President-elect Barack Obama intends to tap his technology adviser Julius Genachowski to head the Federal Communications Commission, according to reports. You may not have heard of Genachowski, but you’ve certainly seen his handiwork.
Genachowski was a major contributor to Obama’s online campaign strategy and played a leading role in shaping the president-elect’s technology strategy during the campaign. Key components of that plan include a call for greater media diversity, support for so-called net neutrality, greater broadband access across the country, and a national wireless system for emergency responders.
As head of the FCC, Genachowski will have wide influence over communications policy, including Internet-related issues. Genachowski’s name had been mentioned as a possibility for Obama’s Chief Technology Officer, but while he was a major player for tech during the campaign some critics were opposed to the idea of Genachowski as CTO. The New York Times points out that Genachowski’s experience in the tech sector was more as a businessman than a “pure technology expert.” That fact had some in Silicon Valley riled over the choice.
If Genachowski does end up at the FCC he will bring a vastly different outlook than Kevin Martin, the current FCC chief. Under the Bush Administration, the Martin-led FCC pushed to relax media ownership rules. That plan would have made it easier for media conglomerates to control broadcasting and print media in the same market–something that critics say favors media consolidation, not diversity. Congress later reversed the FCC’s policy.
Like Genachowski, Martin was also in favor of greater broadband access for the public. Martin recently wanted a requirement for the buyer of spectrum AWS-3 to use a portion of the wireless spectrum for a free, nationwide Wi-Fi service. That plan was held back at the request of Congressional leaders and it will be up to Genachowski’s FCC to decide how to auction off AWS-3.
Genachowski is a longtime friend of Obama’s. The pair worked together on the Harvard Law Review and have remained friends ever since. Following law school, Genachowski went on to clerk for two Supreme Court Justices–David H. Souter and William J. Brennan Jr. He also worked as a general counsel to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt under the Clinton Administration, and worked in a variety of positions at Barry Diller’s IAC/Interactive Corporation for eight years. He also co-founded the country’s first commercial “green” bank. Currently, Genachowski heads two venture capital firms: LaunchBox Digital and Rock Creek Ventures.
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