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Genachowski: 'Unleashing the Benefits of Broadband Was the Highest Priority'

After hugs and pre-goodbyes with staffers and fellow
commissioners last week-he is not leaving the agency for several more
weeks-departing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski spoke briefly with B&C Washington editor John Eggerton,
emphasizing the point that the mission of the FCC is to promote broadband.

What's next for

I have no plans. I am focused on the work of the commission and will
continue to do that until I leave. [A source close to the chairman says he
plans to attend the National Association of Broadcasters convention April 8-11,
where he is scheduled for the annual chairman's Q&A. And look for him to
still preside over the FCC's April 18 meeting.]

You have taken some
heat from both ends of the political spectrum. Is the push for broadband what
moderated your regulatory approach and forced you to focus on getting it out
there the best way you could?

I think that's right. Unleashing the benefits of broadband was the highest
priority. It affects every industry. But even larger than that, it is a very
important issue for our economy and the American people. One of the things that
is gratifying is that the American broadband economy is thriving. We're seeing
big increases in private investment and innovation, new services and
applications for consumers. On a global competitive basis, the U.S. has
regained global leadership in key areas. We are in a global bandwidth race, and
the U.S. is in a very strong position.

If you had to pick
one highlight of your tenure, what would it be?

It's hard to pick one. I'll pick four: Transforming the Universal Service
Fund from telephone to broadband; seeing incentive auction legislation pass
Congress; putting strong and balanced open Internet rules in place; and taking
big steps to promote broadband competition.

You mentioned
incentive auctions. You are leaving with the incentive auctions still at the
beginning of the process. What shape is it in?

In 2009, when I rang the alarm bell on a spectrum crunch, people said there was
no spectrum crunch. In early 2010, when we introduced the incentive auction
idea, people said that would never happen. The goals that I set out were to get
the country focused on spectrum crunch, get the legislation passed and move
forward on other steps to free up licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Things have
moved much faster than anyone would have thought, and much more has gotten done
than anyone would have predicted. Having said that, there are challenges ahead
and they will be with us for a very long time. That is why one of the things I
focused on was strengthening the agency so that it could continue to do the
work of the American people for a very long time.

What's the status
of media ownership?

No change since the last news. [A vote on Genachowski's proposal for
changes to the regulations is awaiting completion of a diversity study.]

that you can start to look back, what do you see?

I think one of the things that was gratifying at
the meeting [where the chairman gathered staffers to tell them of his decision
to exit] was seeing the faces in the room and seeing that everyone in the room
was working in a revitalized agency. They understand the mission of the agency-unleashing
the benefits of broadband for our economy and the American people. I've had a
long history with this agency, as you know. I was here in the 1990s [as a top
aide to then chairman Reed Hundt]. I deal with staff every day, but it was a
poignant moment for me and one I will remember for a very long time.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.