Genachowski’s Fast Fading Star — And How He Can Still Salvage His Term As Chairman.

There’s a phrase I hear a lot these days. Sometimes I hear it from angry folks, muttering under their breath. Some say it sheepishly, with a trace of embarrassment to find themselves saying it. Some pass it off as a joke. The phrase?

I never thought I’d miss Kevin Martin, but . . . .

No one can doubt that Julius Genachowski has emerged as the absolute opposite of Kevin Martin. Unfortunately, this includes a stunning inability to make decisions, combined with an ability to generate his own political opposition by dithering. This does not simply apply to the current fight over FCC broadband authority. It applies to everything, including what was supposed to be his big signature issue from the National Broadband Plan — getting 500 MHz of spectrum available for broadband.  A perusal of the last year of FCC orders and Commission meetings shows a non-stop stream of reports, studies, and proposed rulemakings. The only actual orders involve things so non-controversial and trivial that they hardly constitute tweaks. It does not help that Genachowski manages to give every impression that while he enjoys jetting about to industry conferences and rubbing elbows with the media elite, he does not appear very interested in actually doing the work of Chairman.

As if to underscore this point, the Agenda for the FCC’s August 5 meeting has only two items: Amendments to the FCC’s hearing aid rules and a proposed rulemaking and NOI on wireless backhaul. While certainly useful items, the FCC could easily have handled these on circulation. Meanwhile, critical elements of the Chairman’s agenda, such as auction of the D Block, final rules for the broadcast white spaces, incentive auctions for broadcast television licenses, special access reform — in short, anything that matters enough to get anyone mad if they lose — languishes. David Hatch portrayed this in a recent National Journal article (sorry, sub required), David Hatch described Genachowski as under attack from Congress. But the sad truth is that Genachowski creates his own opposition by his stunning refusal to actually make decisions and lead. This gives opponents time to organize, frustrates and exhausts supporters, and undermines support for Genachowski’s initiatives. (Why put yourself out for someone who isn’t ever going to actually take action?)

As I said at SuperNova 10, I don’t say this to be mean or simply to vent. To the contrary, I believe Genachowski can still act quickly and decisively to achieve important things and rescue his reputation and legacy.  Below, I outline three recent examples — broadcast white spaces, D Block, and general broadband authority — where Genachowsi’s failure to seize initiative and show leadership has resulted in generating his own opposition and diluting his support. I then recommend some general steps Genachowski can take to restore his fading star and rescue his agenda. In the end, however, it is up to Genachowski.  He can keep trying to be liked, avoiding anything that might piss someone off, and live the rest of his term in a Chairman-bubble carefully insulated from criticism. Or he can grit his teeth, decide on what fights — win or lose — are worth doing, and start doing the hard work of making real decisions.

“And Saul said: ‘I have sinned, I did not obey the word of the Lord, for I feared the people, and therefore I listened to their voice.” — Samuel I 15:24

This is Genachowski’s problem in a nutshell. By people, mind, I don’t mean the public interest community — whom Genachowski chiefly seems to find useful as a foil for industry to underscore his own “centrism.”  I mean pretty much every constituency at the FCC. Nothing with substantial impact moves, because you cannot move something with substantial impact without having a winner and a loser and losers complain — loudly.

When Genachowski came in, he had substantial political support from the White House, the tech community, competing local exchange carriers (CLECs) and competitive wireless carriers. Everyone expected quick movement on a wide variety of fronts from wireless handset exclusivity (aka “wireless Carterfone“) to finalizing rules for the broadcast white spaces and, of course, network neutrality/open internet. For their part, AT&T and Verizon lived in terror of what might happen, offering to cut deals to ward off what they feared were the inevitable swings of policy from laissez faire free market Republicans to Democrats more willing to actually, you know, regulate.

Like Obama with health insurance reform, however, Genachowski discovered that incumbents do not simply roll over and die. To the contrary, they put up a Hell of a fight. When Genachowski announced his original “open internet” back in September 2009, he had support from the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, The President of the Senate, and the chairs of the relevant committees. Rather than fold, opponents responded with a massive “shock and awe” campaign similar to the campaign against “Obamacare,” complete with accusations of a “government take over of the Internet.” But whereas Obama eventually decided to press the fight on healthcare in the face of massive criticism, judging it better to win after committing than to take a clear loss by walking away,  Genachowski never seems to have recovered from the shock that incumbents would not roll over.

