FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Stepping Down After Contentious Term

Genachowski infuriated public interest groups for compromising on net neutrality and allowing Comcast to purchase NBCUniversal.

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John Gress / REUTERS

Federal Communication Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski pauses as he speaks at the Cable Show in Chicago, June 15, 2011.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is stepping down, he announced Friday. Genachowski, who became chairman in 2009, has presided over an agency that has grappled with contentious issues like U.S. broadband policy, cable and telecom industry competition, and media consolidation.

In seeking to strike a centrist balance, Genachowski managed to alienate both public interest groups that have pushed for a more activist FCC on issues like media ownership and Internet openness, as well as industry giants, particularly AT&T, which had proposed buying T-Mobile before the FCC objected. Verizon Wireless is currently suing the FCC in federal court over the agency’s “network neutrality” rules.

Genachowski’s announcement, which was expected, comes just days after another FCC commissioner, Robert McDowell, announced his plan to leave the agency. Their departures create two vacancies on the commission, which will be filled by candidates nominated by President Obama. The job of FCC chairman is particularly important, because the position wields significant power in shaping U.S. telecom regulatory policy. A spokesman for the FCC’s office of the chairman declined to comment on the reports of Genachowski’s impending departure, but Reuters reported that he informed his staff of his decision on Thursday.

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