Urgent Matters

FCC limbo may be a blessing in disguise

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Yesterday’s announcement that the nomination hearing for Julius Genachowski—President Barack Obama’s choice to be the new permanent chairman of the FCC—has been postponed means we’ll be waiting until at least June before the leadership for the communications agency is determined and meaningful decisions can be made.

For those who haven’t been keeping score on the 8th floor, here’s a quick update:

On the Republican side, Kevin Martin and Deborah Taylor Tate are gone, and Robert McDowell’s term is set to expire soon (although he can stick around for another year if no one takes his place). On the Democratic side, Interim Chairman Michael Copps will stay on the commission, but Jonathan Adelstein will become the administrator for the Rural Utilities Services. Genachowski would complete Adelstein’s term, and Obama recently announced plans to nominate Mignon Clyburn—a South Carolina state regulator and daughter of House majority whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.)—as an FCC commissioner.

Reportedly, Genachowski’s nomination hearing was postponed until after the Memorial Day recess, because Republicans want to have nominees from their party considered at the same time. To date, no Republican nominee has been named.

During this time, the FCC essentially has postponed all decisions not involving the digital-television transition. While this was largely expected to occur through the first quarter with a new administration, the idea that this state of limbo likely will continue through the mid-year seems ludicrous to many.

But is it a bad thing for the first-responder community? Not necessarily, according to some Beltway sources. Certainly there are some issues that need to be addressed, but many have noted that the lack of a fully constituted FCC has given public safety a chance to catch its collective breath and try to reach consensus internally on several matters, including the future of public safety’s broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

Hopefully, future reflections on this period will reveal that it was time well spent.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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