It's Time to Get to Work for the FCC Chairman Genachowski

Carl Weinschenk

It's important to consider this Washington Post interview with Julius Genachowski in the context of the difference between his laying out idealistic goals at the inception of his chairmanship on one side and actually doing the "herding cats" job of governing on the other.


In the interview, Genachowski points to his desire to encourage small entrepreneurs. That's laudable. But he deals only with generalities, and addresses no specific issue. There is no doubt that the real world will intrude sooner rather than later. The story points out tangible and difficult issues with which Genachowski's FCC will have to deal. They include network unbundling, frequency licensing and the right of vendors and cellular carriers to enter exclusive contracts with device makers.


Other issues, such as the FCC's role in helping award broadband stimulus funds, also will occupy him. All, or at least most, of these issues will be skirmishes in the larger war between established carriers -- who are used to having their way in Washington -- and various types of upstarts.


These are highly complex topics that are vital to the way in which telecommunications works in the United States. Genachowski isn't knee-deep in them yet, at least in terms of his public pronouncements. Tackling them head on will take a toll. Genachowski needs only to look at his boss and friend Barack Obama to see how quickly the idealistic gives way to the horse trading that is the real business of governing.


Obama clearly has accomplished much during his first half-year in office. However, there is no guarantee that the administration will successfully push through anything close to the version of healthcare it wants to see and that it has promised. The political minefield this issue represents certainly has tempered the president's populist and progressive rhetoric -- if not put him on the defensive. The point is that there is a great difference between running for office, celebrating the victory and actually governing. The FCC will be impacted both directly and indirectly by the fate of the healthcare legislation.


The special circumstances that will face telecommunications and the agency is summed up by this snarky line in the Washington Post story. Genachowski, the piece says:

...takes over at an FCC that once seemed preoccupied with policing wardrobe malfunctions and bad language on the airwaves.

In other words, the agency has been on autopilot for a while and will face a lot of questions that have been put off. It also, of course, will be addressing these issues from a very different philosophical standpoint than the previous administration. The clock has begun to tick for Genachowski, as it did for the president six months ago.

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