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FCC commissioner Abernathy resigns

Kathleen Abernathy announces she will leave her post on Dec. 9, but no replacement is named.

Kathleen Abernathy, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, sent a resignation letter to President Bush saying she will leave her post on Dec. 9, the FCC announced Thursday.

So far, no one has been nominated to replace Abernathy, who would have had to leave the FCC at the end of this legislative session anyway (her term expired last year, but she could stay on until December, according to federal rules).

Credit: FCC
Kathleen Abernathy

Earlier this month, Bush said he planned to nominate Democrat Michael Copps to a second term on the commission. He also named Deborah Tate, a Republican regulatory commissioner from Tennessee, to fill the seat left vacant when Kevin Martin was appointed chairman. Martin replaced Michael Powell, another Republican, who had served as chairman.

Unless Tate is confirmed in the next few weeks, the December meeting will only have three out of the five commissioner seats filled.

Abernathy served on the FCC during an important period in the industry. Critics of the agency say the commission has given in too much to the wishes of large telecommunications companies like Bell operators. One such example, they say, is the reclassification of DSL services, which put them on more equal footing with cable modem services. The new rule allows phone companies to deny access to third parties that want to resell DSL service. In her final statement, Abernathy defended this decision.

"Implicit in the commission's competition-oriented approach to telecommunications regulation is a recognition of the fact that competition is a journey," she said in a statement. "It is a journey in which there are winners and losers, change and upheaval, and no clear destination where all things are settled and all competitors are satisfied. Our effort to create greater regulatory symmetry between cable and telephone company providers of advanced high-speed broadband networks is but one example of that process."