FCC priorities unlikely to change during Obama's second term

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Now that President Obama has been re-elected, many in the wireless industry are trying to determine how the FCC might change during his second term.  Most agree that even if FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski steps down during Obama's second term, the FCC's policy priorities are unlikely to charge very much.

The FCC will likely continue to work to free more spectrum for mobile broadband, which has been a centerpiece of Genachowski's tenure. Some of this is because of the clamoring from the CTIA and wireless operators.  In addition, the FCC also has already commited to conducting incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum in 2014. 

According to a Politico report, most observers expect Genachowski to resign from his post in the coming months. However, he has so far remained mum on the topic. "Chairman Genachowski is focused, and plans to remain focused, on an ongoing agenda to unleash the benefits of broadband, driving economic growth and opportunity for all Americans, and helping ensure that the U.S. maintains the global leadership it has regained," an FCC spokesperson told Politico.

If he does resign, there is no clear candidate to replace him. The FCC will remain with a Democratic majority, so it's possible that either Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel could be elevated to the top spot. If so, they would become the first woman to lead the FCC. Others point to Washington insiders like National Telecommunications and Information Administration Administrator Larry Strickling or former CTIA chief Tom Wheeler.

Regardless of the parlor game, the FCC's priorities will likely remain rooted in those that Genachowski has pushed the past several years. Chief among them is freeing up 300 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband by 2015 and 500 MHz by 2020. Privacy and cyber security also will likely continue to be hot regulatory topics.

"This president has laid out a very aggressive mobile agenda and has begun to execute on it. I think the next four years are really going to be about execution, execution, execution," Bryan Tramont, a managing partner at Wilkinson, Barker and Knauer who served as chief of staff to former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, told the National Journal.

Part of that agenda will likely include moving forward with the recommendations of President's Council of Advisors on Policy and Technology that commercial entities learn to share spectrum with the federal government rather than expect exclusive access. Carriers, especially AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), have been wary of the PCAST report's recommendations, arguing that they prefer to get government spectrum cleared for commercial use.

For more:
- see this Politico article
- see this National Journal article
- see this NYT article

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