Martin Resigns, Genachowski May Take Seat

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program announced today that Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2005 to January 20, 2009, will become a Senior Fellow to the Program beginning immediately upon his departure from the Commission.

Martin, a former attorney for the Bush-Cheney campaign, served on the commission for eight years, the last four as chairman.

This will mark the fourth consecutive FCC Chairman to take this fellowship at the Aspen Institute upon leaving the Commission. The tradition, beginning with Democrats Reed Hundt (1993-97) and William Kennard (1997-2001), continued with Republican Michael Powell (2001-05) and now Martin.

The Communications and Society Program serves as a non-partisan venue for global leaders and experts to exchange insights on the societal impact of advances in digital technology and network communications.

President-elect Obama is expected to appoint former dot-commer and ex-FCC senior legal advisor Julius Genachowski (left) to head up the FCC.

Mr. Genachowski, 46, played a leading role in the Obama campaign’s highly successful online strategy and was a major fundraiser for the campaign. He was chief counsel to Reed Hundt, an F.C.C. chairman during the Clinton administration, then worked for eight years as a senior executive at the IAC/Interactive Corporation, run by Barry Diller.

The NY Times says Genachowski may seek to spur competition among the wireless carriers as a counterbalance to the dominance of the telephone and cable companies. It seems unlike that Genachowski will be as aggressive in his approach to regulating the cable industry as the current chairman, Kevin J. Martin, has been.

In other news, the House Committee on Appropriations today released details of an economic stimulus package that would include $6 billion in grants to bring high-speed Internet lines to rural and other underserved areas (pdf).

Free Press and other groups calling for a national broadband policy say money for roll-out would create jobs and would bring new opportunities to U.S. residents in areas that do not have broadband. Some experts estimate 5 percent to 10 percent of U.S. households do not have broadband service available.

Telecom analysts at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. said they doubt a $6 billion to $8 billion grant program will have a major impact on large service providers, but could prove beneficial to equipment vendors. They said tax credits and other incentives for expanded broadband deployment could surface later in separate legislation.

The committee, headed by Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wi), also called for $650 million for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to provide coupons for consumers to buy converter boxes for the Feb. 17 digital television transition.

It was part of a larger $825 billion stimulus plan that includes grants and tax cuts to transform energy transmission systems, build new roads and bridges, and repair schools. The aim is to jumpstart the economy by creating new jobs.

But don’t expect to find a comprehensive national broadband policy in the economic stimulus package, reports C/Net.

Venture Beat says the current plan includes substantial tech spending, including $32 billion to transform the nation’s energy system “allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology,” as well as $6 billion for bring broadband and wireless service — but of course the bill will almost certainly see substantial changes before it’s approved.

Blair Levin, a top technology adviser for Obama, cautioned groups interested in seeing more federal investment in broadband from expecting too much right away. However, Blair said the Obama administration’s broadband agenda will not be ignored after the stimulus package is passed.

At the core of Obama’s original $20 billion to $30 billion effort are tax breaks for companies that extend the availability of broadband or, in regions where it already exists, boost the speed of service, says Business Week. But those tax breaks would likely to go to existing large players.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 1:17 pm .

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