New FCC, Telecom Committee Chairs: What's In Store?
from the predicting-politicians dept
As the new Presidential administration gets settled in, it’s worth taking a look at some of the leadership changes that will affect the technology and communications spaces. First, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has announced he’s stepping down on Jan. 20 (not that we’ll be too upset), and he’ll be replaced by Julius Genachowski, pending confirmation hearings. Genachowski is a long-time friend of Barack Obama, dating back to their time together at Harvard Law School; he was also chief counsel of the FCC during the Clinton administration. But he’s also most recently worked in venture capital, and was also an executive at IAC, giving some hope to the idea that he’s well-tuned to the needs of web startups, entrepreneurship and new media, and will give them a voice in Washington. Many stories have noted that Genachowski’s positions on many issues aren’t widely known, but he did chair the advisory group that delivered Obama’s Technology and Innovation Plan, which he summarized in a blog post as “Open Government. Open Networks. Open Markets.” GigaOM came up with a nice wish list of tasks for Genachowski, and also reports that telcos can expect their influence at the FCC to wane from Martin’s era, that cable companies can expect a slightly better environment, and that wireless companies can expect to see their broadband plans promoted. Like us, they’re optimistic that Genachowski’s leadership will see the FCC adopt policies that benefit consumers, rather than telcos and other providers, but we’ll wait for his confirmation hearings for more details.
Over in the House of Representatives, Congressman Rick Boucher, a Democrat from Virginia and a leading proponent for consumer rights on the House intellectual property subcommittee is taking over the Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee. Boucher’s swapping places on another committee with former chair Rep. Ed Markey, who’s introduced net neutrality legislation in the past. In an interview with the WSJ, Boucher laid out some of his views: he says net neutrality isn’t a top priority for him, but that forcing wireless operators to open their networks and allow consumers to access any type of service could be. He also wants to try and reform the Universal Service Fund, an enormous telco boondoggle that really does little to advance its goal of building out telecom service in rural areas. That all sounds good, generating further optimism that things telecom-wise could be taking a turn for the better under the new administration. Still, it bears repeating: hopefully both Genachowski and Boucher will understand that what’s really needed in the telecom space is real competition, and that they’ll work towards crafting solutions that engender it.