FCC chief appoints a new top cop and other staff leaders

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator

Michael Carowitz

Michael Carowitz

Michael Carowitz, who has been deputy chief of the FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, was named by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai as his acting chief of the Enforcement Bureau, which had been headed by Travis LeBlanc.

FCC observers expected that LeBlanc would be replaced since Pai has oftentimes complained about the enforcement group’s management.

The enforcement bureau is the FCC’s largest organization unit with 24 field offices around the country, although it was announced in 2015 that a number of those would be closed.

It is not known what direction President Donald Trump and Pai will take the agency in, but it is likely that based upon candidate Trump’s previous statements, enforcement may not be a top priority.

LeBlanc, appointed to his position in 2014, and heralded as the top enforcer the FCC has had, has gone after AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon as well as Hilton. Former Chairman Tom Wheeler said LeBlanc “is a savvy prosecutor who also knows how to secure agreements with private companies in order to advance the public mission.”

Former Chief of the Enforcement Bureau Travis LeBlanc

Former Chief of the Enforcement Bureau Travis LeBlanc

In 2015, LeBlanc’s bureau fined M.C. Dean for blocking consumers’ Wi-Fi connections at the Baltimore convention center, an action that was welcomed by wireless industry exhibitors and show planners.

However, then Commissioner Pai said that he wasn’t in agreement with the fine and found it to be a headline grabbing ploy.

“In the end, this decision is the latest evidence that the FCC’s enforcement process has gone off the rails,” Pai said.

Two weeks ago, the FCC reached a settlement with Straight Path valued at $100 million because the company failed to deploy wireless service.

“Squatting on spectrum licenses without any meaningful effort to put them to good use in a timely manner is fundamentally inconsistent with the public good,” said LeBlanc in announcing the agreement.

LeBlanc also threw the book at a corrupt owner who dipped into $27 million of FCC broadband funds.

Under his watch, LeBlanc also went after tower companies, fining GTCI $620,500 for not registering 118 towers and lamping three structures.

In an area in which Carowitz has considerable experience, the FCC fined T-Mobile and Sprint $85,000 for rooftop RF exposure violations.

While trade groups and others were congratulating Pai upon his appointment as FCC Chairman, Pai was praising his appointees and continuing bureau and office chiefs.

“The well of talent at the FCC is deep and abiding, and I am honored that this talented team has agreed to help lead the Commission. I look forward to working with them and the other skilled professionals at the agency to deliver digital opportunity to every American,” Pai said.


Michael Carowitz, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. For two decades, Carowitz has held positions within the communications law field, including an association with a leading Washington DC law firm and service as in-house legal counsel for a start-up provider of broadband and other services. While at the commission, he has most recently served as Deputy Chief of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau (2013–17). Prior to that, Carowitz served for seven years (2005–12) as Associate Chief/Chief of Staff of the commission’s Enforcement Bureau. He began his career with the FCC in the Policy Division of the Bureau that is now known as the Wireline Competition Bureau. Mr. Carowitz received his J.D., cum laude, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Michelle Carey, Acting Chief of the Media Bureau
. Following Bill Lake’s departure at the end of the month, Michelle Carey will serve as Acting Chief of the Media Bureau. For the past six years, Carey has been Deputy Chief of the Media Bureau. In this capacity, she assists in shaping the Bureau’s policies designed to facilitate competition in the multichannel video programming marketplace. Prior to this appointment, she was a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the Department of Commerce. Carey has also worked at the commission in various senior roles during the past sixteen years, including Senior Legal Advisor to Chairman Kevin J. Martin, Deputy Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau, and Chief of the Competition Policy Division of the Wireline Competition Bureau. Before joining the commission, she clerked for the Honorable Hart T. Mankin of the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals. Carey received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and received her B.A., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University.

