The new chairman is expected to be Julius Genachowski, who is slated to take over the reins of the agency after President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in next Tuesday.
In a statement on the FCC site, Martin said his philosophy during his stint at the commission "has been to pursue deregulation while paying close attention to its impact on consumers and the particulars of a given market, to balance deregulation with consumer protection."
On the telecommunications side of FCC business, Martin oversaw the successful sale of nearly $20 billion of 700-MHz spectrum to mobile phone service providers as he pushed for the spread of wireless broadband at affordable prices.
He leaves with some unfinished business, though, as the switch to analog to digital television for millions of Americans with older analog TVs is bogged down and may miss its switchover date of Feb. 17. He also tried mightily to find a way to set aside spectrum that would offer free wireless broadband for consumers, but that effort, too, got bogged down.
Martin had three years left in his appointment and could have remained a member of the FCC after giving up the chairman's post, but he chose to cut his ties entirely. At the Aspen Institute he will be a senior fellow at its Communications and Society Program.
Martin said he strove during his tenure as FCC chairman to achieve a balance between "two competing interests": first, to encourage investment in communications infrastructure and, second, to work to see that consumers weren't disadvantaged by the owners of the infrastructure.