His complicated plan to auction a chunk of television broadcast airwaves to commercial wireless operators will be considered next year. But its success relies on whether broadcasters agree to sell their airwaves and join in the auction proceeds.
Genachowski was touted early in his tenure as a rare combination of savvy businessman and public advocate. But he
struggled from the start with Internet access rules that have drawn lawsuits against the agency and may have undermined the FCC’s role as arbiter of Internet policies.
This summer, a federal court is expected to hear arguments from Verizon Wireless and Metro PCS against Genachowski’s net neutrality rules that dictate how Internet service providers operate their networks. The decision by the federal appeals court could be used as the framework for how the deep-pocketed telecom industry will fight other regulations of Internet services, legal experts say.
Consumer advocates say the chairman missed the opportunity to more forcefully declare its legal ability to regulate broadband Internet providers.
“When Julius Genachowski took office, there were high hopes that he would use his powerful position to promote the public interest,” said Craig Aaron, president of the consumer media reform group Free Press. The group has been particularly critical of Genachowski’s willingness to reform media ownership rules that they fear will allow a few media tycoons to sweep up more broadcast, newspaper and radio assets.
Aaron said that “instead of acting as the people’s champion, he’s catered to corporate interests.”
Genachowski promised to focus the agency on expanding Internet access and creating net neutrality rules that ensure that Silicon Valley Web firms are not shut down by wireless and cable firms with competing products. He had a “clear focus on innovation,” Obama said Friday in a statement.
A former counsel to the FCC during the Clinton administration, Genachowski worked with agency and Capitol Hill lawmakers to convert a multibillion-dollar federal phone subsidy to a program that gives grants for broadband Internet connections in hard-to-reach places.
Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and other telecom and broadcast media groups lauded Genachowski in statements Friday, saying the FCC successfully turned its focus to expanding broadband Internet during Genachowski’s tenure.
“Any chairman should be proud of these accomplishments, which are going to leave a lasting imprint on communications policy in the United States,” James Cicconi, executive vice president at AT&T, said in a statement.