What makes him powerful:
Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman
Since his 2009 appointment as FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski has presided over some of the most contentious telecommunications battles seen in recent history. Net neutrality, the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, the revision of the Universal Service Fund and the pending acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T are just a few of the issues that have crossed his desk in the past two and a half years.
Weaved in among those concerns, and perhaps of most importance to the telecom industry, is Genachowski's commitment to broadband expansion in the United States through development of a National Broadband Plan. The planning hasn't been without controversy, as net neutrality issues are closely tied to the way the FCC decides to regulate broadband services. His proposal to reclassify broadband, from a Title I information service to a Title II common carrier service, was met with opposition which worried that the commission would not keep its promise to exercise forbearance in imposing many of the regulations that traditional telcos must follow.
This isn't his first appointment to the FCC, nor is he new to the communications or Internet space. In the 1990s, Genachowski served as chief counsel to Chairman Reed Hundt, and as Special Counsel to General Counsel William Kennard (who later served as FCC Chairman). Between then and now, he held executive positions at technology and media firms like IAC/Interactive Corp. and General Atlantic, and even tried his hand in the venture capital market. Genachowski was also a technology advisor to President Obama during his campaign and, according to Tom Evslin of CircleID, is reported to have played an advisory role in the candidate's "superb" Internet campaign.
Though much of it seems mired in endless committee hearings and partisan squabbling, Genachowski is currently leading the FCC through what will be seen--regardless of the outcome--as one of the most significant periods in the commission's history. The regulatory body is attempting to build a framework for a technology experiencing runaway innovation, while at the same time trying to interpret and explain the Internet to lawmakers who are sometimes struggling to catch up. Genachowski and the commission are currently wrangling with white space/spectrum issues between the broadcasters that want to keep their unused spectrum and wireless carriers who need it to expand their broadband bandwidth.
It remains to be seen where all the chips will fall.