As a result, Genachowski does nothing unless he receives a steady stream of affirmative support from Congress, the White House, and relevant industry stakeholders. He returns to the same well over and over, insisting on ever increasing levels of visible support for every affirmative action. Opponents of any particular policy have come to understand that all they need to do is create some modest noise, or generate some Congressional opposition, to immobilize Genachowski. Meanwhile, supporters exhaust themselves and expend their political capital simple to get proceedings begun. No one knows what it will take to drive even a mildly controversial proceeding to conclusion, because it never happens.

THE D BLOCK AS CASE STUDY

The failure of Genachowski to move on the “D Block” auction represents a classic illustration of why Genachowski keeps finding himself frustrated at every turn.  I wrote a lengthy post a year ago on the subject of D Block and the options for the FCC. For those just tuning in, the “D Block” is a 10 MHz block of spectrum left over from the auction of the returned broadcast spectrum (aka the “700 MHz auction”).  AT&T, Verizon and a passle of national public safety groups want the D Block allocated for public safety use to join the existing 12 MHz public safety data block (and 12 MHz public safety narrowband block). From the standpoint of public safety, you get more spectrum — and it is a religious conviction among wireless users that you can never have too much spectrum. From the standpoint of AT&T and Verizon, who emerged as the big winners in the 700 MHz auction, this prevents rival carriers from bidding on primo spectrum. Further, The public safety guys have said they intend to partner with other 700 MHz licensees to lease out spectrum from D Block in strategic partnerships. And who are best positioned to partner with public safety? AT&T and Verizon, since they have most of the good 700 MHz spectrum and are already building a muckin’ huge network that will be compatible with the LTE standard adopted by public safety.

The problem with this arrangement is that it further reenforces Verizon and AT&T spectrum superiority and leaves the other carriers — particularly third and fourth place Sprint and T-Mobile — struggling. So Sprint and T-Mobile have pressed for the FCC to auction the D Block, and get Congress to earmark the revenues to build out a national public safety network.

In the National Broadband Plan — which readers may recall was released back on March 17 — Genachowski opted to auction the D Block and recommend to Congress that Congress earmark the funds from the auction for building a national public safety network.  But rather than get the ball rolling with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about service rules or a public notice on the auction, Genachowski did nothing, apparently waiting to see if Congress and the Administration would support his plan. Waxman and Boucher, Chairs of the House Commerce Committee and Telecom Subcommittee voiced their support for a D Block auction, and the Administration officially endorsed Genachowski’s goal of getting 500 MHz of spectrum out for broadband use. Still, Genachowski gave no indication of moving forward.

Had Genachowski moved quickly to create an auction, the public safety community would have had a difficult choice between lobbying to kill the auction and losing any chance at the revenue, or lobbying for the revenue to go to building the network. But with Genachowski taking no action to actually make an auction happen — apparently still hoping to get some sort of endorsement from public safety groups or some kind of further support — opponents of the auction had time to organize. They formed the Public Safety Alliance, and began recruiting supporters for the “give the D Block to public safety” position. Rather than respond with a proceeding, Genachowski continued to remain paralyzed, releasing new studies to justify his decision (challenged by the now organized opponents) and pushing those who had already made their case during the formulation of the National Broadband Plan (and thought they’d won their battle) to bring in still more support to win a new battle simply to start the proceeding to consider an auction. But whereas Grenachowski’s failure to act signaled opponents that that they could defeat the plan, it had a demoralizing effect on supporters. Like Achilles trying to pass the tortoise, supporters of the D Block auction could never catch up to the opposition, since Genachowski insisted on fresh showings of support for every showing of opposition.

Unsurprisingly, after four months of sustained attack and no response from Genachowski, opponents scored a coup in persuading Senator Rockefeller (D-WV), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, to oppose the D Block auction and support giving D Block to public safety. And that pretty much spikes any hope of a D Block auction even getting underway until this Congress ends. Because while it would be possible to continue an ongoing process in the face of a bill dropped by the Chair of the relevant Committee — such things happen all the time — it is much harder to start a process that directly contradicts the Committee Chair. Oh it can be done, and has been before, but it takes a combination of guts and diplomacy.

So, to briefly recap: Genachowski announces policy. Genachowski fails to take initiative. This encourages opposition, discourages supporters. Eventually, opposition generates enough opposition to exhaust supporters. Result: Genachowski fails to accomplish D Block initiative, despite significant industry backing, White House support, and House support.

