The FCC Starting Line-Up

The Wall St. Journal’s fabulous Amy Schatz reports that the FCC line-up seems set.

I know it’s not the Supreme Court. I know it’s not Kobe or Dwight Howard.

But for those of us practicing communications law–or interested in the future of the Internet–the FCC line-up may matter as much as the Supreme Court’s.  And the intra-team rivalries sometimes compare to Kobe and Shaq.

The FCC is the government agency that regulates communications–TV, phone, and data over satellite, broadcast, cable, and phone lines.  Oh, and the FCC also asserts authority over providers of Internet access.  So the FCC matters–for the future of the Internet, the future of media, the future of personal and political communications.  Essentially, though the FCC might be best-known for investigating Janet Jacksons’ wardrobe malfunction, this agency helps determine the shape of American discourse and democracy.

The President can appoint three from his own party, so the new line-up includes three Democrats and two Republicans, an obvious change from the Bush years.

Here’s our line-up, according to Schatz:

Julius Genachowski (D).  The Chairman.  A classmate of Pres. Obama’s at Harvard Law School, then a Supreme Court clerk, then an advisor to President Clinton’s first FCC Chairman, then a tech executive, then a venture capitalist.  He was Obama’s top tech advisor during the campaign and gets credit for Obama’s excellent tech innovation agenda.  Public interest groups have praised this choice.

Michael Copps (D).  The Veteran Warrior.  Copps has been the hero of the media reform movement and the open Internet movement for years.  He speaks at Free Press’s major conferences every year, with uplifting speeches and charming wit, to applause and adoration.  He became a hero through dissents and through negotiating victories while in the minority.  He sees a window of opportunity while in the majority.

Mignon Clyburn (D).  The State Commissioner.  A state public utilities commissioner, Clyburn is not well-known in DC, but is expected to support the President’s agenda.

Robert McDowell (R).  The Survivor.  Schatz writes: “It wasn’t clear he would be renominated because he had drawn some opposition from AT&T Inc.” From my point of view, Commissioner McDowell has had his good votes–like on white spaces–and his bad votes–like on the Comcast network neutrality order and  cable ownership limits.  Smart guy, to say the least.

Meredith Baker (R). The NTIA head. I don’t know her personally.

These five have a lot of work ahead of them–such as building a national broadband plan on the basis of this piercing analysis.

With the line-up set, I hope we can get some confirmations soon.

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