda during his nearly four years as chairman.

"Thanks to you, the commission's employees, we've taken big steps to build a future where broadband is ubiquitous and bandwidth is abundant, where innovation and investment are flourishing," he said. "Thanks to your outstanding work, America's broadband economy is thriving."

During a 22-minute speech, Genachowski read a laundry list of accomplishments by the FCC during his years as chairman. Less than a year after he took office, the FCC published a 360-page national broadband plan, which laid out a vision for faster and more available broadband across the country.

Broadband and mobile investments have risen sharply in recent years, he said. The U.S. mobile infrastructure, with as many 4G LTE subscribers in the U.S. as in all other countries combined, "is the envy of the world," said Genachowski, a technology adviser to President Barack Obama when Obama was first running for the office.

Wired broadband networks capable of 100Mbps speeds pass 80 percent of U.S. households, up from 20 percent four years ago, he added.

The FCC's accomplishments in the past four years won't be measured only by gigabits and megahertz, Genachowski said. "It'll be measured by the agency's impact on people's lives," he said. "That's why we've all come to the FCC. We're here because, if we do our job right, we can make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of the American people."

Genachowski's FCC voted in December 2010 to pass net neutrality rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic. Verizon Communications and MetroPCS challenged the rules in court, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit expected to rule on the challenge within weeks.

During the past four years, the FCC opened up unused television spectrum, known as white spaces, to wireless broadband use and it started the process of creating incentive auctions, allowing TV stations to voluntarily give up spectrum in exchange for a portion of the auction proceeds. The auctioned TV spectrum would go to mobile broadband services, to ease an expected spectrum shortage as U.S. use of mobile broadband skyrockets.

In November 2011, Genachowski's FCC rejected a proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA by larger competitor AT&T, with Democrats on the commission arguing the deal would significantly reduce mobile competition. This month, the commission approved a smaller merger between T-Mobile and MetroPCS.

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