Levin Returns to FCC to Craft National Broadband Plan

Blair Levin, a former FCC heavy-hitter earlier this year considered one of the top contenders for FCC chairman, is returning to his alma mater agency, as it were.

Levin served at the FCC as chief of staff under Reed Hundt, during the Clinton Administration; in fact, he was one of the key architects of the 1996 Telecom Act. After that stint, he worked as a head telecom analyst for investment bank Stifel Nicolaus since 2005 and most recently sat on President Obama’s transition team. Levin’s now been tapped by FCC Acting Chairman Michael Copps to craft the national broadband policy Congress has instructed the FCC to lay out by next February.

Today marks the deadline for the first round of comments on that plan.

Copps announced Levin’s appointment while publicizing several other staff changes, one of which is the retirement of Kent Nilsson, the longtime FCC inspector general hand-picked by Kevin Martin.

A 30-year-career coming to an end wouldn’t be so unusual – the timing on this one, however, is curious. That’s because Nilsson has been under investigation by the Integrity Committee of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency for repeated, and serious, violations of agency procedure. The scandal has led to calls for the president to select inspectors general, rather than allowing the FCC chairman to do so, since the cronyism can lead to internal corruption.

Also, given that Copps was not a fan of Martin’s policies, it’s safe to conclude that he and Nilsson didn’t see eye-to-eye either, probably hindering any progress Copps was trying to push. Nilsson’s permanent replacement has not been named; David Hunt, an assistant inspector general, will take the helm in the interim.

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