The FCC has been working with a third party to redo Genachowski’s page, according to a senior official. Numerous entries were added that tout accomplishments such as his work with Mexico to prevent stolen cellphones from crossing the border. Other entries mentioned speeches in which the chairman asked cities to increase broadband Internet speeds.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announces resignation
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But the entries do not disclose that the FCC was working with a third party, contrary to Wikipedia’s practice. The world’s largest online encyclopedia restricts editorial entries that could be a conflict of interest. The Federal Trade Commission has contributed widely to profiles of officials but discloses its involvement to readers.
“Providing information to a third party and having that third party edit on your behalf is generally frowned upon,” said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for Wikimedia, the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia. “A core principal of Wikipedia is to deliver a neutral point of view. That means no editing for profit and no editing with a conflict of interest.”
The FCC did not respond immediately to a request for comment by Genachowski.
A senior FCC official said the chairman’s office is looking into the matter and declined to comment on the record. The official agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity because information about the entries was still being gathered.
The official confirmed that staff at the FCC worked with a third party on the Wikipedia entries. The official would not confirm whether the FCC first reached out to the third party and declined to identify its partners for the Wikipedia entries. The official denied that the third party was paid.
Genachowski, a friend of President Obama, will be leaving the FCC after a mixed record that disappointed some of the consumer groups that were his earliest supporters while also developing a plan to bring more Americans access to broadband Internet.
Obama is expected to announce a successor soon. Tom Wheeler, a tech and telecom venture capitalist and fundraiser for Obama, is a leading contender.
The new chairman will inherit much unfinished business, including a massive plan to auction wireless airwaves and federal lawsuits that threaten the agency’s ability to regulate broadband Internet providers.
“I hope this will be a period that was clear the commission focused on broadband, extending high-speed Internet to everyone everywhere and unlocking the benefits of broadband for the economy and the American people,” Genachowski said in an interview.
In his four years at the FCC, the price of cable, wireless and broadband Internet has gone up for consumers, an increasing number of whom have come to rely on mobile devices as their main method of communication.
At the same time, the broadband Internet market has become much more concentrated, analysts have said, giving consumers fewer options for providers. The FCC tried to combat that by rejecting AT&T’s mega-merger with T-Mobile in late 2011.