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Genachowski to step down from FCC

Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman who has shepherded a dramatic effort to clear and repurpose spectrum to meet growing consumer demand for wireless service spurred by their embrace of smartphones and media tablets, announced March 22 he will leave the agency within the next few weeks.

Genachowski, who has worked over the past two years to implement the recommendations of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, will leave the agency before completion of a rulemaking proceeding to implement voluntary incentive auctions, a key component of a plan to entice TV broadcasters to give up some or all of their spectrum in exchange for cash.

“Over the past four years, we’ve focused the FCC on broadband, wired and wireless, working to drive economic growth and improve the lives of all Americans,” said Genachowski in remarks to FCC staff on the day he announced his decision to leave.

Among the chairman’s other accomplishments are opening TV white spaces to use by unlicensed devices, and a revamp of the Universal Services Program to redirect funds to expanding the reach of broadband service.

“Today, America’s broadband economy is thriving, with record-setting private investment; unparalleled innovation in networks, devices and apps; and renewed U.S. leadership around the world,” he said. “While there are challenges ahead in this fast-moving, globally competitive sector, a revitalized FCC is prepared to continue taking them on.”

In response to word of his leaving the agency, Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA –The Wireless Association, said in a prepared statement: “I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for Chairman Genachowski’s leadership at the FCC. Julius was instrumental in overseeing the National Broadband Plan and has been a strong voice on spectrum issues and acceleration of broadband infrastructure deployment, so that consumers may continue to enjoy the benefits of the wireless ecosystem. Julius recognized early on the benefits of mobile broadband and made it a priority to deliver additional, cleared spectrum to meet consumer demand and maintain U.S. global leadership. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

A prepared statement from NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith was a bit less effusive. “NAB salutes Chairman Genachowski for his years of service at the FCC,” said Smith. “The FCC chair is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in Washington, and yet Julius consistently performed with dedication and focus. We may have disagreed on occasion, but America’s broadcasters wish him well in his journeys ahead.”