FCC Chief Nominee To Promote Wireless, Broadband - InformationWeek
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6/17/2009
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FCC Chief Nominee To Promote Wireless, Broadband

At a hearing Tuesday, senators lavished praise on Julius Genachowski, but had harsh words for the FCC's performance over the past decade.

After five months without a permanent FCC chairman, the U.S. Senate appears poised to approve Julius Genachowski for the post. At a hearing Tuesday, senators lavished praise on Genachowski but excoriated the FCC's performance over the past decade.

"Fix this agency, or we will fix it for you," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., told Genachowski.

If anyone can fix the FCC it's Genachowski. He's a former legal counsel of the FCC, having served for former chairman Reed Hundt, and he knows his way around private industry, having been a venture capitalist and a high-ranking executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp for years. Moreover, the political planets appear to be lined up for him: The Senate and the House are solidly Democratic, and President Obama, a longtime friend from their student days at Columbia and Harvard Law School, will likely answer the phone when Genachowski calls. He was the president's chief technology adviser during the presidential campaign and transition period.

Genachowski gave a few hints on his thinking during the hearing. He indicated he would push for use of the unlicensed white-spaces spectrum that resides unused near the 700-MHz spectrum that was auctioned off by the FCC last year.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., asked Genachowski whether he would push for early testing of the white spaces. "Senator, the answer is yes," answered the nominee, who generally exhibited a command of the issues and details before the FCC.

Genachowski made clear that he plans to promote wireless and broadband technologies as a means to expand technology access to more Americans and also to create jobs.

While the hearing was something of a lovefest for Genachowski and Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, nominated for reappointment, Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, had harsh words for the FCC.

"Fix this agency, and prove to us that the FCC is not battered beyond repair," said Rockefeller. "Show us the FCC can put consumers first and give them confidence that when they interact with the agency they can get a fair response."

The FCC has been decimated at the commissioner level for months. Acting Chairman Michael Copps guided the nation through the potentially dangerous shoals of the analog-to-digital-TV conversion. McDowell has also been an active commissioner, while commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is on his way to head a rural telecom agency. At least two more commissioner positions must be filled.


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