Obama Nominates Next FCC Boss

15 January 2009

WASHINGTON, DC: Julius Genachowski (pictured), an adviser on technology issues and long-term friend of president-elect Barack Obama, is set to become the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – assuming, that is, that Congress approves the nomination.

Genachowski (46) not only played a key role in the Obama campaign's highly successful online strategy; he was also a major fundraiser for the campaign, raising millions of dollars in small tranches from across the nation and bypassing the traditional Big Money schmoozing.

He and the prez-to-be both attended Columbia University, albeit in different classes. They later teamed-up at Harvard Law School where both had senior responsibilities at the Harvard Law Review. They are also united in their love of basketball..

Much time and hot air is traditionally wasted in trying to second-guess the policies of an incoming political appointee but, according to those close to the ground, Genachowski is more difficult to predict than most.

Investment firms are more prone than most to wild guesses and one of the breed – Stifel Nicolaus –was happy to oblige,  speculating that "the regulatory initiative is likely to shift" from present targets such as the big  telephone companies to new entrants and other "non-traditional telecom and media players".

And if  that's the way it pans out, the likes of Google, Yahoo and eBay could find themselves well and truly in the line of legislative fire.

If confirmed, one of Genachowski's first challenges at the FCC will be the switchover to digital television, slated for February 17.

Obama has requested a postponement of the  switchover as many US households have yet to receive their $40 government vouchers intended to cover the cost of converter kits. 

Any such delay is robustly opposed by current FCC chairman Kevin J Martin, whose stance appears to favor less wealthy US citizens less than those of Big Television.

Genachowski will likely have other ideas!

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff