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Genachowski to Staff: FCC at Crossroads

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told staffers Tuesday that the reason he did not get tough questions about the DTV transition at his June 16 hearing was that they had done such a great job of making it happen.

While he said the transition is not over yet, echoing the sentiments of his predecessor, acting Chairman Michael Copps, he did say that the June 12 switchover "succeeded far beyond expectations."

"You pulled it off," he said, "by working collaboratively with each other across the agency, and with the Commerce Department and other parts of government, and by thinking creatively to leverage all available resources."

That came in a speech to staffers on Genachowski's first full day atop the commission, a speech where he praised, greeted old friends and looked to make new ones with a call for action and an appeal to the better, consumer friendly, data-driven and transparent angels of their better nature. "Why do we serve at the FCC?" he asked. "We do it for this moment. We do it for this opportunity. Will we capture it? Looking at the faces in this audience, I already know the answer."

And on the subject of all available resources, Genachowski focused on the challenge of broadband deployment as he addressed the assembled staffers.

It was not exactly the Gettysburg Address, though he did invoke the town, saying that "[a] small business in Gettysburg will be able to connect and compete with businesses in Pittsburgh, or even Johannesburg." (Pennsylvania was probably not invoked by accident. Genachowski is scheduled to join the Vice President and others Wednesday [July 1], in Erie Pennsylvania to talk about the power of broadband).

But, like that other address, it was a speech about unifying the country, in this case through ubiquitous broadband and other consumer-oriented initiatives, including an Internet that was "open."

He painted the FCC's priorities in broad strokes and in language that would not raise any immediate red flags with either sides of communications debates over Internet access or media consolidation.

The goals, he outlined were as follows:

"As the country’s expert agency on communications, it is our job to pursue this vision of a more connected America, focusing on the following goals:
--Promoting universal broadband that’s robust, affordable and open.
--Pursuing policies that promote job creation, competition, innovation and investment.
--Protecting and empowering consumers and families.
--Helping deliver public safety communications networks with the best technology to serve our firefighters, police officers, and other first responders.
--Advancing a vibrant media landscape, in these challenging times, that serves the public interest in the 21st century.
--Seizing the opportunity for the United States to lead the world in mobile communications."

He emphasized, as he did to Congress at his confirmation hearing, that the FCC's decisions would be fact-based and data driven, fair, open and transparent. Unspoken was the contrast that is meant to be drawn between his FCC and that of former Republican Chairman Kevin Martin, which drew hefty criticism from Congress and some in industry for what they saw as a closed, and overly political management style.
"We will strive to be smart about technology; smart about economics and businesses; smart about law and history; and smart every day about how our actions affect the lives of consumers," he said. "We will use technology and new media to enhance the everyday worklives of FCC staff, green the agency, and improve overall operations of the FCC – running efficiently, communicating effectively, and opening the agency to participation from everyone affected by the FCC’s actions. And, stay tuned, we will have a new FCC website."

Genachowski framed the FCC's coming challenges as crucial to the nation's future.

"Our nation is at a crossroads. We face a number of tremendous challenges: our economy, education, health care, and energy, to name a few. If we do our jobs right and harness the power of communications to confront these challenges, we will have chosen the right course, and we will make a real positive difference in the lives of our children and future generations."