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Policy

Genachowksi: Focus On The Unserved

6/21/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

President Obama’s choice to run the FCC, Julius Genachowski, one of the architects of the administration’s technology policy, promised Congress last week that he would run a transparent, consumer-focused agency that would look to capitalize on broadband and wireless technologies in service to those consumers.

In what should be encouraging words for cable, he said the Federal Communications Commission should focus on getting service to “unserved areas,” in terms of both the national broadband plan and in consulting other agencies on broadband stimulus money.

“As communications devices and networks become ever-more essential and the media landscape changes dramatically,” he told Congress, “the need has never been greater for an FCC that sees the world from the perspective of consumers and families.”

The former law clerk, FCC official and media executive-turned-venture capitalist was vetted during an FCC nomination hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee.

He got high marks from Democrats and Republicans alike and should have no trouble getting Senate approval—a fast-tracked thumbs-up had already been obtained from the committee at press time.

The same goes for Republican commissioner Robert McDowell, who shared the nomination hearing Genachowski and was also highly praised, including for his efforts in the transition to digital TV.

Genachowski did not stake out a strong position on network neutrality, but he was not pushed to provide one. In fact, many senators simply read out statements of concern and then left without following up with questions. They can submit written questions later.

It was a strategy that did not require Genachowski to face some tough issues in the glare of the spotlight. It did not sit well with committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who upbraided his colleagues.

As one of the architects of the Obama technology policy, Genachowski already is on the record favoring network neutrality in some form. So the devil there will be in the details of who enforces what.

Genachowski did make it clear he supported ubiquitous broadband at speeds and prices that made it affordable and available to everyone who needs it, which almost by definition is everyone.

He pledged an open, fair and data-driven process, responding to legislators’ harsh criticism of the administration of former chairman Kevin Martin, which various Democrats on the panel termed a bleak period of missed opportunity and mismanagement.

Genachowski said the administration and Congress’s requirement that the FCC come up with a national broadband plan by next February — “is a recognition that we, as a country, are not where we need to be with respect to our communications infrastructure.”

September