BROADCAST WHITE SPACES CASE STUDY

One can at least understand Genachowski’s hesitancy around D Block as a lamentable failure of nerve. But what can possibly explain the failure to resolve the rules for the broadcast white spaces nearly two years after Kevin Martin’s FCC approved the concept by a 5-0 vote? Again, for those unfamiliar with the issue, broadcast white spaces refers to opening unassigned broadcast television channels for unlicensed use. In 2008, the FCC adopted general rules calling for creation of a central database that would tell devices, based on their geographic location, what channels are available for use and at what power (depending on such factors as whether they are adjacent to active television channels). The FCC left unresolved a major question on how to deal with wireless microphones, a couple of significant questions around how the database will operate, and triggered a whole bunch of reconsideration requests around specific rules. But by and large, the work was pretty much done.

When it comes to “issues the tech sector cares about,” finishing the broadcast white spaces rulemaking ranks up there as Number 1 for the vast majority of companies. Microsoft, Google, Dell, Motorola, Philips, and a host of venture capital firms have been telling FCC Chairmen since 2004 that this “wifi on steroids” will create the next generation of wireless innovation and boost deployment of broadband. Microsoft and Spectrum Bridge have run demo projects under experimental licenses.  And when the FCC issued a public notice for a database manager, it received nine applicants — despite numerous unanswered questions on how the database would operate.

But for two years, the FCC has done . . . . nothing. It put out the call for databases, refused to answer the wireless microphone question, and done nothing else. Genachowski and others involved in FCC spectrum policy have continued to pay lip service to the broadcast white spaces, and the National Broadband Plan gives Q3 of 2010 as the date for resolving the open questions. But nothing indicates that OET has made any recommendations to the Chairman’s Office — or that the Chairman has the least interest in making the necessary decisions.

It’s not as if the white spaces faces any new resistance. Sure, the broadcasters and wireless microphone guys hate it. But they’ve already sued. You don’t do anything to help yourself with those constituencies by leaving this hanging indefinitely. OTOH, Genachowski has absolutely succeeded in needlessly pissing off the tech industry on the one issue other than network neutrality on which they have ever, collectively, expressed any interest. To make matters worse, Genachowski has not signaled any possible reason for delaying what should have been an easy “gimme” to the tech community and VC community (supposedly core Genachowski constituencies) in that it was simply a matter of finishing off old business approved by the previous Commission in a 5-0 bipartisan vote. To all appearances, it looks like he cannot be bothered to simply make the decisions necessary to resolve the matter. Meanwhile, millions of dollars in investment capital sits idle — or worse, starts to wander away out of sheer frustration.

It’s one thing to burn through political capital through fear and dithering over opposition. It is inexcusable to piss off your base and burn through political capital in an absence of mind — especially when each week seems to find Genachowski on travel yet again to some trade show, investor conference, or diplomatic mission.

THE BROADBAND AUTHORITY DEBACLE

There’s not much to say here that hasn’t been said a lot elsewhere and won’t get said again. As an object lesson in how Genachowski appears to have a talent for shooting himself in the foot and pissing off his supporters, it bears mentioning. Genachowski started this road with three votes for whatever policy position he wanted, and statements of support from the President on down. Having boldly declared his intent to pursue a “Third Way” on FCC authority over broadband access after the  Comcast case pretty much eliminated FCC “ancillary jurisdiction,” Genachowski then promptly gave every appearance of caving to pressure by having his Chief of Staff preside over a series of meeting between Verizon, AT&T, and NCTA on one side and Google, Skype, and the Open Internet Coalition on the other.

Whether the negotiations succeed or fail in reaching some kind of “agreement in principle” on net neutrality which Genachowski can clutch to his bosom seems almost irrelevant at this point. The broader question is “why go through this process at all?” If Genachowski had decided to go for Title I, he could have just taken his lumps from net neutrality supporters (which he will anyway) and at least kept his dignity. Instead, Genachowski spent months hoping the Comcast case might come out differently. Then, when he looked about to go for Title I, the Netroots made a huge noise and he scampered over to Title II. Then — predictably — the same folks who opposed net neutrality under Title I opposed reclassification. Genachowski’s response — an effort to broker a “secret agreement” between Telcos, Cable, Google and Skype — can succeed only in pissing off everyone who supported him when he opted for Title II whether or not he ends up making a deal while failing to win him any support from opponents for future efforts.

