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Incoming FCC Chair Is Tech-Savvy, Pro-Net Neutrality

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Media, media reform, net neutrality, FCC, Julius Genachowski, Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein,

Supporters of a free Internet, rejoice. The Federal Communications Commission is about to get a new leader, Julius Genachowski, who is a strong net neutrality advocate. Net neutrality, to the non-geeked-out, is the principle of keeping the Internet’s infrastructure open to all rather than letting big telecomm providers control access and connection speed. It’s a democratic idea that ought to fare well under a Democratic administration and Congress.

The media reform and tech blogospheres are abuzz about Genachowski’s anticipated appointment.

At Personal Democracy, Nancy Scola calls Genachowski “the Tom Hanks of Washington. You can’t mention his name without hearing the phrase ‘great guy, great guy.’” And she points out that Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica dug into Genachowki’s past and didn’t dig up much—but “it’s more than you’ve got on Caroline Kennedy,” he concludes.

Over at Media Citizen, Timothy Karr writes: “Genachowski is one of the principal architects of Obama’s pro-neutrality tech and media platform, which was partially unveiled during a November 2007 event, at which Obama pledged to ‘ensure a free and full exchange of information’ and ‘take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.’”

At Public Knowledge, Art Brodsky calls the platform a “forward-looking document that hit all the right notes—a free and open Internet, a central place for technology in government policy, transparency in government.” But Brodsky also points out that “Genachowski’s expected appointment, while significant, is still one-third of the new telecom lineup that includes three new chairmen in the Senate and House.”

Brodsky is referring to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), who’s taking over the Senate Commerce Committee; Henry Waxman (D-CA), who will chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), who will head the House Communications Subcommittee. All three bodies play key roles in communications policy.

The outgoing FCC chairman, Republican Kevin Martin, has supported some principles of net neutrality. Last August, he teamed with the FCC’s two Democrats, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, to rule that Comcast was operating its broadband network in a discriminatory way. However, Martin has not provided aggressive leadership in the net neutrality fight—certainly not the type of leadership that is expected from Genachowski, who’s been a high-tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

Writes Brodsky: “There hasn’t been this much high-level interest in technology since the Clinton/Gore years when the White House staff was intimately involved with telecom policy.”