Saturday, October 23, 2021

Speculation Over Powell Replacement Begins

UPDATED: Although President George W. Bush has not announced a replacement for
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael K. Powell,
who announced his resignation
last week, four names emerged over the weekend as the leading candidates: FCC Commissioners Kevin Martin and
Kathleen Abernathy; Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher; and former Texas
Public Utility Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Armendariz Klein.

By promoting either Republicans Kevin Martin or
Kathleen Abernathy to the top spot, Bush would gain
a second nomination to fill the vacant commissioner’s position.

“It makes some sense to elevate either Martin or Abernathy,” Randy May, a
senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a Washington think
tank, said. “Martin is quite deregulatory, and I think he could make a good
chairman.”

Prior to being appointed to the FCC by Bush in 2001, Martin served as a telecommunications
lawyer in the White House. He also served on the Bush-Cheney transition team
and was deputy general counsel for the Bush campaign.

Martin has backed most of Powell’s deregulatory policies, particularly on
Voice over IP issues and the rollout
of alternative broadband platforms, such as broadband over power lines. He
most notably clashed with Powell early last year when he sided with
Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein to block the chairman’s plan
to further deregulate local phone rates. The courts ultimately bounced the
plan backed by Martin.

Although Abernathy’s name is making numerous lists as a replacement for
Powell, she has said in the past she is not interested in continuing at the
FCC.

Klein worked in the White House for the first President Bush and served as a
policy director for George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas. In one
scenario, Martin could be promoted to chairman and Klein appointed to fill
Martin’s seat.

Gallagher’s role at the Commerce Department also makes him a leading
candidate to replace Powell. As part of his role at the Commerce Department,
he serves as the administrator of the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration, the White House agency that controls
government-held spectrum.

Roger Cochetti, the group director of public policy at the IT trade group
CompTIA, warns, however, Bush likes surprises.

“The president has
demonstrated he is capable of going outside the pundits’ list,” he said.

In that case, Pat Wood and Earl Comstock could make the short list. Wood
is the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
and another Texan with close ties to Bush; Comstock is a Washington
lawyer who used to work for incoming Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted
Stevens (R-Ala.).

Whoever the president appoints, Cochetti predicts there will be no major
policy changes at the FCC.

“Deregulation of the Internet and e-commerce is something the president and
this administration is on record as supporting. I fully expect that to
continue,” Cochetti said.

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