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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to step down 'in the coming weeks' (update: his departing words)

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Julius Genachowski will be stepping down when he reaches the end of his term as FCC Chairman, according to a brief message on the FCC's webpage. We're expecting to hear more in a live announcement at 10am, but this was no big surprise: four-year terms are the norm for a chairman and it was widely expected that he'd be amongst the officials replaced during Obama's second stint in office. The Wall Street Journal actually broke the news yesterday, and speculation over Mr. Genachowski's tenure has lingered ever since an awkward exchange where he refused to commit to his future at this year's CES.

During his time at the Commission, Genachowski worked to speed up the roll-out of broadband to rural communities, voiced concerns about the current phone unlocking policy and pushed to allocate more spectrum to WiFi use. With senior Republican Robert McDowell also departing the commission in the next few weeks, two places on the FCC's five-person board will need filling -- with names like Tom Wheeler, Karen Kornbluh and Catherine Sandoval being bandied about as replacements.

Update: Genachowski just made his formal announcement and used his minutes on the podium to thank the FCC's staff for helping to "get big things done" and "improve the lives of all Americans." He says the US has gone from "laggard to leader" in telecoms, with as many 4G subscribers as the rest of the world combined.

Update 2: The White House has now issued a statement on the matter, saying in part: "Over the last four years, Julius has brought to the Federal Communications Commission a clear focus on spurring innovation, helping our businesses compete in a global economy and helping our country attract the industries and jobs of tomorrow. Because of his leadership, we have expanded high-speed internet access, fueled growth in the mobile sector, and continued to protect the open internet as a platform for entrepreneurship and free speech."

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