Q&A:Genachowski on His Broadband Legacy

FCC Chairman Discusses Stimulus Plan, USF Reform

Last month, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski stated his intention to leave the job he has held since June 2009. Multichannel News Washington bureau chief John Eggerton recently spoke with the Harvard Law School classmate of President Obama about his legacy, including his role in the broadband stimulus program and his push to reform the Universal Service Fund, among other issues. Here is an excerpt.

MCN: What’s next?

Julius Genachowski: I have no plans. I am focused on the work of the commission and will continue to do that until I leave. (A source close to the chairman said he still plans to attend the National Association of Broadcasters convention, where he is scheduled for the annual chairman’s Q&A; also look for him to preside over the FCC’s April 18 meeting.)

MCN: You have taken some heat from both ends of the political spectrum. Is the push for broadband what moderated your regulatory approach and forced you to focus on getting it out there the best way you could?

JG: I think that’s right. Unleashing the benefits of broadband was the highest priority. It affects every industry. But even larger than that, it is a very important issue for our economy and the American people.

One of the things that is gratifying is that the American broadband economy is thriving.

We’re seeing big increases in private investment and innovation, new services and applications for consumers, and on a global competitive basis, the U.S. has regained global leadership in key areas, and we are in a global bandwidth race and the U.S. is in a very strong position.

MCN: If you had to pick one highlight, what would it be?

JG: It’s hard to pick one. I’ll pick four: Transforming the Universal Service Fund from telephone to broadband; seeing [broadcast spectrum] incentive auction legislation pass Congress; putting strong and balanced open-Internet rules in place; and taking big steps to promote broadband competition.

MCN: Now that you can start to look back, what do you see?

JG: I think one of the things that was gratifying at the meeting [where he gathered staffers to tell them of his decision to exit] was seeing the faces in the room and seeing that everyone in the room was working in a revitalized agency. They understand the mission of the agency, unleashing the benefits of broadband for our economy and the American people.

I’ve had a long history with this agency, as you know. I was here in the 1990s [as a top aide to then-chairman Reed Hundt]. I deal with staff every day, but it was a poignant moment for me and one I will remember for a very long time.