Net Neutrality Supporter Likely To Be Confirmed FCC Chair

Julius GenachowskiThe Senate Commerce Committee appears to be poised to confirm Julius Genachowski, President Barack Obama's choice to head the Federal Communications Commission.

In a hearing that lasted around 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon, Democrat and Republican lawmakers praised Genachowski, with committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) going so far as to say he was "thoroughly impressed" with the nominee.

For his part, Genachowski promised to draw on the decade he spent working in the private sector to bring a "spirit of common sense" to the agency. "I saw first-hand how communications technologies and networks can serve as foundations for innovation and for expanding our economy," he said in his written comments. "I learned the power of pragmatism and the danger of dogma."

At the same time, lawmakers made it clear they expect Genachowski to reform the FCC. "Fix this agency, or we will fix it for you," Rockefeller told the nominee. "Prove to us that the FCC is not battered beyond repair."

Among other criticisms, Rockefeller said the agency had previously been too closely aligned with cable companies and telecoms. "Too often FCC Commissioners have focused on making sure that the policies they advocate serve the needs of the companies they regulate and their bottom lines," he said.

But, for all of the criticism that the FCC was too cozy with cable companies when Kevin Martin was at the helm, the agency surprised many by taking a pro-net neutrality stance last year in a case involving cable company Comcast. In that instance, Martin led the agency to rule 3-2 that Comcast violated neutrality principles by impeding peer-to-peer traffic.

Known as a strong proponent of net neutrality and improved broadband availability, Genachowski addressed the importance of Internet access in his opening remarks. "A world-leading broadband infrastructure in America can be an ongoing engine for innovation and job creation throughout the country, from our rural towns to our inner cities, while helping address vital national challenges such as public safety and education, health care and energy independence -- ultimately helping give all of our country's children the future we dream for them," he testified.

Broadband advocacy groups Free Press and Public Knowledge called on the Senate to quickly confirm Genachowski. "For years, the FCC has been stuck in reverse on critical issues like broadband competition and media ownership," Free Press said in a statement. "We're confident that Genachowski's commitment to the public interest, his entrepreneurial eye, and his open, data-driven approach will finally move us forward."

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