Obama’s New FCC Pick Could Help Determine the Future of the Internet
Will the president pick a public interest-oriented policy wonk or a former telecom lobbyist/Obama fundraiser to chair this all-important agency?
By David Corn | Tue Mar. 26, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
One of the hot jobs in the US government—chairman of the Federal Communications Commission—is about to become vacant, and President Barack Obama’s pick for this position will say much about his priorities and what it takes to win a job within his administration.
The current chairman, Julius Genachowski, was a Harvard Law classmate of Obama and longtime Washington denizen with several stints in the private sector, and last week he announced he’s splitting after four years in the post. Genachowski has had a rollicking tenure at the more-important-than-ever agency. His FCC approved the controversial NBC/Comcast merger, but it killed AT&T’s $39 billion bid for T-Mobile. He developed a national broadband plan, while pushing for universal broadband access and contending with spectrum crunch. He’s had to navigate the knotty issue of net neutrality  (at one point angering both Verizon and public interest advocates). His tenure has vividly demonstrated that the FCC chairman’s office is a node for cutting-edge policy issues related to economic development, technology, education, and media.
For weeks, there’s been widespread speculation within certain Washington circles that Genachowski was going to leave—the rumor mill had him seeking an ambassadorship to Brazil or India—and much tea-leaf-reading about his replacement. As reports surfaced of possible successors, a basic choice appeared to emerge for Obama: a telecom industry vet or a public interest-minded policy expert.