President Bush appoints new FCC chief

President Bush on Wednesday appointed Kevin Martin as chairman of the FCC and successor to Michael Powell, who became a lightning rod for controversy on some telecommunications and media issues.

The boyish-looking Martin, 38, has been serving as a Republican commissioner at the agency since 2001. He was deputy general counsel for Bush's first presidential campaign and worked on the Bush-Cheney transition team. He also served as special assistant to the president for economic policy at the White House.

Martin's elevation to chairman creates an opening for a GOP commissioner at the agency. The expected departure of Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy would create another GOP vacancy at the five-member agency. Abernathy's term expired last year, but she may stay until the slot is filled or until the end of this year.

Martin made a name for himself in February 2003 when he disagreed with Powell over whether rules governing traditional telephone wires should be liberalized. The two Democrats on the commission joined Martin to form the majority on that portion of the order, blocking Powell's efforts at deregulation.

Powell's position ultimately was vindicated by the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and by the Bush administration when it declined to seek Supreme Court review of that decision.

Martin also generally has favored the broadcast industry over cable in their various battles at the agency. In February, for example, Martin cast the lone dissenting vote against the FCC decision that cable need not carry all of broadcasters' digital-television programs. In 2003, Martin and Powell voted in favor of a plan championed by Powell to relax rules on media ownership.

The announcement that Martin was selected as FCC chairman raised new questions about how the FCC will approach key telecom and media policy questions.

The most pressing question facing Martin is a request by Level 3, a competitor of the regional Bell telecom firms, that all Internet telephone calls traveling over traditional networks pay the cheaper rates borne by local phone companies, not those of long-distance providers.

Until now, Martin has been reluctant to join Powell and Abernathy in their efforts to approve the request. Bell and rural telephone companies have been lobbying hard against Level 3, which has strong support from technology companies, the MCI long-distance provider and Internet phone companies like Vonage.

The chief of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) last month wrote a personal letter to Bush urging him to appoint Martin as chairman. Other leading candidates for the post were Michael Gallagher, the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Becky Armandariz Klein, a former chairwoman of the Texas Public Utilities Commission.

ITI chief Rhett Dawson said Martin has sided with the technology industry on its key concerns, including his decision in 2003 to support Powell and Abernathy in loosening regulations governing high-speed Internet technologies like fiber-optic wires and cable modems.

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
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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