Obama's Tech Adviser To Be Tapped for FCC

By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama will name Julius Genachowski, a high-tech policy veteran and venture capitalist, to head the Federal Communications Commission, according to sources close to the transition team and key lawmakers.

A spokesperson yesterday for the transition team declined to confirm Genachowski's nomination. But one source close to the transition said an announcement will probably be officially made in the next few days. Two sources close to the staff of key members of the House of Representatives said Obama's transition team called Democratic lawmakers and their aides yesterday to tell them of the nomination.

Genachowski, 46, served as chief counsel for Reed Hundt, then FCC chairman, during the Clinton administration. He also has business experience as an executive at the Internet firm IAC/InterActive and currently as a venture capitalist at Rock Creek Ventures in the District.

Obama's pick for the nation's head telecommunications regulator has served as the president-elect's top technology adviser and was a classmate of Obama's at Harvard Law School. Genachowski is credited for spearheading Obama's online campaign strategy, which used social networking and other tools to spread the candidate's campaign message and raise record contributions.

Sources close to the transition team said last month that Obama was prepared to give Genachowski either the job of FCC chairman or chief technology officer, a new position that has not yet been clearly defined. When it became clear to Genachowski that the chief technology officer job would not include policy-making authorities, sources said yesterday, he agreed to take the FCC position. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been officially announced.

"If Julius is indeed the selection for FCC chair, he has the right mix of experience in government and business to give him a unique perspective on the job," said Ben Scott, policy director for the public interest group Free Press. "He has been very influential in the Obama campaign in linking their innovative uses of technology in the electoral politics and organizing with a very forward-looking tech-policy agenda."

Genachowski would take over the FCC at time when decisions made at the agency have greatly expanded its original role as a regulator of broadcast licenses. Today, the FCC oversees areas including Internet policy, the transition from analog to digital television scheduled for next month, and radio and TV indecency complaints. Multibillion-dollar mergers and wireless policies have brought Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Google's founders and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to lobby the FCC for their business interests.

Obama has made the deployment of high-speed Internet networks as a central part of his plan to create jobs and better compete with global economies offering much faster broadband Internet speeds, often at lower prices.

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