Although the public has known for nearly two months that former FCC staffer and Interactive Corp General Counsel Julius Genachowski would be the nominee for FCC Chairman, the President made it official yesterday. If you listen to NPR or read the tech press, you'll know that I've made no secret of our delight with the pick. Julius was the architect of then-candidate Obama's technology and innovation plan, which among other things, supports an open Internet (including net neutrality explicitly), more efficient use of spectrum and getting “true broadband to every community in America.” During the transition, Julius worked on the Techology, Innovation and Government Reform team, which had as its duty, among other things, figuring out how to make government more transparent and conducive to real public input. As I've noted elsewhere, increased transparency and responsiveness to the public are two of the many necessary reforms we hope to see the FCC undertake in the near future.
It's no secret that the Chairman-designate is extremely bright. But what is less known is that he is also very thoughtful, collegial and straightforward. These characteristics will be very welcome inside the Portals building by staff and Commissioners alike.
Of course, the Chairman has only one vote, so it is critical that whoever the White House picks for the next open Democratic seat shares Julius' vision. Recent FCC history demonstrates the damage to a Chairman's agenda when just one of the Commissioners from the majority party has other ideas.
Less heralded, but equally important was the appointment this Monday of Jon Leibowitz to be Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Because he was already a Commissioner, Jon need not be confirmed by the Senate. Jon shares many of the same personal characteristics as Julius, and he has actively sought out groups like Public Knowledge for advice during his tenure. I expect him to be a very active Chairman, and as a result, I anticipate that PK will have more business before his agency. I expect that among other things, disclosure of broadband practices, deep packet inspection and the consumer protection aspects surrounding digital rights management will be on his list of to-dos. I also expect that Jon, an antitrust expert who worked for the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee for years, will reinvigorate the agency's antitrust scrutiny.
Overall, two excellent choices for two very important agencies.