FierceTelecom Leaders: Rick Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, Google, Part 2

FierceTelecom: How much time per week are you on Capitol Hill? And how much do you spend working in the executive branch? On the executive side, is the FCC your primary focus?

Richard Whitt: My primary focus remains the FCC. I guess I see them as a little different from the executive branch, because they are an independent regulatory agency. So I see them as almost kind of a fourth branch. But obviously they're subject to political pressure, shall we say, from the other branches. I think I probably spend roughly two-thirds of my time focused on the FCC, on FCC proceedings, on working with coalitions of folks on issues around the FCC, visiting the agency, talking to people over there. I still spend a fair amount of time on Hill-related activities, so it's telecom and media issues that are dealt with, particularly by the Commerce committees on both sides. That's another part of the time. And then, at least recently, it's been a fairly small percentage of time with the executive branch, which to me means more NTIA, the Department of Commerce, perhaps State Department. I haven't spent a whole lot of time there, maybe something as small as 5 or 10 percent. But I have hope, particularly in the new administration, given some of the names I'm hearing circulating who may end up taking over NTIA, I have hope that that will become a reenergized agency, in terms of being a real mouth piece for the technology industry, the technology field and will be able to carry the message of the administration throughout the government and to governments around the world. Over time that may become a larger part of my portfolio.

FierceTelecom: With respect to the FCC, Julius Genachowski is reportedly going to be President Obama's choice for FCC Chairman. What do you anticipate Google's relationship with him to be like if he does become chairman? 

Richard Whitt:
Well, we look forward to working with whoever ends up being chairman of the FCC. As you mentioned, Julius's name has been out there for a few weeks now. And it is anticipated that he will be nominated, but we're all still waiting anxiously to hear the formal word from the White House. I think the virtue that Julius brings, is that he worked at the FCC in the mid-90's, so he knows how the agency works. He's a smart guy, he's an open and collaborative individual. I think he will help run the agency in a way that will maximize the ability of the folks there to use their talents to the betterment of the situation for consumers. I think the one thing that he brings that I find particularly attractive is the business and technology background. 

Many of the folks at the commission that we've had there recently, even those who espouse on behalf of the virtues of technology, for example, or market forces, haven't actually spent a lot of time in the business. Julius has worked for a company for a number of years on the Internet side. He's also worked on behalf of very small companies seeking funding, start-ups trying to get a leg up to develop their innovative products and services and provide them in the marketplace. He has a real birds-eye view on what goes on there. And my guess is he'll be able to take that understanding to the agency and be able to apply it in ways that I think will be very helpful in developing the right kinds of policy solutions. So that's the thing that I think I'm most looking forward to seeing, if he is the chairman, seeing as the approaches the issues with an uncommon understanding of impacts in the marketplace.


FierceTelecom Leaders: Rick Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, Google, Part 2