As signalled before the inauguration, President Obama will nominate Julius Genachowski as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The Washington Post reports:
Genachowski, 47, will be charged with designing a plan to bring broadband Internet to rural and low-income areas within one year. That will likely involve altering a $7 billion program already used to bring phone service to those areas. And he will have to work with other agencies that will distribute $8 billion in stimulus funds for the construction of new broadband networks in rural areas.
The selection probably shows an enhanced status for the FCC and telecom/tech policy in the White House, since the two were buds both at Columbia and Harvard Law -- and Obama brought Genachowski into his campaign from the very beginning. Genachowski certainly has a powerful Rolodex (years from now we'll be talking about Rolodexes long after no one know what a Rolodex was) from his time under Reed Hundt at the Clinton-era FCC, clerking for Justice Souter at the Supreme Court and playing the VC game.
So how will the Genachowski FCC differ from Kevin Martin's? Look for less lip-service to the importance of private sector solutions. Martin's disastrous attempt to get the private sector to operate a public network with strings attached will clearly be revised. And I don't think we'll see the FCC simply trusting that selling off spectrum to big companies is the best way to move telecom policy. Perhaps the FCC will even innovate ways to move the U.S. out of the broadband slow lane, guarantee more openness and transferrability and - even - lay the groundwork for ubiquitous wireless Internet.