Twelve years after he left the general counsel's post at the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski is back, and this time he's running the place.
President Obama's hand-picked FCC chairman -- the two are old pals from their Harvard Law School days -- is settling in to his new gig this week. Genachowski gave a lengthy pep talk to FCC staffers on Tuesday, his first full day on the job, that gave some insights into his policy priorities. It's also interesting to note what he didn't say -- no culture-vulture talk of policing the airwaves for the sake of children, just a mild reference to "protecting and empowering consumers and families."
He's clearly a tech-savvy guy with lofty ambitions. His resume by now is well known -- he chief counsel to FCC chairman Reed Hundt from 1994-97, then moved on to working for Barry Diller at InterActiveCorp and its predecessors. He clerked for Supreme Court justices David Souter and William Brennan, and way back when he worked for Sen. Charles Schumer (Rep. Schumer at the time) on the staff of the House committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal. So he's got a few good Oliver North stories, no doubt.
Although he obviously wasn't making a big policy speech, the goals he outlined to the FCC staff are still telling. Job one is helping Obama fulfill a campaign promise to dramatically improve the nation's broadband infrastructure.
Or as Genachowski put it in bullet-point style in his address:
"Promoting universal broadband that’s robust, affordable and open;
Pursuing policies that promote job creation, competition, innovation and investment;
Protecting and empowering consumers and families;
Helping deliver public safety communications networks with the best technology to serve our firefighters, police officers, and other first responders;
Advancing a vibrant media landscape, in these challenging times, that serves the public interest in the 21st century;
Seizing the opportunity for the United States to lead the world in mobile communications."
And to prove that change starts at home, he's smart enough to know that the FCC's website is a mess and needs an overhaul. "Stay tuned," he promised.
Other highlights of Genachowski's jawboning:
"One of my most enduring memories from my prior time here at the Commission was learning, in 1995 in an FCC University class taught by Dale Hatfield, what it was that Alexander Graham Bell actually invented. I remember driving home that night thinking, first… that was cool; and second, about how profoundly Bell’s insight—a technique for capturing sound and sending it over electrical wires—changed our lives and changed the world.
"It was a first step down a road leading to places even a visionary like Bell could scarcely have imagined: where his telephone would become mobile -- and now smart – brimming with thousands of apps that have unleashed new waves of creativity and innovation; where we would have the Internet, not to mention social networking, which is redefining the meaning of community; where gigabit fiber connections would allow the transmission of massive amounts of data, literally at light speed.
"With each passing day, communications devices and networks become more essential to the fabric of the daily lives of all Americans. They are how we receive news, information, and entertainment; how we stay in touch with our friends and family—simply to talk, or in times of emergency; how we work at and run our businesses, large and small; how we—and people across the globe—learn about government, and express points of view.
"Put simply, our communications infrastructure is the foundation upon which our economy and our society rest. And it has never been more important that we unleash its potential.
"Our nation is at a crossroads. We face a number of tremendous challenges: our economy, education, health care, and energy, to name a few. If we do our jobs right and harness the power of communications to confront these challenges, we will have chosen the right course, and we will make a real positive difference in the lives of our children and future generations. Just imagine:
"A small business in Gettysburg will be able to connect and compete with businesses in Pittsburgh, or even Johannesburg.
"An elderly person in Georgia will be able get remote medical monitoring from a specialist at Georgetown, better health care at lower cost.
"A struggling eighth grader in Columbia, South Carolina will be able to get tutoring from a student at Columbia University.
"And parents in Baltimore will be able to connect with live video to their son or daughter serving in Baghdad or Afghanistan."
If that's not enough Genachowski in your diet, check out this half-hour seg of C-SPAN's "The Communicators" series. It featuresDow Jones reporter Fawn Johnson and BroadbandCensus.com deputy editor Andrew Feinberg dissecting (almost) every word Genachowski uttered at his June 16 Senate confirmation hearing.