Lisa Fowlkes, Acting Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. Since December 2016, Fowlkes has been serving as Acting Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Bureau where she was responsible for spectrum management and public safety enforcement. Prior to that, she served as Acting Director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities. Fowlkes previously served as Deputy Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau where she was responsible for developing and implementing FCC policies in the areas of network reliability and emergency alerting. Fowlkes started her career as a staff attorney in the FCC’s former Mass Media Bureau. Her 26-plus year career has included managerial and staff positions in various Bureaus and Offices including the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Office of General Counsel and the former Cable Services Bureau. Fowlkes also practiced communications law at a Washington, D.C. law firm. Fowlkes earned her J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

Nese Guendelsberger, Acting Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Guendelsberger joined the FCC in 2000 and has worked in the International Bureau, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and the Wireline Competition Bureau in various capacities. Most recently, she served as the Deputy Bureau Chief in the International Bureau. Prior to that, she was the Chief of the Wireless Bureau’s former Spectrum and Competition Policy Division for over six years, spearheading mobile spectrum, wireless competition, and infrastructure policy matters. Before joining the FCC in 2000, Guendelsberger taught law at the University of Baltimore and the University of Ankara and was a consultant on international law matters. She has an LL.M. from the University of Michigan as well as law degrees from the University of Paris I (Pantheon-Sorbonne) and the University of Ankara.

Kris Monteith, Acting Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau. Monteith has held a number of senior leadership positions within the FCC in her almost 20 years with the agency. She previously served as Deputy Chief in the Wireline Competition Bureau, where she oversaw the Bureau’s portfolio of numbering issues, as well as other policy and transactional matters. She also has served as the Acting Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau; Chief of the Enforcement Bureau; Deputy Chief and Chief Data Officer of the Media Bureau; Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Policy Division; and Deputy Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau’s Pricing Policy Division. Before joining the commission in 1997, Monteith practiced telecommunications law with McDermott, Will and Emery and Keller and Heckman in Washington, D.C. She received her J.D. from the George Washington University and her B.A. from the University of Colorado.

Tom Sullivan, Acting Chief of the International Bureau. Sullivan has served as an Associate Bureau Chief and the Chief of Staff for the International Bureau since March of 2010. Prior to his most recent role, Sullivan served in a variety of positions within the International Bureau and the Office of Managing Director. He joined the commission in 1991 after receiving his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He resides in Fairfax, Virginia with his wife and two children.

Wayne A. Leighton, Acting Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis. Leighton has served as a senior economist in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, advising on the 700 MHz Band, 3.5 GHz Band, Spectrum Frontiers and many other proceedings. He also served as wireless advisor to FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate. Previously, Leighton was a partner at Empiris LLC, an economic consulting firm; senior economist with the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and executive vice president with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. He also has been a professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, where he played a leadership role in establishing the Antigua Forum, an annual gathering of entrepreneurs and reformers from around the world. He earned a doctorate in economics from George Mason University and undergraduate degrees in business and economics from Texas A&M University.

Timothy Strachan, Acting Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs. Tim has been in the Office of Legislative Affairs since joining the commission in 2008. In his role as an Attorney Advisor, he was the lead liaison for all Media and International Bureaus’ issues, as well as Tribal issues. He has also been the lead liaison on issues related to the Wireless Bureau, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, and Office of Engineering & Technology. Prior to joining the commission, Strachan was Counsel to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary where he worked on predominantly civil legal policy, as well as Constitutional and criminal policy and the Supreme Court nominations of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Strachan earned his J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 2004 and his undergraduate degree in Communication: The Art of Rhetoric and the Theory of Interpersonal Communication from the University of Maryland.


Alison Kutler, Chief of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau. Kutler is Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau where she has served since 2015. Kutler has an extensive background in both public service and the private sector. Most recently, Kutler was Senior Vice President at Visa Inc. She previously held senior positions at the Export-Import Bank, and the International Trade Administration in the Department of Commerce, and was a partner in the international law firm Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP. She earned her J.D. at Stanford Law School and her B.A. from Georgetown University.

