FCC to broaden policy reach, without Powell

FCC to broaden policy reach, possibly without Powell

Michael Powell today announced he will leave a four-year chairmanship of the five-member Federal Communications Commission.

Powell said in a statement that he will step down in March. He praised the 'seeds of our policies taking firm root in the marketplace and starting to blossom,' citing cell phones, digital TV, and personal players for video and digital music, as well as the broadband networks that host them.

Sometimes in the minority on FCC matters, Powell has supported telecommunications deregulation, broadband access and voice over IP technology. He came under fire for media acquisition decisions and TV indecency fines. The commission received more than a million public complaints about broadcast indecency last year.

FCC's 2005 policy focus, announced last Friday, includes:

  • Broadening policy to cover IP and video relay services as well as a 'Can-Spam' database for wireless spam

  • Expanding regulatory outreach to broadband and digital TV

  • More attention to telecom consumers through Web portals and better tracking of consumer e-mail messages

  • More staff training in accessibility by the disabled

  • Taking the profit out of slamming by telecom carriers.

One possible replacement as head of the FCC is Republican commissioner Kevin Martin. Some sources also suggested Commerce Department assistant secretary and National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Michael D. Gallagher, who also has been a strong supporter of wireless in the administration's broadband policy.

Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association president Steve Largent noted in an e-mail message that when Powell became FCC chairman in 2001, 'there were roughly 130 million wireless subscribers in America. Today, there are nearly 175 million'more than half of the entire country.'

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