Genachowski to be formally nominated as FCC chair

Tue, 01/13/2009 - 7:40am
Brian Santo

Julius Genachowski will indeed be nominated to the chairmanship of the FCC, as CED reported last week (story here).

Genachowski will be immediately dunked into controversy. It will fall on his shoulders to decide whether or not to delay the date of the digital transition, now set as Feb. 17.

Julius Genachowski

President-elect Barack Obama has signaled his willingness to push back the date in response to breakdowns in the converter coupon program (story here). There are still consumers who have not used their coupons, some who have let requested coupons lapse, others who have never applied for any, and some who have applied but can’t get them because the NTIA has run out of money to support the coupon program (story here).

Should the date remain fixed, the country runs the risk of depriving some citizens – perhaps numbering in the millions – of access to TV signals.

Should the date be pushed back, that could interfere with the timing of the rollouts of several services based on the 700 MHz spectrum that broadcast stations are supposed to relinquish come the deadline.

There are downstream issues that are no less serious. Service providers and content owners are set for a “quiet period,” during which they’ll suspend renegotiations on the contentious issue of retransmission rights. There’s no telling what effect a delay would have on that situation.

Genachowski was a student with Obama at Harvard Law. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, and subsequently was chief counsel to Reed Hundt, FCC chairman during the Clinton Administration. Genachowski took an executive position with Barry Diller’s IAC/Interactive Corp., founded an investment and advisory firm for digital media companies, and co-founded a commercial “green” bank, said to be the country’s first.

The American Cable Association (ACA) congratulated Julius Genachowski today for his selection by President-elect Barack Obama to head the Federal Communications Commission.

ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said, “The next several years will present opportunities and obstacles in the technology and communications industries, including the coming DTV transition and the government’s effort to deploy broadband in underserved areas.”

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