Julius Genachowski Obama's Pick To Head FCC

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Julius Genachowski i

Julius Genachowski served as one of the Obama campaign's chief technological gurus. He has known Obama since their days together at Harvard Law School. Yael Tzur/Israel Sun /Landov hide caption

toggle caption Yael Tzur/Israel Sun /Landov
Julius Genachowski

Julius Genachowski served as one of the Obama campaign's chief technological gurus. He has known Obama since their days together at Harvard Law School.

Yael Tzur/Israel Sun /Landov

President Obama has named a new chair of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates everything from cell phones to cable television to emergency communications to broadband Internet. Obama has known his nominee, Julius Genachowski, since their student days at Harvard Law. Genachowski also served as one of the campaign's chief technological gurus.

"Julius essentially drafted Mr. Obama's technology and innovation plan," says Gigi Sohn, who runs the advocacy group Public Knowledge. The plan drafted during the campaign aims to improve the economy by investing in improving broadband Internet.

"He also understands that broadband can solve energy problems and environment problems and health care problems," Sohn says. "A lot of people tend to cabin off and silo technology but ... he sees it as part of a larger ecosystem of social economic issues that Americans really care about."

The new nominee comes to these issues after years spent in both the public and private sectors. Genachowski was for years a senior executive at IAC/Interactive Corp., a major Internet company owned by Barry Diller. That earned him the goodwill of many pro-business and industry interests.

Genachowski's public service includes clerking for two Supreme Court Justices and working at the FCC during the Clinton Administration.

Mark Fowler, who led the agency under President Reagan, says the change can't come quickly enough.

"This past FCC, I have to say, has been a disaster," he told NPR. "It is almost semi-corrupt and I think the new chairman needs to come in with a broom and take out some of these people who have played favorites and given favors to favorite lobbyists and get this business of the FCC back to what's best for the people."

Outgoing chairman Kevin Martin has earned plenty of bipartisan criticism. But right now, Washington brims with bipartisan optimism about Genachowski. That may change, warns Michael Powell. He was an FCC commissioner under President Clinton and was named chairman by President Bush. Powell says the job comes with plenty of heat. But he firmly believes it's one of the most interesting in the federal government in spite of what he describes as the yelling and noise.

"In the morning you can be working on issues related to children's television and the education of America's youth in the media and in the afternoon you can be doing the complex economics of telephone pricing systems and in the evening you can be thinking about broadband and its impact on culture and society," he said.



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