After Promoting a Wired World, Genachowski Pulls the Plug

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is going unplugged. The attorney’s stewardship of the agency [is over], and after more than four years dealing with issues such as broadband, wireless and media consolidation Genachowski, 50, is going off the grid for a while. He and his family are high-tailing it to a western dude ranch.

He and wife Rachel are old hands. They’ve ridden horses at various ports of call, including India and Peru. Along with their two youngest children, “We’re just going to go do some cattle drives and learn how to lasso,” says Genachowski, who attended Harvard at the same time as President Obama. After clerking at the Supreme Court, Genachowski gained valuable experience assisting past FCC chairman Reed Hundt from 1997 to 2001. His ability to wrestle with high-profile issues during his tenure drew varying reviews.

When Genachowski announced plans to step down, says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, “You had all the left-wing public interest advocates complaining about him, and then he had libertarian, free-market groups [saying], ‘Oh, he was too interventionist.’ In that sense, I think he got it right, because he was able to win his way through that.”

Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro dubbed Genachowski “the Spectrum Chairman” for recognizing the need for additional bandwidth to appease the growing appetite for mobile connectivity. A challenge for his successor will be to execute the auction of spectrum hoped to be regained from the return of some digital TV over-the-air broadcast airwaves.

President Obama’s appointee, Tom Wheeler, awaits Senate confirmation. Meanwhile, current Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will serve as acting chair.

Genachowski’s advice for Wheeler: “Learn everything, and do the right thing.”

After hitting the trail, Genachowski plans to remain involved in the technology discussion. He’ll become a senior fellow at The Aspen Institute, a Washington,…

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