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Julius Genachowski Reportedly Picked to Head FCC

01/19/2009

Democratic sources are reporting that President-elect Barack Obama has selected Julius Genachowski, 45, a technology executive and former classmate from Harvard Law School, to lead the Federal Communications Commission. If confirmed by the Senate, Genachowski would replace current Chairman Kevin Martin; Martin could stay on as a Commissioner until 2011, when his present term expires.

After graduating from law school, Genachowski clerked for federal judge Abner Mikva; he also clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Genachowski later served as chief counsel to Reed Hundt, chairman of the FCC from 1993-1997. After leaving the FCC, Genachowski was a senior executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp, Barry Diller's e-commerce and media company. He went on to found an investment and advisory firm for digital media companies and co-founded the country's first commercial "green" bank. According to Obama's Web site, Genachowski raised at least $500,000 for Obama during the presidential election campaign.

Characterizing Genachowski as "not a radio guy," ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, said, "We can only hope that under the new chairman, the FCC bureaus and offices that deal with Amateur Radio issues will be empowered to do their jobs without clearing every detail through the Chairman's office."

Early in the Obama presidential campaign, Genachowski urged the candidate to capitalize on the organizing power of the Internet. The New York Times called Genachowski "a prolific fund-raiser and chairman of the campaign's group of technology-policy advisers, who produced a report advocating an open Internet, diversity in media ownership and a nationwide wireless system for emergency personnel." The Washington Post, which described Genachowski a "local venture capitalist," credits him with "spearheading Obama's online campaign strategy, which used social networking and other tools to spread Obama's campaign message and raise record campaign contributions."

The Post credited sources close to Obama's transition team who said that "Genachowski had been recently meeting with key Democratic lawmakers to see if the role of Chief Technology Officer would have policy-making authority and decided against taking the job when he realized the definition of CTO would not include a strong regulatory role. Instead, Genachowski expressed interest in the FCC [Chairmanship]."

Genachowski explained in his Obama campaign blog that he "was fortunate to chair the group that advised Senator Obama and the [presidential] campaign on the tech & innovation plan, a large and hardworking group that generated terrific ideas, rooted in the great work that the Senator and his strong Senate staff have been doing in this area for quite some time."

According to Bloomberg.com, the FCC may turn to expanding Americans' access to high-speed Internet service once the pressure from the digital television transition eases: "Obama has made universal broadband a cornerstone of his plan to boost US competitiveness. It is 'unacceptable' that the nation ranks 15th worldwide in high-speed Internet adoption rates, he said in a December 6 speech. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has said broadband funds will be part of the economic stimulus package Congress intends to take up this month."



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