Julius Knapp, Chief Engineer. Knapp has been with the FCC for 42 years and has served as the Chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology since 2006. He received the FCC’s Silver and Gold Medal Awards for distinguished service at the commission as well as the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for exceptional achievement in the career Senior Executive Service. Knapp has been the recipient of the Eugene C. Bowler award for exceptional professionalism and dedication to public service; the Federal Communications Bar Association Excellence in Government Service Award; the WCAI Government Leadership award; the National Spectrum Management Association Fellow Award; and the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers E. Noel Luddy Award. Knapp is a Life Member of the IEEE. He received a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the City College of New York in 1974.

Mark Stephens, Managing Director. Stephens joined the FCC in 1991 and has served in a variety of roles and has broad experience of financial management, auditing, accounting and management in both the public and private sectors. Stephens currently serves as the FCC’s Managing Director with oversight of the agency’s budget and financial programs, human resources, contracts, purchasing, communications, computer services, physical space, security, and distribution of official FCC documents. Before becoming Managing Director, Stephens served as Chief Financial Officer in the commission’s Office of Managing Director. In that capacity, he managed the FCC’s financial reporting and compliance, oversaw preparation and implementation of the commission’s budget, and provided advice on financial management and accounting matters. Stephens has also served as a special advisor for the Universal Service Fund Oversight in the Wireline Competition Bureau, and as a senior audit manager and systems accountant in the Wireline Competition Bureau among other roles and responsibilities. Prior to joining the commission, Stephens worked as an auditor with Grant Thornton LLP, and served in the United States Navy. He holds a Master’s Degree in Telecommunications from the George Washington University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Loyola College.

Gary Epstein, Director of the Incentive Auction Task Force. In April 2012, Epstein rejoined the FCC. He serves as Chair of the commission’s Incentive Auction Task Force. He leads the Incentive Auction Task Force as it carries out its responsibilities to implement the world’s first broadcast television spectrum incentive auction. Epstein was the founder and Global Chair of the Communications Practice Group of Latham & Watkins, a national and international law firm. For 25 years, he was Chair of the Practice Group and led the firm’s Telecommunications Law Practice. Directly before rejoining the FCC, Epstein was the Managing Director and General Counsel of the Aspen Institute International Digital Economy Accords (IDEA) Project. He also served as Executive Vice President of SkyTerra Communications, an advanced satellite company. In previous roles at the FCC, he served as the Digital Television Coordinator and Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau. Epstein graduated from Harvard Law School with a JD, with honors, and graduated from Lehigh University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, with highest honors.

Sanford Williams, Acting Director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities.
Mr. Williams has worked as an attorney in various roles at the commission since 1999. In addition to serving as the Acting Director of OCBO, Williams currently serves as a Deputy Division Chief with the Wireline Competition Bureau in its Competition Policy Division. Before starting his federal career, he worked as an attorney for Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, and taught at Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia. Williams is a member of the Virginia Bar and the Georgia Bar. He received a J.D. from UVA’s School of Law and was a member of the Virginia Law Review, an MBA from Johnson School of Management, and his Undergraduate Degree in Operations Research & Industrial Engineering from Cornell University. He graduated from Newark Academy in New Jersey in 1983.

Mark Wigfield, Acting Director of the Office of Media Relations. Wigfield came to the FCC in September 2004, initially serving as spokesman for the Wireline Competition Bureau, and becoming Deputy Director of the Office of Media Relations in April of 2013. Prior to coming to the commission, Mark was a journalist for 20 years. His positions include reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, where he wrote about regulatory matters for the financial wire and the Wall Street Journal; a regional reporter covering Washington for a 20-paper newspaper group owned by Dow Jones; and a local news reporter in Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Larry Hudson, Acting Director of the Office of Workplace Diversity. Prior to joining the FCC in 2015, Hudson served as the Chief, Employee and Labor Relations for the Bureau of Administration, Bureau of Information Resource Management and Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the State Department. He has held positions at the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and the National Park Service. Hudson possesses over 20+ years of Labor and Employee Relations experience from the private, public and military sectors. His initial introduction to human resources came while he served active duty in the Air Force. Hudson is a trained mediator, formerly certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. He has also obtained the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) practitioner certification. He has a Master of Science in Human Resources Management from Chapman University, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Maryland.