Kennard bails

At press time, FCC Chairman William E. Kennard announced his resignation to coincide with the end of President Bill Clinton's term.

Like him or not, Chairman Kennard ran the FCC during a time when highly controversial and far-reaching events occurred. Probably the most significant milestone during his three-year tenure was the implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, successful legislation that brought competition to communications markets, and encouraging the rollout of broadband and digital technologies. He proudly noted the Commission had expanded access to technology for all Americans and improved the very Commission itself through reorganization. He claimed credit for creating a market where “monopoly is ended, innovation and entrepreneurship are cherished, and consumers have competitive choice.” Another action Kennard championed was the controversial low-power radio service (LPFM), the scope of which was later scaled back by Congress. He also takes credit for reducing telephone rates both domestically and internationally.

While some industries may view Kennard with appreciation, the broadcast industry saw a different picture. Many broadcasters view Kennard as weak in the establishment of new regulations for cable companies and TV set manufacturers. At the same time, he applied draconian measures to his regulation of TV broadcasters, his actions requiring every broadcaster to spend millions of dollars on digital upgrades without the certainty of cable carriage.

Kennard will serve as a Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program in Washington, D.C. He will advise them on leadership, communications policy, and program activities and operations. He will also become the first chairman of the program's new advisory board.

FCC Commissioner Michael Powell is predicted to be his successor as Chairman.