FCC Chairman Powell announces resignation

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell announced Friday he will leave the agency in March, ending a tumultuous four-year term that focused on deregulation and indecency on the airwaves.

During his tenure, Powell completed rules regarding telecommunications competition, promoted the transition to digital television, resolved the conflict over interference between police department radios and some cellular phones, and promoted new technologies such as Internet telephony.

Powell also dramatically expanded the amount of spectrum devoted to unlicensed wireless communication, attempted to free cable modem service from tight regulation and stepped up enforcement of laws against "indecent" content on television and radio.

As part of the transition to digital television, the FCC required an anti-piracy technology called the "broadcast flag" and sanctioned other content protection measures on cable television. Powell also attempted to loosen the rules limiting how many media outlets one company could own in any city. But lawmakers have tinkered with the rules and an appellate court has delayed implementation.

His resignation comes at a time when lawmakers and courts are reviewing major telecommunications issues. The FCC's cable modem ruling was overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Supreme Court is reviewing that decision.

Powell started at the FCC as a President Clinton appointee to one of the GOP seats, and President Bush named him chairman. Possible successors include Michael Gallagher, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Commerce Department; FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin; Janice Obuchowski, a telecom consultant who served in the Commerce Department under former President George H.W. Bush, and Becky Klein, a former head of the Texas Public Utility Commission who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who chairs the Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, commended Powell's efforts to deregulate the telecommunications industry and crack down on broadcasters who air indecent material. Stearns also lauded Powell's role in relaxing media ownership restrictions.

"It was a difficult job that often made him a target for criticism, but I believe that Chairman Powell's leadership on many of these issues will serve the industry and American consumers very well in the years to come," Stearns said.

Michael Calabrese, vice president and director of spectrum policy at the New America Foundation, said Powell left "one significant positive legacy" by encouraging open access to the public airwaves for high-speed Internet services.

"On most other issues, however, Powell's tenure has radically changed the nation's media and telecom policy direction in ways that damage both our economy and our democracy," Calabrese said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.