FCC's New Chief, New Direction

New chairman Julius Genachowski and a greater focus on Internet and software policy may mean interesting changes for the FCC.

by / January 15, 2009

The Federal Communications Commission has a new leader -- and perhaps a new focus. A recent Washington Post article announced that Julius Genachowski, President-elect Barack Obama's technology adviser, is expected to be named the new chairman of the FCC. (Until his appointment to the FCC, Genachowski has been considered a leading candidate for the position of the nation's first chief technology officer.)

Genachowski has a variety of private-sector experience, having been a local venture capital investor and an executive at Barry Diller's IAC/Interactive. His background in the private sector, as well as the presence of Silicon Valley executives in Obama's transition staff, suggest that the FCC may be increasing its focus on new Internet technologies rather than traditional communications.

In the past, the FCC has dealt primarily with policies involving telephone and cable giants, such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Recently however, the agency has expanded its focus, with Internet and software leaders such as Google and Microsoft taking a greater interest in communications policy.

The expansion in FCC's focus may also be attributed to the representation of high-tech companies in Obama's transition staff. Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, for example, has become an adviser on technology, as has Vint Cerf, the company's chief Internet evangelist.

The appointment of these men to government positions has some worried that large companies such as Google will have too much influence in the FCC's policies and in the new administration's technology plans overall.

Yet despite these concerns -- as well as the fact that the new FCC will be taking the position during an economically unstable time -- many are confident in Genachowski's ability to lead the commission through any changes or complications.

Previous FCC chairman Reed Hundt told The Washington Post, "Your job as the FCC chair is to play a shaping role with respect to market structures of the future. Julius is more equipped than anyone for the job in the FCC's 70-year history to actually understand fundamental dynamics of the market."

Read the entire Washington Post article.