TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Powell to Step Down at F.C.C. After Pushing for Deregulation

Powell to Step Down at F.C.C. After Pushing for Deregulation

Monty Solomon (
Sat, 22 Jan 2005 11:25:47 -0500


WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 - Michael K. Powell, who has overseen the Federal
Communications Commission during a time of helter-skelter convergence
among telephone, television and high-speed Internet services,
announced Friday that he would be stepping down from the agency in two

Mr. Powell sought to roll back regulation of each of those
industries. But on his watch the F.C.C. also enforced stringent
decency standards, imposing hefty fines on television and radio

Administration officials and industry executives said that two leading
contenders had emerged to succeed Mr. Powell as chairman. One is Kevin
J. Martin, a Republican commissioner and former White House official
who several times foiled Mr. Powell's attempts to deregulate
broadcasters and telephone companies. The other is Becky A. Klein, a
senior policy adviser to George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas
and a former chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. She
lost a Congressional bid two months ago. Her campaign received a large
amount of financial support from executives at telecommunications
companies who expected she would be a top contender for the
F.C.C. job.

Both Mr. Martin and Ms. Klein have close ties to Mr. Bush and they
have track records that are less ideological than Mr. Powell's. Both
have taken steps as regulators that at times have angered the large
Bell companies and at other times pleased them. Working in
Mr. Martin's favor is the fact that he is a sitting commissioner and,
as such, could fill the position quickly because he would not need
Senate confirmation. Some broadcasters are concerned, however, that
Mr. Martin could be even more aggressive than Mr. Powell in enforcing
the indecency rules.

The officials and executives said that other candidates being
considered to succeed Mr. Powell include Michael D. Gallagher, the
top Commerce Department official on telecommunications issues; Pat
Wood III, another former Texas regulator who is head of the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission; and Janice Obuchowski, a consultant who
worked in the Commerce Department during the administration of the
first President Bush.

The White House is also expected to soon have a second Republican
vacancy on the five-member commission. Kathleen Q. Abernathy, an ally
of Mr. Powell, has recently told administration officials that she
intends to step down.

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