Big-name techies who could influence Obama

A look at the tech experts and executives who could shape Obama's technology policies.

Which tech wizards will shape national policy?

During the 2008 presidential election , President Obama made investment in technology infrastructure a major plank of his economic platform. With Congress poised to pass a major economic stimulus bill sometime within the next couple of months, Obama has said that he wants broadband rollout , an Internet-based smart energy grid and computers for schools as part of the package. Now that technology is to take a more prominent role within the White House, we thought it might be a good time to examine which techies will hold sway within the Obama administration. In this slideshow, we'll list the techies who are most likely to have Obama's ear and will discuss what stances, if any, they have taken on issues such as 'Net neutrality and universal broadband.

Julius Genachowski

As Obama's pick to chair the Federal Communications Commission, Genachowski will have tremendous influence over whether to adopt network neutrality rules that will bar ISPs from blocking or degrading Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own. 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 and a member of the boards of directors for Internet companies such as Expedia and Hotels.com. He has said in the past that he favors a non-tiered Internet that treats all traffic equally. However, he is certain to face stiff opposition to 'Net neutrality rules from ISPs that have long argued they need leeway to manage traffic and keep their networks in top shape.

Blair Levin

Like Genachowski, Levin served as a member of Obama's Technology, Innovation & Government Reform Policy Working Group during the presidential transition period and also worked at the FCC during the 1990s, serving as then-FCC chair Reed Hundt's chief of staff. Levin last week said that Obama's broadband plans went beyond what is being proposed for his initial stimulus package and that the US would need to fill in gaps in broadband coverage left by carriers. He also discussed the need to invest in a nationwide broadband public safety network.

Padmasree Warrior

Warrior, who has been rumored to be a finalist for Obama's CTO position, has been working within the tech industry for more than two decades and has most recently worked as the CTO for Motorola and Cisco. Warrior is well-known for her use of Twitter, although the content and substance of her tweets has at times aroused the ire of Network World Cisco blogger Brad Reese . In one of her latest tweets , she says she plans to attend the Obama inauguration.

Lawrence Lessig

Although he might not get appointed to an official position within the administration, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig will certainly be able to get an audience with Obama if he wants one. Lessig is an outspoken 'Net neutrality proponent and he has also played a major role in promoting the adoption of open-source software by serving as a board member of such open-source advocacy institutions as the Creative Commons and the Software Freedom Law Center. Lessig, who last year briefly considered running for Congress, has been an outspoken supporter of Barack Obama since the early days of the Democratic primary campaign and has been broadly supportive of spending tax dollars to build broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.

Vivek Kundra

As the CTO of Washington, DC's city government, Kundra has received a good deal of acclaim for his work in making DC's government act more transparently and cheaply. Among other things, Kundra has slashed the city's IT costs by shifting government e-mail and work applications over to Google Apps and has pushed for more transparency by posting lists on the Web of jobs that government contractors have been hired to perform. Kundra has worked with the Obama team as both a tech advisor and as a member of the presidential transition team's Technology, Innovation & Government Reform Policy Working Group.

Eric Schmidt

Although Google CEO Schmidt only officially began campaigning for Obama back in October, Obama's friendly stance toward network neutrality had already made him a preferred choice among Google employees: according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Google employees donated a total of $487,355 through October 2008, vs. $20,600 donate to the rival campaign of Sen. John McCain. While Schmidt is not expected to take a formal role in shaping tech policy, it is expected that both he and Google will lobby the administration hard for both 'Net neutrality rules and to take a second look at its failed merger with Yahoo!

We want to hear from YOU!

Are these tech experts and executives the most qualified to shape Obama's technology policies? Who would you chose and what changes would you like to see?

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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