Today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his intention to resign from the Federal Communications Commission, two days after Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell. The following statement may be attributed to TechFreedom President Berin Szoka :
Julius Genachowski entered office with grand talk of post-partisanship, much like President Obama, his law school friend. His National Broadband Plan offered plenty of reasons for Hope, but the Chairman delivered little of the Change we needed. With the support of the equally personable Republican Rob McDowell, Genachowski’s legacy could have been progress on a range of issues where broad consensus exists, like eliminating the regulatory barriers that slow down broadband deployment. He succeeded on a few issues, like reforming the bloated high-cost portion of the Universal Service Fund. But he failed to deliver on the greatest opportunities, if only by failing to prioritize non-ideological reforms that, together, could have made a big difference.
Virtually everyone agrees on the need for more spectrum to meet consumers’ demand for mobile broadband. Yet Genachowski’s most successful auction raised just $20 million—a laughable sum after 2008’s 700 Mhz auction raised $19 billion. The Commission failed to do much of what it could to free up spectrum on its own, and the Chairman alienated those lawmakers who feared the Commission would use auctions to regulate by stealth, which is what caused the failure of the 2008 D Block auction. Now Genachowski has set the Commission on the path to doing precisely what Congress told the agency not to do in the Spectrum Act: limit participation in incentive auctions.
Genachowski wasted two years and limited staff resources hunting down the great white whale of Net Neutrality. His attempted compromise contorted the FCC’s legal authority well beyond what Congress intended. If, as is widely expected, the D.C. Circuit strikes down the Net Neutrality rules, the Commission will be back at square one—four years later. Legal authority over allegedly anti-competitive broadband practices will remain where it has all along: the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice.
The next FCC chairman should be someone who can focus on clearing regulatory dead-wood and ground the FCC’s work in rigorous cost-benefit analysis with an appropriate humility about technological change. The alternative is to do what Alfred Kahn, Carter’s deregulator-in-chief, dreamed of doing: close the FCC once and for all.
Szoka is available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org .