FCC's Genachowski to step down

Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will announce his plans to step down on Friday, according to a commission official.

He plans to formally resign after the commission's meeting in April, the official said.

A spokesman for the chairman declined to comment.

Since Genachowski took over the chairman's spot in 2009, his top goal has been to expand access to broadband Internet. He converted a multibillion-dollar telephone fund into a broadband subsidy and has moved to auction TV station frequencies to cellphone carriers to improve high-speed wireless service.

In a controversial decision, Genachowski overrode Republican opposition to enact net-neutrality regulations in late 2010. The rules require Internet service providers to treat traffic to all websites equally. The rules, a 2008 campaign promise from President Obama, are currently being challenged by Verizon in federal court. 

He approved Comcast's takeover of NBC-Universal but, along with the Justice Department, blocked AT&T's blockbuster bid to buy T-Mobile in 2011.

Genachowski often sought a middle ground between aggressive regulation and hands-off treatment of the telecommunications industry. That approach has won him few admirers among the most vocal conservatives and liberals.

Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner, said on Wednesday that he will step down from the commission in the coming weeks. The White House often nominates a Republican and Democratic commissioner as a pair to help ease confirmation through the Senate.

Potential candidates to succeed Genachowski include venture capitalist Tom Wheeler; Karen Kornbluh, ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; and Larry Strickling, the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

—Updated at 8:41 p.m.