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FCC Chairman announces resignation

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Friday that he will step down from his post after four years of service.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski addresses the CTIA 2012 audience here in New Orleans. CNET/Marguerite Reardon

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said Friday that he is stepping down from his post as head of the agency.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday about the chairman's plans. Genachowski was nominated by President Obama to the chairmanship in March of 2009. In a speech to to his colleagues at the FCC, Genachowski pointed out accomplishments of the FCC over the past four years.

This included advancements in wireless, broadband and reforming outdated policies to reflect more modern needs.

"Over the past four years, we've focused the FCC on broadband, wired and wireless, working to drive economic growth and improve the lives of all Americans," he said in his speech. "Today, America's broadband economy is thriving, with record-setting private investment; unparalleled innovation in networks, devices and apps; and renewed U.S. leadership around the world."

Specifically, he talked about the agency's reform of the Universal Service Fund, which now includes funding for broadband services instead of telephone only services. He also noted work the commission has done on freeing up additional wireless spectrum including kicking off the a spectrum incentive auction that is supposed to take place in 2014. And he talked about formalizing the rules for Net neutrality in what he called putting "in place the first rules to preserve Internet freedom and openness."

And he talked up the agency's role as watchdog for the communications industry by modifying certain transactions and opposing big mergers that the FCC said would harm competition, such as AT&T's $39 billion bid to buy competitor T-Mobile USA.

During his tenure, Genachowski, echoed the concerns of the wireless industry by pushing for more wireless spectrum. He has also been a proponent of faster Internet speeds, setting goals for getting more gigabit speed broadband in communities in all 50 states by 2015. Also under his watch the FCC put out the first ever National Broadband Plan, which was presented in 2010 to Congress and establishes a series of goals to be achieved by 2020.

All in all, Genachowski has not been thought of as a controversial or polarizing chairman of the FCC. And Verizon Communications the largest telephone company in the U.S. had only good things to say about his reign as head of the agency.

"Chairman Genachowski's leadership at the FCC has been marked by his commitment to encourage expansion and adoption of broadband - both wireless and wireline - as a transformative technology that is critical to our nation's global competitiveness, our economy and our standing as global leader in wireless innovation" Craig Silliman, Verizon's senior vice president for public policy and government affairs said in a statement. "We commend him for modernizing outdated policies, including reforms to the antiquated intercarrier compensation system and the Universal Service Fund. He was also successful in keeping the Agency focused on the needs of consumers in today's marketplace, including addressing the surging demand for wireless spectrum. We wish him well as he embarks on the next stage of his career."

But consumer advocates believe the chairman did not do enough to set aggressive policies that would preserve competition and benefit consumers.

"For those of us who represent the public, Chairman Genachowski's term can best be described as one of missed opportunities," Public Knowledge said in a statement. "We urge the President to appoint a new FCC Chair who will put the public interest first, and who will restore the agency's ability to protect the values so critical to our communications system and to our democracy - service to all Americans, openness, competition and diversity. The nation cannot afford another four years of missed opportunities."

Earlier this week, Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell also announced he was leaving. Until replacements are named and confirmed, the agency will operate with two Democratic commissioners and one Republican. The agency has not announced who will be named acting chairman after Genachowski steps down.