I’ve occasionally been asked why Genachowski would have gone out on a limb for Title II when he knew the cable and telco providers would push back this hard, especially after they did so last October over net neutrality. All I can say is that  Genachowski’s response has a very Hollywood feel. In Hollywood, it’s all about the deal, and getting arch-rivals to come to terms — whether they actually end up doing a project together or not — build your reputation. In Washington, you build your reputation by what you can accomplish, whether or not you cut any deals.  Starting with a bold policy initiative and settling for an industry compromise doesn’t make you some sort of Solomon-type figure rising above the fray in DC, it brands you a weakling who can’t follow through.

Effective FCC Chairmen have always picked their public fights with care, and pressed ahead even in the face of enormous criticism. Mark Fowler took a tremendous amount of heat from Congress (even being reversed legislatively a few times) and opponents. Reed Hundt was no shrinking violet, who clashed on more than a few occasions with powerful interests and their Congressional backers. Michael Powell famously defended his most controversial decisions on media ownership before Congress and the courts, and did not hesitate to push wireless proposals that pissed off the entire licensed wireless industry. And, when necessary, he was willing to lose a 2-3 vote on the Trienniel Review Order rather than back down or try for a political compromise. Even Bill Kennard, who was regarded as a the most collegial Chairman in recent memory, was willing to stand up to powerful interests and Congressional critics for chosen issues like Low-Power FM radio.

As for Kevin Martin . . . while nobody would claim he was the most beloved FCC chair, no one would deny he was one of the most accomplished FCC chairs. A review of his tenure shows he would have more votes on substantive orders in a single meeting than Julius Genachowski has managed his entire term. And while Martin came in for a fair share of criticism on how he ran the agency — particularly his love of Byzantine politics — Genachowski’s recent stint as “Referee to Industry Food Fights” has pretty much washed away all that “open, transparent, data driven” stuff.


WHAT CAN GENACHOWSKI DO TO SALVAGE HIS TERM?

As I said at the beginning, I think Genachowski can still make a comeback and salvage his reputation. Folks in Washington love a winner and respond to leadership. When I gave  highly abbreviated version of this at Supernova 10, an FCC staffer teased me afterward by saying as I walked by “Make way for an angry man!” “I’m not angry,” I replied. “But life is too short to waste time on saying things that aren’t true.” Genachowski can still turn things around, prove himself an effective Chairman, and leave himself a real legacy. But he is rapidly running out of time.

So my basic recommendation to Genachowski is: start making some hard decisions, then follow through on them. Don’t announce something, then wait for Congress and/or the White House to bless it. To paraphrase the Book of Samuel again: “Though you may seem small in your own sight, are you not Chair of the FCC?” (15:17) Congress delegated broad powers to the FCC, as an independent agency, precisely because Congress is ill-equipped to deal with the day-to-day business of the communications sector. There is a balance for any FCC Chair between respecting Congress (and watching one’s back politically) and total abdication of responsibility. That’s not always an easy balance to find, but being Chairman of the FCC is not an easy job.

For a first choice, I’d recommend getting the damn white spaces done. I say this secure in the knowledge that I am likely to dislike some of the decisions made. But it’s not my job, or the job of my opposite numbers, to be nice about things. We are advocates, making our respective cases. It is the role of the FCC to decide, and of the Chairman to lead the process. That includes recognizing that any decision worth making will have its critics, often powerful ones. On the plus side, all the hard work is done, and even the Republican Commissioners have signaled they would welcome a vote on broadcast white spaces as a way of encouraging a new round of wireless investment. Spend a few hours talking to Julie Knapp and actually make some decisions on how you want him to proceed. Then brace yourself for a round of last minute lobbying, criticism and shouting from the broadcast industry and the wireless microphone industry — who will promptly appeal any order to the DC Circuit. It will pass, and you will have actually achieved final rules on a significant item.

Then pick four or five major items that have real consequences and push them through. Talk to your fellow Commissioners. Show them you actually have a plan for achieving the goals in the National Broadband Plan. Consider carefully who is likely to push back and decide what your negotiating points will be in advance. Do not start down a proceeding, then hit the panic button when the going gets rough. Above all, do not keep going back to supporters for ever more displays of support. Have realistic expectations about what people can do for you. Then roll with it.

It won’t be easy, and a lot of the time it won’t be fun. But if you want easy and fun, you should have asked Obama for an ambassadorship to an ally with a good climate, nice shopping, and no particular geopolitical importance — say Liechtenstien. The FCC needs a leader who can roll up his (or her) sleeves and make the tough decisions. Question for Julius Genachowski: are you up to it?

Stay tuned . . . .

