Bush chooses Martin as next FCC chairman

Republican commissioner is expected to wield influence during period of radical change in the telecom and Net business.

The Federal Communications Commission has a new chairman: Kevin Martin, who is expected to wield considerable influence during a period of radical change in the telecommunications and Internet business.
Kevin Martin
FCC's next chairman

Martin, an FCC commissioner who was appointed chairman by President Bush on Wednesday afternoon, will be responsible for shepherding the agency through a major revision to U.S. telecommunications laws and an upswing in telephone calling over the Internet.

"I am deeply honored to have been designated as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and I thank President Bush for this distinct privilege," Martin said. Bush's choice of Martin, a 38-year-old lawyer who once worked for the Bush-Cheney campaign, was expected.

While Martin occasionally clashed with fellow Republican Michael Powell, the outgoing chairman, observers said the FCC's general approach toward broadband regulation and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is likely to follow the same broad principles.

Many of the FCC's technology-related decisions, such as a 5-0 ruling last year dealing with VoIP wiretapping, were unanimous. Others, such as media ownership and VoIP regulation, tended to pit the Republican majority against the Democratic minority--a political dynamic not viewed as likely to change.

After news of Martin's new job leaked on Wednesday, accolades soon followed. Martin "has a record of supporting the administration's broadband policy, and that is good news for consumers and the communications sector," said Tom Tauke, Verizon Communications executive vice president for public affairs.

Herschel Abbott, BellSouth's vice president for governmental affairs, said Martin's "focus on enabling the rollout of broadband for consumers demonstrates a 21st century view of the communications marketplace. His skill and energy make him an outstanding choice to take over the chairmanship."

Where battle lines were drawn
One area of sharp disagreement between Martin and Powell involved a hotly contested February 2003 decision over how to promote competition among the former Bell companies and their rivals. The two FCC commissioners agreed on broadband rules but split over whether telephone companies must grant rivals access to their networks at deeply discounted rates.

Another difference is that while Powell has been criticized for a crackdown on broadcast indecency following Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," Martin has been even more aggressive in urging FCC action.

Martin dissented from the FCC's January ruling, which cleared a broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan" from indecency fines. In a letter to the Parents Television Council, Martin wrote, "We may be interpreting the (indecency) statute too narrowly. We also may need to

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