Ina Fried

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Genachowski’s FCC Tenure Featured Push to Open Wireless Spectrum (Video)

As expected, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced on Friday his plans to step down.

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Genachowski will probably be best remembered for a tenure that included the commission’s opposition to AT&T’s planned merger with T-Mobile. He also pushed to open up more wireless spectrum via incentive auctions and through expanding availability of unlicensed spectrum for things such as Wi-Fi.

He spearheaded a debate around Net neutrality that established new rules, though all sides grumbled at the outcome.

Genachowski was also unique in that he came from a technology background rather than the usual broadcast or telecom arenas.

“As chair of the FCC, Chairman Genachowski has worked tirelessly to modernize our nation’s communications infrastructure and help make sure every American has access to the critical technology they need to succeed in the 21st century,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement.

Advocacy group Free Press praised Genachowski for his stance in the AT&T case, but criticized him for failing to do more to stop the agenda of big corporate interests.

“Though President Obama promised his FCC chairman would not continue the Bush administration’s failed media ownership policies, Genachowski offered the exact same broken ideas that Bush’s two chairmen pushed,” Free Press CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement. “Genachowski claimed broadband was his agency’s top priority, but he stood by as prices rose and competition dwindled. He claimed to be a staunch defender of the open Internet, but his Net neutrality policies are full of loopholes and offer no guarantee that the FCC will be able to protect consumers from corporate abuse in the future.”

Of course, being FCC chairman is a tough job, given that one must muster a majority of a commission split on party lines and then avoid Congress undoing whatever it was you were trying to do in the first place.

Genachowski also made moves to modernize the agency itself, including setting up a library inside the commission offices where staffers could take a look at some of the many gadgets that they were regulating.

Finally, here’s video of Genachowski’s appearance on the D: All Things Digital stage in 2010 — first a highlight reel, and below that the full interview:


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald