The White House has named Kevin Martin to succeed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell in overseeing the countrys communications and media industries. A commissioner at the agency since 2001, Martin will not require confirmation by the Senate.
A Republican with strong ties to the administration, Martin worked on George W. Bushs first presidential campaign, and his wife is an advisor at the White House. While he typically sided with his predecessors deregulatory penchant, Martin somewhat famously voted against Powell on weighty rules governing the extent to which incumbent local telephone carriers must lease access to rivals.
Martin will preside over an agency that is grappling to adjust a nearly century-old communications policy to rapidly changing new technologies, including voice over IP, wireless broadband and satellite systems. Among the challenges will be figuring out how to sustain social policies, such as emergency dialing, affordable services for all, disabilities access and law enforcement access, without hampering the burgeoning technologies.
While a hefty load of telecom responsibilities awaits the new chairman, including figuring out how to reform the thorny, outdated system of cross-payments that telecom providers make to each other, Martin will be watched closely by the general public for his attention to broadcast decency issues and media ownership.
Powell announced last week that his last day at the agency will be Friday.