FCC nominee raises high-tech hopes

Julius Genachowski


President Obama is expected to nominate his top technology adviser to chair the Federal Communications Commission. If that happens, the FCC could lead the nation into a new technological era. From Washington, Ronni Radbill reports.

RONNI RADBILL: Julius Genachowski is one of the key architects of the president's highly successful Internet campaign. He helped draft many of Mr. Obama's telecommunications policies and served as chief council to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt during the Clinton era.

With Genachowski at the helm of the FCC, improving high-speed Internet access is expected to be a top priority.

That sits well with Ben Scott, policy director for the public interest group Free Press. He says international surveys show the U.S. is plummeting in rankings when it comes to providing fast, low-cost access to the Web.

BEN SCOTT: Every year that goes by that our global competitors have better broadband Internet infrastructure than the United States, we lose jobs, we lose economic growth to those countries.

Genachowski supports increasing and expanding broadband service, especially to rural and low-income areas. Unlike former FCC Republican Chairman Kevin Martin, Genachowski wants Net neutrality, that means opening up cable, digital phone and fiber-optic lines to competition.

Richard Wiley, a former Republican chairman of the FCC, and managing partner of Wiley Rein law firm, questions how much Genachowski can get done.

WILEY REIN: Hopefully, because he's a smart guy, I think he will realize that putting a lot of new heavy regulation in place might not be the right thing to do when these industries are hurting. I think in the broadcast industry, in particular.

Unlike his predecessor, Genachowski opposes large media companies buying up TV and radio stations across the country. He instead would encourage diversity in broadcast media ownership. The former chair focused a lot of his attention on cable regulations, such as bundling and pricing. But analysts don't expect Genachowski to be as aggressive with the cable industry.

Instead, Rebecca Arbogast an analyst with investment firm Stifel Nicolaus, says the FCC will focus more on new media, like Google and Yahoo.

REBECCA ARBOGAST: The set of voices that are there, it's no longer just Verizon versus Comcast versus a competitive local carrier.

Whatever regulatory action the FCC does take will depend largely on the state of the economy. With the country in a recession, analysts say there's a limit to just how much can be accomplished.

In Washington, I'm Ronni Radbill for Marketplace


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