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Obama taps Genachowski as FCC chair

Genachowski had served previously as general counsel for former FCC chairman Reed Hundt

By Brad Reed, Network World
January 13, 2009 11:31 AM ET

Network World - President-elect Barack Obama has reportedly chosen Julius Genachowski, a former campaign technology advisor and transition team member, to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Citing an anonymous source, the Wall Street Journal and others reported Tuesday that Genachowski, 46, will take the reins of the FCC for the incoming Obama administration. Genachowski had previously worked at the FCC as the chief counsel to former FCC chairman Reed Hundt and has also been a senior executive at the IAC/InterActiveCorp e-commerce company, as well as a member of the boards of directors for Internet companies such as Expedia and Hotels.com.

During the 2008 presidential election, Genachowski served as chairman of the Obama campaign's Technology, Media and Telecommunications policy working group and he is a leader on the Obama transition team's policy working group on technology, innovation and government reform. Obama and Genachowski have known each other since the early 1990s, when the two men worked at the Harvard Law Review while students at Harvard Law School.

Although Genachowski's nomination has yet to be officially confirmed by the Obama transition team, word of his selection earned fast praise from the nonprofit media reform group Free Press, which in the past has been a strong advocate of network neutrality.

"Under Julius Genachowski's leadership, the FCC's compass would point toward the public interest," said Josh Silver, the executive director of the Free Press. "With his unique blend of business and governmental experience, Genachowski promises to provide the strong leadership we need."

The American Cable Association also released a congratulatory statement on Genachowski's reported nomination, although it stuck mainly to praising his expertise and qualifications and did not stake out any particular policy positions.

"Mr. Genachowski's record of accomplishments and reputation within the industry make him a good choice as chairman, and we congratulate him," said ACA president Matthew Polka. "The role of the FCC has never been more significant to more Americans and we wish Mr. Genachowski well in taking on today's challenges… including the coming DTV transition and the government's effort to deploy broadband to underserved areas."

If nominated, Genachowski will replace current FCC chairman Kevin Martin, whose tenure at the agency has been marred be allegations that he manipulated data within FCC reports to enable the FCC to more strictly regulate cable television companies.

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently issued a report alleging that Martin instructed his staff to rewrite a previously issued report on "a la carte" cable offerings within weeks of becoming FCC chairman in March 2005. The committee also alleges that Martin put significant pressure on his staff to come up with a different conclusion than that of the original report, and that he reassigned the project to other staff members when he didn't get the conclusion he wanted.

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