FCC's Lathen sets departure date


FCC Cable Bureau Chief Deborah Lathen Wednesday announced she will resign May 18.

Lathen, a political appointee named to the post by former chairman William Kennard, has stayed on as new agency chief Michael Powell searched for her replacement and she mulled her own job prospects. Industry sources say Powell has picked "a longtime friend" to head the bureau, but hadn't learned the person's identity. Also sources say the person, a Washington telecom lawyer is expected to become the chief of a larger video services bureau that will incorporate broadcast TV, cable and satellite. Since taking over the bureau in 1998, Lathen's office has handled some of the FCC's most high-profile issues, including the fight over access to cable system's high-speed Internet lines, the mergers of AT&T/MediaOne and America Online/Time Warner.

"I was given a rare privilege and deep honor to lead the Cable Services Bureau during a watershed time," Lathen wrote in a resignation letter to Powell. She also praised the bureau and other FCC staff. "From directing merger reviews to supervising the day-to-day business of the bureau, she has made remarkable contributions and her leadership will be missed," Powell said in a written statement. - Bill McConnell