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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama to select Genachowski to lead FCC

From Stephen Labaton in The New York Times:
President-elect Barack Obama intends to nominate Julius Genachowski , an adviser on technology issues and longtime friend, to become the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, advisers to Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Genachowski, 46, was a major fund-raiser for the Obama campaign who also played a leading role in the campaign’s highly successful online strategy. He remains very close to Mr. Obama—both men went to Columbia College and Harvard Law School and the two served together on the Harvard Law Review. They also were basketball buddies.

During the campaign, Mr. Genachowski shaped many of Mr. Obama’s telecom policies. He advocated an open Internet in the debate over so-called “net neutrality,’’ and media-ownership rules that promote a diversity of voices on the airwaves.

People involved in the transition said that Mr. Genachowski was a top candidate for both the chairmanship and a new White House position overseeing technology issues that has not been fully defined yet.

If confirmed, one of his first challenges at the commission will be what to do about the problems plaguing the conversion to digital television. The Obama transition team has asked Congress to delay the conversion, set for Feb. 17, because millions of viewers have been unable to obtain coupons to pay for converter boxes that would enable their sets to receive signals once all broadcasters lose their analog signal. (The conversion will not affect viewers who subscribe to cable or satellite television services.)

The chairmanship of the F.C.C. has played a more expansive role in regulating the economy, particularly with the rise of the Internet and wireless communications over the last 20 years. Now, as the new administration plans to make the expansion of broadband and Internet services a significant part of its stimulus package, Mr. Genachowski, with his close ties to Mr. Obama, could wind up with an even bigger role than his predecessors in shaping economic policy.

After graduating from law school, Mr. Genachowski clerked for federal appeals court judge Abner J. Mikva after Mr. Obama turned down the same job. Mr. Genachowski then clerked for Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. He was chief counsel to Reed Hundt, a chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, during the Clinton administration. He then worked for eight years as a senior executive at Barry Diller’s IAC/Interactive Corporation. He also founded an investment and advisory firm for digital media companies and co-founded the country’s first commercial “green’’ bank.

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