Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Obama Picks Net Neutrality Backer as FCC Chief...

During the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama gained a lot of support from the high-tech community because of the perception that he was both aware of, and also committed to, internet issues.

While Silicon Valley and netizens in general have been anxiously awaiting the new president's initiatives, they may finally have it. Yesterday, Obama nominated Julius Genachowski as the new chairman of the FCC.

Here's why you should care. The FCC Chairman is the chief regulator of telecommunications policy in the country. This means that this individual has tremendous power over what type of information we receive, as well as how we receive it. This applies to everything from the telephone network, to television broadcasts, to - you guessed it - the internet.

The most prominent issue on the agenda is Net Neutrality. It's considered the "First Amendment of the Internet" because, as it stands now, net neutrality means that all content on the internet is treated equally. The big telecom companies have been lobbying to create "toll lanes" on the Web whereby they could charge extra for audio and video content, or really anything that they determined could fetch a higher price.

During this president's term, a decision will be made on whether net neutrality will remain in place or if it will be overturned and a "tiered internet" will be established. It is the FCC Chairman who will largely make that decision.

So, it is certainly newsworthy that Julius Genachowski is an avowed backer of net neutrality, and his nomination bodes well for things to come. He was a top Obama technology advisor during the campaign and aided in crafting a technology platform that supported net neutrality rules. In the private sector, he acted as general counsel at IAC/InterActiveCorp, which is a member of a coalition that supports more net neutrality regulations and which also includes Amazon, eBay, and Google.

This is one of those news items that generally gets ignored by 99% of the public. But it's also the type that has significant repercussions for decades to come.


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