President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Julius Genachowski, Obama’s chief campaign technology adviser, as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, according to a number of media reports. A former Harvard Law School classmate of Obama and the chief legal counsel at the FCC during the Clinton administration, Genachowski raised more than $500,000 for the Obama presidential campaign.
During the campaign, Genachowski promoted a detailed technology and innovation plan that supports net neutrality protections, expansion of affordable broadband and media-ownership rules that encourage more diversity.
The 46-year-old Genachowski served as chief counsel to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt from 1994-1997. He is also the co-founder of Rock Creek Ventures and LaunchBox Digital, a special adviser at General Atlantic, and a member of various boards of directors and advisers. From 1997-2005, he was a senior executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp, variously serving as chief of business operations, general counsel and a member of the office of the chairman.
“Under Julius Genachowski’s leadership, the FCC’s compass would point toward the public interest. President Obama has provided a clear road map of his media and technology priorities,” Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver said in a statement. “We share Obama’s goals of creating a more diverse, democratic media system and providing fast, affordable, open Internet access for everyone.”
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Genachowski will take the reigns of the nation’s top telecommunications regulatory agency at a time when network neutrality is a hotly debated topic and with the nation facing a Feb. 17 deadline for the digital television transition.
Under current Chairman Kevin Martin, the FCC has contended there is no need for federal legislation mandating network neutrality, since the agency has already established its own network neutrality principles.
In August, the agency found Comcast guilty of secretly degrading network traffic, a violation of those principles. On a 3-2 vote, the FCC ordered Comcast to stop blocking traffic, to disclose to the FCC the full extent of the cable giant’s traffic practices and to keep the public informed of its future network management plans.
The FCC said Comcast violated the agency’s Internet policy when it blocked P2P traffic by BitTorrent. The agency also found that Comcast misled consumers when it did not properly disclose its P2P policy.
Obama’s transition team told lawmakers Jan. 8 that Congress should delay the Feb. 17 transition date for television stations to begin exclusively broadcasting in digital. John Podesta, co-chair of the Obama transition group, said there have been “major difficulties” in the digital TV transition planning.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Jan. 5 that funding for the $1.34 billion digital converter box coupon program has been exhausted. The program allows for two $40 coupons per household to help offset the cost of digital converter boxes for non-digital television sets.
The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires full-power television stations to cease analog broadcasts and switch to digital after Feb. 17. The act authorized the NTIA to create the TV Converter Box Coupon Program, which is funded from the proceeds of last year’s 700MHz auction.