1. Michael Powell to Resign as FCC Chairman in March
Michael Powell has publicly announced that he will leave his position as chairman and member of the FCC sometime in March of this year. The chairman has told reporters that he has not not been offered another job nor has he interviewed for any other public or private sector position. Instead, Powell has remained vague about his reasons for resigning, stating merely that it’s logical to leave between administrations if you’re not really interested in staying for the entire second presidency term.
Most market analysts speculate that President Bush will appoint the opening position to Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin, who has strong ties to the Bush family and administration. Martin was a former special assistant to the president for economic policy and Martin’s wife is an adviser to Vice President Cheney. He can assume the job without the need for a Senate confirmation, since he has already been confirmed as a commissioner. As an added benefit, Martin’s opinions are known to be admired by the nation’s RBOCs and CLECs.
Other possible candidates for the position and for the position of FCC Commissioner, if Martin is indeed appointed include: Rebecca Klein, a managing partner of a Texas law firm and former chairwoman of the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC); Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary of Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and former deputy chief of staff and policy advisor to Commerce Secretary Donald Evans; and Patrick Wood, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulation Commission and former chairman of the PUC. A longshot is Janice Obuchowski, a telecom consultant and former FCC member in the 1980s.
Powell’s closest ally within the FCC, Kathleen Abernathy, has stated that she would like to leave the FCC later this year. The departure of the duo will certainly raise concerns by VoIP service providers who have enjoyed Powell’s strong backing, pushing for both full FCC control of the services and imposing light regulations.
Consumer advocacy leaders are glad to see Powell leave, claiming that he sided with big business on major issues. Robert McChesney, a left-wing professor, author, radio talk show host and Powell adversary, has criticized Powell for his rare attendance of public hearings compared with his frequent appearances at telecom trade shows. The chairman has defended his positions throughout his FCC leadership, claiming that his policies have promoted innovation and the growth of new consumer friendly markets. He also points to his support for local number portability in the mobile market and the establishment of the Do Not Call list.
Powell was also on-board at the FCC when the group rejected the merger of EchoStar and Hughes DirecTV, eliminating the establishment of a satellite monopoly. The FCC’s denial of the merger was the first by the FCC in 30 years.
IP telephony will continue to be a major issue for the FCC going throughout the year, as states are filing appeals to overrule the FCC and tax and regulate VoIP service. In addition, the FCC must decide when it will impose regulations such as required support for e911 and CALEA.
Other issues facing the FCC this year will include the establishment of regulations requiring cable telecom companies transmit exclusively in digital; the creation of a budget for the Universal Services Fund, which has spent more than it has taken in; and developing a policy for how voice termination partners should be compensated.
In the public eye, Powell’s career at the FCC has been highlighted not by VoIP, but by his response to the broadcast of partial nudity during last year’s Super Bowl halftime presentation and clashes with Howard Stern, an obscene national radio talk show host, who claimed Powell was unqualified for his job and was hired based solely on the achievements and influence of his father, Colin Powell.
Michael Powell was appointed to the FCC in 1998 by former President Bill Clinton and promoted to chair the agency by President Bush in early 2001.
Comments on Powell’s resignation are plentiful. Several telecom company leaders have released statements and many other comments can be found in blogs and trade journals.
Powell’s statement of resignation can be downloaded from the FCC web site.
3. TI Gateway Reference Designs to Be Compatible with CallVantage
Texas Instruments has entered into an agreement with AT&T to develop all of its future voice gateway reference designs to be compatible with AT&T’s CallVantage residential VoIP service.
Currently, VTech Communications is marketing a dual line corded/ cordless 2.4 GHz broadband telephone system that can be used with both the PSTN and VoIP. The system can support up to 8 cordless handsets. The phone, compatible with CallVantage, employs TI’s silicon and software technology.
5. Bezeq to Deploy Veraz’s Softswitch
Bezeq, an Israel-based ISP and international long distance provider, will deploy Veraz Networks’ VoIP technology to deliver both traditional and VoIP services to residential and business customers in Israel. Bezeq will use Veraz’s softswitch, media gateways, border gateway controller, and signaling transfer point system.
Bezeq has approximately 270,000 subscribers to its international long distance service.