Genachowski Era Opens at the FCC

Call it the dawn of the G-Chow era.

On his first full day on the job, Julius Genachowski, the newly-minted chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, addressed his staff this afternoon, calling for a new climate of openness and accountability at an agency that has been criticized for a culture of secrecy and playing favorites.

“None of this will happen overnight,” Genachowski said. “I’ve been around this enough to know — and you’ve been around this enough to know — that you can’t just snap your fingers and make it happen. It will take hard, often unglamorous, work by all of us.”

Genachowski rattled off a string of policy priorities for the agency. Topping that list was “promoting universal broadband that’s robust, affordable and open.”

There’s a reason he mentioned broadband first. Tomorrow, Genachowski is scheduled to participate in a major broadband announcement in Erie, Penn. Genachowski’s slated to appear with Vice President Joe Biden and the secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture, the two departments that will be dispersing $7.2 billion of grants and loans for broadband projects allocated in the economic stimulus package.

The agencies overseeing the programs have yet to unveil the guidelines for the application process, but have said that they would be published early in the summer, suggesting that tomorrow could be the day.

On Thursday, Genachowski is scheduled to chair his first open meeting at the commission, which will include a briefing on the FCC’s progress developing a national broadband strategy, another mandate of the stimulus bill.

The FCC is not administering any of the grant and loan money for broadband programs, but it is serving as a technical advisor to the National Telecommunications Information Administration, a division of the Commerce Department, and Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.

Genachowski, a former senior advisor at the FCC, spoke in broad strokes in his address today, staying above the policy fray, save for mentions of the importance of advancing wireless communications and public safety networks.

“With each passing day, communications devices and networks become more essential to the fabric of the daily lives of all Americans,” he said. “Put simply, our communications infrastructure is the foundation upon which our economy and our society rest.”

Genachowski praised the staff for their work on the transition to digital television, which occurred on June 12, four days before his Senate confirmation hearing.

“I could have faced tough questions about the agency’s handling of this enormous change in broadcasting,” he said of the congenial confirmation proceeding. “But that didn’t happen — and that is because you did a great job with a difficult hand.”

He also promised to redesign, a sore spot for many who have attempted to cull through the agency’s labyrinthine Web site in search of filings and rulemaking proceedings.

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