NTIA Boss Quitting

John Kneuer, the Commerce Department assistant secretary running the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will step down at the end of the month and return to the private sector.

NTIA is the agency charged with overseeing the government’s program to distribute up to nearly $1.5 billion in $40 coupons toward converter boxes that will allow viewers to continue viewing television after full-power analog broadcasts cease on Feb. 18, 2009.

Meredith Baker, the NTIA’s deputy assistant secretary, will serve as interim administrator until a successor is nominated by the White House and confirmed by the Senate.

“The right people, policy and programs are in place to successfully work on all of our outstanding projects,” said NTIA spokesman Todd Sedmak. “The pieces are in place here at NTIA.”

Marc Pearl, executive director of the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, praised Kneuer for doing a tough job in a short timeframe.

“CERC believes the program has been and will be in good hands,” Pearl said in a statement.

Recently, Kneuer told Congress his agency was making “great strides” in the coupon program, and he’s rejected calls by some lawmakers and others for an interagency task force, saying that he, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and other government leaders communicated sufficiently without an added mandate.

The employment marketplace has been good to assistant secretaries moving to the private sector. Kneuer already has big-firm and industry lobbying experience, working as a senior associate at Washington firm Piper Rudnick and as executive director for government relations at the Industrial Telecommunications Association. He has also worked as an attorney for the FCC Wireless Bureau.

He joined NTIA in 2003, was nominated by President Bush to lead it in May 2006 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2006.

He holds B.A. and law degrees from the Catholic University of America, in Washington.