Obama Picks Julius Genachowski to Head FCC; Pick Draws Praise From All Sides

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2009 – President Obama’s long-awaited nomination of Julius Genachowski to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission was greeted with an enthusiastic reaction from groups representing every corner of the telecommunications community.

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2009 – President Obama’s long-awaited nomination of Julius Genachowski to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission was greeted with an enthusiastic reaction from groups representing every corner of the telecommunications community.

Genachowski has long been heir-apparent to former chairman Kevin Martin since January 13, when the media reported that then-President-elect Obama would nominate Genachowski to replace Martin.

Martin announced his resignation on Thursday, January 15, and his last day was January 20.

Genachowski, currently a venture capitalist and advisor to LaunchBox Digital, a Washington, D.C.-based technology incubator, attended Harvard Law School with Obama and worked on his campaign as a technology policy advisor. He also served as an advisor to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

Acting FCC chairman Michael Copps praised Genachowski: “Julius has the knowledge, experience and dedication to lead this Agency forward as we tackle the many challenges confronting the country – and the Commission,” Copps said. “I look forward to the prospect of working with him on a communications agenda focused on serving consumers and the public interest.”

Copps’ Democratic colleague Jonathan Adelstein called Genechowski “the right person at the right time for the job.”

Adelstein said the President’s nominee has “a strong strategic vision, striking talents, wealth of experience inside and outside of the Commission, and practical understanding of technology,” and is illustrative of Obama’s commitment to the “transformational power of communications technology and innovation.”

Republican commissioner Robert McDowell was slightly more restrained in welcoming Genechowski. In his written statement, McDowell said he looked forward to working with Genachowski, who he said “will bring a valuable perspective to the Commission with his experience not only in government but also in the private sector.”

Industry professionals were pleased with the president’s choice. Federal Communications Bar Association president and Sidley Austin partner Mark Schneider (who said he was not speaking on behalf of the FCBA or his firm) said Genachowski is “in many ways immensely qualified for the position.”

Schneider said Genachowski brings to the FCC many years of experience in both the public and private sectors, particularly with regard to internet and broadband technology. “Based on my work with him and my knowledge of him, I’m optimistic about his abilities to lead the agency at this important time,” he said.

National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow said he was looking forward to working with Genachowski. He said he “combines the policy savvy and real-world experience that will be necessary to confront both the challenges and opportunities presented at a time of incredible change sweeping the media, communications and technology marketplace.”

Steve Largent, president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, said the chairman-designate “has an appreciation for the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that are hallmarks of the wireless industry,” and called Genachowski “well qualified to assume leadership at the Commission.”

Public interest advocates were also pleased with Obama’s selection. Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver called him “an excellent choice” who has shown “a deep understanding of the central role of technology in shaping our 21st- Century economy and democracy.”

Genachowski’s long tenure in the industry was again invoked as a positive by Sprint Nextel Corp spokesman John Taylor. Taylor said Genachowski would bring “experience, deep policy understanding and knowledge of the regulatory process to the Commission,” and Sprint Nextel looks forward to working with him on issues including “restoring competition to the failed special access markets that are stifling broadband deployment in our country.”

And Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, was exuberant in her praise for the incoming chairman: “I have known Julius for over 15 years, both as a public servant and as a savvy and progressive businessman,” she said.

Sohn said she believes Genachowski “will work to ensure that the FCC meets its legal obligation to protect the ‘public interest, convenience and necessity,’ and will develop a principled, strategic policy agenda that promotes openness, free speech, competition, innovation, access, economic growth and consumer welfare.”

After years of frustration under Martin, who was often criticized by stakeholders on all sides for running the agency in an unusually heavy-handed manner, Sohn was confident in Genachowski’s ability to continue the push for openness begun by acting chairman Copps:

“I am certain that he will seek to restore public confidence in an agency that has had a long history of opaqueness, industry capture, and a lack of data-driven policymaking.”

Even those on the other side of the aisle are feeling optimistic about Genachowski’s potential.  Wilkinson Barker Knauer attorney Bryan Tramont, called him an “exciting choice.” to head the agency. Tramont, who served as FCC chief of staff under former chairman Michael Powell was enthusiastic about Genachowski’s nomination: “His depth of experience inside the FCC and respect for the institution will be extremely valuable to the decision-making process.”

And former Republican commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth called Genachowski “a great choice” to succeed Martin — who was once one of Furchtgott-Roth’s legal advisers. “[Genachowski] will be a great asset to the FCC.”

Broadband Breakfast Club

March Meeting: Broadband Competition: Do We Have It, and How Do We Get More of It?

BroadbandCensus.com presents the March meeting of the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, at 8 a.m. Because of the Commerce Department/Agriculture Department/FCC Public Meeting on broadband stimulus from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Broadband Breakfast Club will adjourn at 9:30 a.m.

  • NEW! – James Baller, President of Baller Herbst Law Group, will provide a brief summary of the progress of the U.S. Broadband Coalition
  • Art Brodsky, Communication Director, Public Knowledge
  • Kathleen Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory, T-Mobile USA
  • Brent Olson, Assistant Vice President, Public Policy, AT&T
  • Emmett O’Keefe, Director, Federal Public Policy, Amazon.com
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President for Research and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

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