Telecom Timeout

Jan 14 2009   5:31PM GMT

Proposed FCC head is an FOB

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

The rumored new head of the FCC is an FOB. That’s “Friend of Barack,” people, as in a former Harvard Law School classmate of the president-elect, who definitely knows his way around Washington D.C. (Yes, he’s on Facebook, but has he friended you?)

The nomination of technology exec Julius Genachowski is still an official secret, which is obvious because it’s been blasted all over every website and publication that has any interest in communications policy. The Genachowski nomination will be no big surprise, as he is already Obama’s chief technology advisor already.

Genachowski already knows the FCC drill, as he was chief counsel for Reed Hundt, the FCC chairman under former President Bill Clinton, and has worked at IAC/InterActiveCorp and other technology companies. He also co-founded LaunchBox Digital, a venture capital firm in Washington, D.C.

What policies does Genachowski favor? We’re hearingnet neutrality (government mandated?, cheap broadband for everybody, and media ownership rules that favor diversity.

Even before Obama’s inauguration, telecommunications policy and regulation has been in the spotlight, as the new Commissions will need to immediately deal with the conversion to digital television and the Obama universal broadband strategy.

The FCC is supposed to ensure that the digital television conversion on Feb. 17 goes smoothly (only an estimated 20 million people to switch and the government fund that provides conversion box coupons running out of money). The Obama transition team made it clear that the president-elect would like to push the conversion deadline back to the summer, citing readiness and funding concerns.

In the longer term, building out broadband is part of Obama’s economic stimulus package. The new FCC chairman will hear every possible viewpoint on how to accomplish a broadband buildout and arguments who should be allowed to get tax credits or other incentives to do so. Navigating that free-for-all alone will show us what Genachowski is made of. Stay tuned.

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