Federal Communications Commission chief of Sstaff Edward Lazarus is exiting the commission effective at the end of January, Lazarus said Tuesday in an interview with Multichannel News.
He has been the chief policy gatekeeper -- that chief policy being broadband deployment and adoption -- and top adviser to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski since June 2009. Before that, he was an attorney with Akin Gump in L.A.
Lazarus says it was not a case of a better offer or friction with his current boss. "I had always looked at this as a two-three-year role [it will have been a little over two and a half years] and I want to have time to take a breath and look for what to do next on a schedule compatible with the school year." He has two kids, 11, and 13, and he says if he takes a job outside of D.C. he would want to do it "without yanking my kids out of school."
He also said he has not interviewed anywhere and has "absolutely no idea" where he is going.
"No one has done more than Eddie Lazarus to ensure that the FCC meets its vital mission to harness communications technology to benefit our economy and all Americans," said Genachowski in a statement. "Eddie has worked tirelessly to refocus the FCC on broadband Internet, and unleash its opportunities."
Lazarus says he is proudest of that work, a focus Genachowski told reporters Tuesday would continue in 2012. That included working through the National Broadband Plan and implementing "significant parts of it" including Universal Service Reform and broadband adoption. He also cited open Internet, transaction reviews and bill shock as high points.
Lazarus had said previously that he hoped that by the time he left the FCC, he could look back and see that the needle had moved on creating a globally competitive 21st Century communications network. Asked if he had moved the needle enough, he said that it could never be moved enough. "We have set the agenda for 2012 and beyond, which is to continue to close those gaps: getting broadband access to everyone, getting our adoption numbers up from 68% to a target closer to 100%, and getting spectrum. With any luck," he said, "Congress may authorize incentive auctions before the end of the year."
Lazarus said the toughest part of his job was "navigating the five-year history of incredible divisiveness over the open Internet and drawing the stakeholders to a consensus position." There was a bit of the iron fist in the velvet glove about that consensus, since it was driven more by that position's preference to Title II classification than a warm industry embrace of codifying and expanding net neutrality rules.
On any advice to his successor, Lazarus says "not to get overly caught up in the ups and downs that occur every day and to keep focused on the long-term strategic goals of the commission."
Lazarus says his successor has not been named, and won't be until the end of January. He says the chairman has asked him to help with the transition, but that Genachowski "has not made up his mind."
Lazarus, who wrote a book about the Supreme Court after clerking for Justice Harry Blackman in the late 1980s, gives a "definitive no" when asked if a book about the inner workings of the FCC could be in his future.
Of his time at the FCC, he says: "I am enormously grateful to chairman Genachowski for this experience and it has really been a life-altering experience to work with the talented FCC staff on issues that were largely unknown to me before I came here."
"Among Eddie's accomplishments is the strengthening of the FCC's great staff. Eddie has done so much toward ensuring that the FCC is a model for excellence in government, and when he departs he'll leave a strong and experienced staff," said Genachowski in the statement. "We'll miss Eddie deeply, but will continue to benefit every day from his leadership, strength and brilliance."