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Julius Genachowski & The FCC: A Failure to Communicate?

So Julius Genachowski is to be Barack Obama's choice to head the Federal Communications Commission.Genachowski and president-elect Obama were classmates at the Harvard Law School.
Written by Tom Steinert-Threlkeld, Contributor

So Julius Genachowski is to be Barack Obama's choice to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Genachowski and president-elect Obama were classmates at the Harvard Law School. And Obama was his boss back then, too, at the Harvard Law Review.

GigaOm has a pretty good action plan for how a Genachowski-led FCC should function as the Obama Administration tries to right this foundering economy:

Its "task list" includes:

• An Internet user bill of rights, with a focus on citizen privacy. Or as contributor Alistair Croll says, “Internet of the people, by the people, for the people.” • A focus on one key metric for all FCC decisions: a relentless obsession that helps the U.S. return to the global forefront of Internet and mobile technology. • An emphasis on future technologies (mostly wireless) that boost marketplace competition. For instance, large increases in license-free bandwidth could could lead to a lot of innovation without spending too much government money. • Special incentives to attract new players (and not older companies) that bring broadband to the masses. • Incentives or tax breaks for incumbents to reach specific deployment goals before the end of 2010. Incentives will only be granted after those goals are met and broadband speeds of upwards of 20 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up for less than $50 a month without bandwidth restrictions are available. This trades tax credits for rapid improvements to our nation’s broadband infrastructure. • Better and more connectivity to office buildings, especially from newer players. • An IP- and broadband-centric, rather than voice-centric, approach to reforming the Universal Service Fund. • Policies that bring quality of service into the wireless agenda, and penalize wireless companies which have high numbers of dropped call complaints. • An understanding that web monopolist Google, and other web companies, are not the consumer’s friend, so their agenda shouldn’t automatically be trusted.

But, interestingly for the man who would be head of the commission that governs communications, there are few communications that indicate where he actually stands on any communication issues. Here's what Matthew Lasasr of Ars Technica found in December, when he went "In Search of Julius Genachowski." Here's what James Quintana Pearce of mocoNews.net pulled together today.

Before he became a part of the Obama story, Genachowski last got a mention in the New York Times in 2003, when he got a $2.5 million stake in the creation of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, while he was counsel at Barry Diller's InterActive Corp.

Before that? 1985, when he was a student at Columbia University. There, he indicated a willingness to create competition in communications. In newspapering, in fact. His idea? Create a rival to The Columbia Spectator. How? Resurrect a weekly newspaper, Acta Columbiana, that had not appeared on campus since 1885. He said:

"We think both papers will be better by having both papers.''

Genachowski has been at the FCC before, serving as counsel to Clinton-era chairman Reed Hundt. But he stayed largely out of the limelight, except when it came to the effort to remove liquor advertising from TV. This can be seen by clicking over to a Google News Archive timeline on Genachowski.

Julius Genachowski timeline at Google News Archive

But part of Genachowski's pedigree is his familiarity with digital media, from his sifting through startups at Rock Creek Ventures and through his stint at InterActive Corp. He also is reported to have laid out for Obama how to use, for instance, MySpace, Facebook and other social media to boost his presidential campaign.

As all communications, from Internet to the TV become digital, it'll be interesting watching how the FCC acts toward online privacy, under a Genachowski administration. There is this tidbit from SFGate.com, from six years ago, when Genachowski was chief of business operations at InterActive Corp., which at the time owned Ticketmaster, as well online travel service Expedia, lodging reservation service Hotels. com, dating service Match.com, an online dating service, local listings service CitySearch and the Home Shopping Network.

Ticketmaster's privacy policy states that the company shares customers' info with "our subsidiary and parent companies and businesses, and other affiliated legal entities and businesses with whom we are under common corporate control."

Why is that a concern? Because Ticketmaster is owned by InterActive Corp., formerly USA Interactive, the Internet powerhouse run by business mogul Barry Diller.

Imagine using Ticketmaster to buy a ticket to a Giants game. In short order, you could have the Home Shopping Network pitching baseball memorabilia your way, Expedia and Hotels.com asking if you want to follow the team on their next road trip, or Match.com seeing if you're interested in meeting other Giants fans.

How is Genachowski quoted as responding?

"Something like that makes sense to us."

Now let's let Genachowski define himself. That will start in confirmation hearings. But as of today, where Genachowski stands on most any issue is not really known. As he reportedly told SFGate.com:

"It's totally a question for the future ... It's still early in the game."

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