NTIA Head John Kneuer Exiting Post
National Telecommunications & Information Administration Names Meredith Baker Acting Administrator
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/9/2007 8:09:00 AM
The head of the administration agency overseeing the digital-TV-to-analog converter-box-subsidy program is leaving the agency within the next couple of weeks, and only six weeks or so before the launch of arguably National Telecommunications & Information Administration's biggest mission ever.
It was John Kneuer's decision to leave for the private sector, said a spokesman, who added that Kneuer informed the staff of his decision Wednesday.
The NTIA named Meredith Baker, who has been deputy assistant secretary for communications and information and deputy NTIA administrator, to replace Kneuer until a permanent administrator for the agency can be found.
Kneuer has headed the Department of Commerce's NTIA since October 2003.
There was no word on what private-sector job he is leaving for.
Kneuer's exit comes only weeks before the Jan. 1, 2008, launch of the subsidy program the NTIA is overseeing, in which households will get up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of a DTV-to-analog converter box that will allow over-the-air analog-only TV sets to continue to receive a signal after the February 2009 conversion to digital.
The NTIA outsourced the administration of the program to IBM, and spokesman Todd Sedmak said, "The right people, policies and programs are in place to successfully finish all outstanding projects. The NTIA is one of the nation's unheralded gems working to advance telecommunication policy to benefit the economy and society. John is proud of the work accomplished while here and knows that the pieces are in place to successfully finish the NTIA’s workload."
Kneuer has taken some heat from congressional and Federal Communications Commission Democrats over what they see as a lack of coordination of the DTV-transition-education program, although he has argued that there is communication among agencies and that an overarching centralized command and control operation, as the Democrats have called for, may not be the best way to oversee the educational effort.
The Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, which will be selling the converter boxes, praised Kneuer.
"Secretary Kneuer and the NTIA were given a very challenging task by Congress on short notice and with very little precedent or institutional experience," CERC president Marc Pearl said. "Secretary Kneuer’s team has done an excellent job in assembling an expert staff, seeking public comment, writing fair regulations, conceiving of a market-based program and choosing a well qualified contractor team to run it. The CERC believes the program has been and will be in good hands."
Baker has been in her current post since February, but she has been with NTIA since 2004, when she joined as a senior advisor. The NTIA is the administration’s telecommunications-policy advisor.
Before joining the NTIA, she was vice president of Williams Mullen Strategies and, before that, director of congressional affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. Her resume also includes working in the legislative affairs office at the State Department.
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