Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski embraces… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- In announcing he was stepping down, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Friday touted the agency's efforts to expand high-speed Internet access during his nearly four-year tenure.
"I'll always be proud of what we've done technology to harness technology to advance the American dream for the 21st century," Genachowski told FCC employees in a gathering in the commission's meeting room.
He said he would step down "in the coming weeks" and thanked the agency's staff for getting "big things done for our country."
"Over the past four years we've focused the FCC on broadband, wired and wireless, working to drive economic growth and improve the lives of all Americans," Genachowski said.
"And thanks to you, the commission's employees, we've taken big steps to build a future where broadband is ubiquitous and bandwidth is abundant, where innovation and investment are flourishing," he continued.
In a 20-minute speech, Genachowski highlighted the agency's accomplishments. He noted that the FCC released a national broadband plan three years ago that called for increasing high-speed access.
Part of that strategy included expanding access to wireless spectrum, and the agency has worked to try to lure broadcasters to give up some of their airwaves in exchange for money from the government's auction of rights to use them to telecom companies.
And under his leadership, the FCC overhauled the $8-billion Universal Service Fund. The fund, paid for by fees on consumer phone bills, provided subsidies for phone service to rural and low-income households. In 2011, the FCC refocused the fund on providing subsidies for high-speed Internet service.
Industry groups and his fellow commissioners praised Genachowski.
"Although occasionally we disagreed, sometimes profoundly, he leaves office with my utmost respect," said Republican Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, who announced this week he also was stepping down.
"He proved that through hard work, persistence and creativity, bipartisanship and compromise in policymaking can occur in Washington, even in these days of sharp divisions and gridlock," McDowell said.
Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Genachowski, said Genachowski had "done remarkable things." Asked about her interest in the job, Clyburn said she would continue to serve in "any capacity" that President Obama chooses.
But there was criticism of Genachowski as well. Public Knowledge, a public-interest group, slammed his tenure as one of "missed opportunities."