THE departing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission disappointed those who want the Internet protected from corporate manipulation.
Julius Genachowski announced last Friday he would step down from the post President Obama appointed him to four years ago.
He failed to lay out clear protections for an open Internet, represented by the notion of net neutrality, where corporate interests cannot play favorites with access and pricing. Observers minimize his achievements. What did get through is in federal court.
His failure to erect barriers to cross-ownership of community radio and television stations and newspapers left open the threat of media consolidation and the stifling of independent voices.
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Media and consumer advocates were pointed in their assessments of his role:
“His tenure has been marked by wavering and caving rather than the strong leadership so needed at this crucial agency,” Free Press president and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement.
Genachowski does get credit for expansion of broadband Internet service to rural and low-income Americans. He also gets a nod for opposing the 2011 merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, two of the largest wireless carriers.
Obama will have the opportunity to appoint a new chair of the five-member commission and one of the two Republican seats. Commissioner Robert McDowell is also leaving.
Thirty-seven U.S. senators, including Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, have signed a letter to President Obama endorsing FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the agency. She would be the first female to head the commission.
Meanwhile, another of Genachowski’s efforts still in the works is an auction plan to encourage broadcasters to surrender a share of their airwaves to wireless providers.
That’s a hefty list for those who follow, with the promotion of net neutrality and resistance of media consolidation in the forefront. Time for the president to deliver.