Congratulations, Kevin

So Kevin Martin has been named the new Chairman of the FCC. This is not exactly a surprise, although I’m a bit curious why it took so long — there must have been some Congressional horse trading in the background.

As a told a reporter earlier this afternoon, Kevin has all the tools to be a successful FCC Chairman. He knows the agency and the White House, and he’s more flexible and intellectually sophisticated than people give him credit for.

On the other hand, Martin has his work cut out for him. Michael Powell is a tough act to follow. And many critical issues raised during Chairman Powell’s tenure — from regulation of voice over IP to spectrum policy to universal service reform — remain unresolved.

Moreover, to be an effective FCC Chairman in the 21st century, you have to grok technology. Deep down, you have to appreciate how quickly the world can change, and how many of the assumptions the communications industry is based on will likely be overturned. This doesn’t mean being a professional technologist. Powell got it. So do some executives who come from the telephone business, like Jim Crowe and Dave Dorman.

Martin is certainly smart enough and interested in what the tech sector thinks, but the question is whether he’s willing to step out of the FCC’s Beltway box. Listening to what the telcos say about fiber deployment isn’t the same thing as promoting technological innovation. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.