Former GOP Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell has been tapped to head the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
Powell, who served as chairman from 2001 to 2005, currently works as a senior adviser for a media investment firm and serves as honorary co-chair of Broadband for America, according to an NCTA statement. He fills a spot vacated earlier this month by Kyle McSlarrow, who left for a top lobbying job with Comcast.
Beyond managing NCTA operation, Powell will be the cable industry's "leading advocate, spokesman, and representative in its relationship with the U.S. Congress, the Administration, the FCC, and other federal agencies," according to the association.
"Michael Powell is one of the most well respected and influential visionaries in all of telecommunications, and we're so proud to have him join the cable team," said Patrick J. Esser, chair of the NCTA Board of Directors and president of Cox Communications.
President Bill Clinton nominated Powell to the FCC in 1997. He was appointed as chairman by President George W. Bush in 2001. Powell's tenure as chairman was marked by a bitter battle over his efforts to relax media ownership rules and the flap over Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction." Before his time at the FCC, Powell worked at the Department of Justice's antitrust division.
Current FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell issued a statement congratulating Powell and said he is looking forward to working with him.
"Michael has always exhibited the best attributes of leadership," McDowell said. "His intellect and vision will serve NCTA and its members well as the cable industry faces increasing competitive and regulatory challenges."
The advocacy group Free Press, meanwhile, issued a statement calling Powell a perfect fit for the job, and not necessarily in a good way.
"Former Chairman Michael Powell is the natural choice to lead the nation's most powerful cable lobby, having looked out for the interests of companies like Comcast and Time Warner during his tenure at the Commission and having already served as a figurehead for the industry front group Broadband for America," said Free Press managing director Craig Aaron. "Thanks in no small part to the policies he pursued at the FCC and to the cable lobby's unyielding fight against any real competition in the broadband market, the digital divide is still with us."
NCTA's members provide service to about 90 percent of America's cable subscribers.