Handicapping the FCC Short List

BusinessWeek looks at Barack Obama’s the potential nominees to head the FCC. The short list includes Julia Johnson, a Florida consultant who chairs Video Access Alliance, an advocacy and advisory group for independent, emerging and minority networks and Internet content providers. Another possibility is Mignon Clyburn, who has been a commissioner for the Public Service Commission of South Carolina since 1998. If picked, either one would represent the first African American woman to chair the FCC. Other contenders include Blair Levin, FCC Chairman Reed Hundt’s chief of staff from 1993 to 1997. Levin oversaw implementation of the historic 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act and the earliest wireless airwave auctions. Another Hundt staffer under consideration is Scott Blake Harris, who served as the first chief of the FCC’s International Bureau from 1994 to 1996, and was responsible for international and satellite communications policy and licensing. Rounding out the list of Hundt staff members contending for the top FCC spot is Don Gips, who succeeded Harris as chief of the FCC’s international bureau and spearheaded the drive to cut the prices of international calls. Finally, BusinessWeek reports that Hundt’s successor, William Kennard, who is also an Obama advisor, is said to favor Larry Strickling, who served as chief of the division that regulates local and long-distance carriers before he resigned in 2000 to work for the policy think tank Aspen Institute. Strickling later worked for a variety of Internet companies such as Broadwing, now part of Level 3. But with priorities in Washington what they are, BusinessWeek says don’t hold your breath.

Picking the FCC chairman may not be the top priority for the Obama transition team, which is focused on naming a Treasury secretary tasked with ending the economic crisis, and appointing foreign policy leaders who will need to navigate two wars and other pressing diplomatic issues. Still, the Obama Administration will need to put some emphasis on finding a deft leader to head up the agency responsible for regulating TV, radio, and other telecommunications services. The new Administration is expected to give greater prominence to emerging providers of communications products and services, such as Googleââ?¬â??a departure from the Bush Administration, which has tended to favor traditional providers such as AT&T.