March 22, 2013
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is expected to announce on Friday that he will leave the commission, high-ranking sources tell POLITICO.
His decision would bring to an end a tumultuous term that has seen bruising battles over the openness of the Internet to the reform of the nation's major telephone subsidy. While a spokesman for Genachowski declined to comment on any announcement Thursday night, a decision has been expected for months. The Democrat's decision would come in the same week that senior GOP Commissioner Robert McDowell announced his plan to leave. Nominations for critical agencies like the FCC are often paired, making it easier to get the confirmation through the Senate if there is one Republican and one Democrat.
Genachowski took over as chairman in 2009 and pushed the agency to look at telecommunications differently with broadband supplanting old technologies like broadcasting and telephone service. He managed to win approval for the first major overhaul of the Universal Service Fund, pushed through controversial network neutrality rules and popularized the idea of an incentive auction that would move some TV broadcasters off their channels and open them up for advanced, high-speed services.
Genachowski also oversaw a series of telecommunications deals that helped reshape the landscape. The Comcast/NBC-Universal deal was approved by the FCC on his watch, as was a deal that allowed Verizon to purchase the wireless licenses held by a consortium of cable companies. Most recently, the commission approved the deal that allowed T-Mobile to buy a controlling stake in MetroPCS. He also pushed the commission to kill AT&T's attempt to buy T-Mobile despite GOP objections.
The discussion of filling Genachowski's seat has become a sort of parlor game in Washington, and there hasn't been any indication of what direction the White House would go in naming a successor. One leading candidate appears to be Core Capital Partners Managing Director Tom Wheeler. While Wheeler, 66, is founder of Component Repair Technologies - an aerospace maintenance company - he has deep roots in the technology policy world, having headed both the National Cable and Telecommunications Association from 1976 to 1984 and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association from 1992 to 2003. Wheeler also has connections to President Barack Obama, working on his campaign and on the Obama-Biden Transition Project's Agency Review Working Group.
There are other candidates for the job, however, including current sitting Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel; Karen Kornbluh, former ambassador to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Blair Levin, former FCC chief of staff and primary author of the commission's National Broadband Plan; and National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Larry Strickling. The most often mentioned successors to McDowell include Ray Baum, a senior aide to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Neil Fried, senior telecommunications counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Politico
Comcast sealed a deal to take full ownership of a majority of the floors at 30 Rockefeller Center - the famous home of NBC. General Electric, which closed on the sale of its 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal, will receive $1.3 billion to give up ownership of the 30 Rock condos, which are a mix of tower units and studio floors.
Comcast chief executive Brian L. Roberts, speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, said he believes that television has evolved more in the last five years than it did in the prior 50. He also said the number of Comcast Internet customers should exceed the number of Comcast TV customers over the next couple of years. Comcast, of Philadelphia, serves about 20 million Internet subscribers and 22 million TV customers. New York Post, Philadelphia Inquirer
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