Skip to main content

FCC Salutes Powell

First Dan Rather, now Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell.

An emotional Powell bid farewell to his staff and fellow commissioners at his final FCC meeting as chairman Thursday, saying he had loved every day of it.

Perhaps, but he also took issue with the outside criticism of the commission by those who ascribed ulterior motives to public servants he said were just trying to do their jobs as best they could.

Government service is not lucrative, Powell said, but "it is the highest honor and greatest privilege." Powell, who will still be at the commission through next week, said he has not lined up a new job and is looking forward to some R&R in the Virgin islands.

The Bush administration is widely expected to name FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin when Powell exits.

The meeting was filled with agenda items, including a raft of items unanimously approved without comment. That was a symbol of unity that was not evident on many of the high-profile issues--most notably the FCC's ownership rule rewrite--over which he and the commission Democrats frequently butted heads.

But Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps came not to bury Powell, but to praise him. Both conceded they had disagreed with the Chairman at times, but Copps pointed out that most of the work of the commission was on issues below the radar, where the disagreements were over applicability of rules and there was far more agreement than dissent.

Copps used the opportunity of the collegiality remark to make another pitch for allowing all five commissioners to meet outside of formal meetings. Currently, sunshine laws do not allow more than two commissioners to meet.

Adelstein praised Powell a soldier at heart who had almost given his life for his country--he was seriously injured in an accident while in the Army. Adelstein said he knew the frequent travel often cause Powell pain, but that like the good soldier he never complained. Adelstein said it had been a privilege to serve with him.

Powell was praised by fellow Republicans Kathleen Abernathy and Martin as a broadband visionary and a force in the DTV transition. Appropriately, one of the items approved in the meeting was a change to the rules for development of cognitive, or so-called "smart," radios. Powell long has advocated the devices, which more effectively use spectrum by intuitively using only as much of the spectrum as they need at any given moment, as a way to more efficiently use a limited resource.

"Will all those in favor of me leaving signify by saying 'Aye,'" said Powell. And once again, there was dissent: His was the only "Aye."

Like Rather, Powell received a standing ovation from the room, and ended the session with hugs for all the commissioners.