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18 Comments

  1. gregorylent says:

    very few people in american “leadership” positions are “up to it” … inertia, and vested interests, and business as usual are huge forces ameliorating any efforts any of them might be inclined to make on a slow day …

    everything becomes its opposite .. ancient wisdom

  2. Bob says:

    Nobody misses Kevin Martin. Nobody.

  3. Wilma Johnson says:

    You have to understand something. In sort of the “best and brightest” sort of way, G has surrounded himself with an extremely ambitious upwardly mobile career staff. This staff wants to make it big and has stars in its eyes. The path to ambitious yuppie success is the path of bombastic yes-men who give G what he appears to want, regardless of whether it is effective or the truth. No one, but no one, is going to say “no.” If the chairman wants a hearing, give him a dog and pony show – make it look great but have it devoid of controversy our out of control input (ala the health care town meetings). G says that caring for fish is a priority? Put up a press release about how the fcc cares about fish – even if the fcc has not fish authority. Put up a blog post, a tweet, and a facebook post. Maybe even initiate fish.gov. Have the chief of a bureau declare that the rights of fish are of clear concern – making it appear that the fcc is doing something – when the fcc has no authority to act. Have FCC officials proudly appear in congressional hearings about fish with the Fish and Wildlife service, announce that we are the FCC, we care, and we have an interagency committee with FWS, only to have 90% of the congressional hearing be a discussion with the FWS official and not the FCC official. It’s clear that it does not matter to these ambitious yuppies whether the FCC is actually effective and actually implements effective policy. Its only clear that these yuppies build their careers by pleasing G with dog and pony shows.

  4. Amanda says:

    You are forgetting something, Harold. Unlike Saul, the US government is *supposed* to listen to the people. Not to God. That was George W. Bush’s thing (“God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq”).

  5. raquel brac says:

    It sounds like Genachowski is much like his boss obama. Is there a way to get him fired?

  6. Harold says:

    @Amanda Listen to, not fear. Listen, weigh, make a decision, act. Action or inaction driven by fear is the antithesis of leadership.

  7. Harold, you are an optimist.

    Your description of Genachowski’s behavior is a microcosm of the White House as a whole: Make bold sweeping statements supporting change, cut back room deals with the incumbents, get something crappy out the door, and declare victory.

    This describes healthcare and financial reform to a “T”, and in both cases, the big changes, single payer, the plain vanilla option, etc. was opposed by the Obama White House.

    This is part of a pattern that spans the whole administration. (Except in national security and surveillance, whre they really are worse than Bush)

    Knuckle under, and then get a worthless piece of paper with which to declare victory.

    Not feeling hopey changey right now.

  8. Harold: I hate to say it because I want to like the guy. But he’s accomplishing almost nothing.

    You’re right.
    db

  9. Arnold T says:

    Harold, this is one of the most cogent, concise descriptions of the cause of failure of the Chairman’s tenure at the FCC. You should be applauded for speaking the truth, and trying to do it in a constructive way.

    You fail in one way however – you don’t point out that the outcome of this behavior is that the incumbents win. This is because the net effect of an FCC that accomplishes NOTHING during a 4 year chairmanship is that the strong only get stronger and the weak get even weaker.

    The incumbents have the money to push the Chairman around, and the lawyers to tie everything up for years. Not so for innovators, new entrants, and consumers as a whole. By the end of this Chairman’s term, competition will be markedly worse than it was when he took over, and the level of investment in the telecom sector will be much weaker too. Prices will go up, and service levels will be flat or go down. That’s what happens when competition is reduced. And innovation will be done overseas instead of in America, where those jobs could have otherwise been located.

    This is what failure means for the Chairman of the agency that regulates 18% of the national economy. It will be terrible, and take years to recover from.

    Ask yourself one question: How many jobs has this Chairman been responsible for creating (besides lawyers and lobbyists that don’t help the GDP)? Not one. Not ONE! But approving mergers will cost jobs – consolidation has cost 100,000+ high paying tech jobs in the last few years alone, and this FCC is doing nothing to create a SINGLE job!

    And this is directly the fault of President Obama for selecting him. He is a good friend of the President’s. Do you really think the President didn’t know about his indecisiveness before naming him? The President did not think that the Telecom sector was important enough to pick someone who could have accomplished something – instead he gave the FCC to a fundraiser.

    Can he change? How can you change something that is part of your personality? Do you really think the Chairman gets up in the morning and decides to dither on every topic, talking about everything and doing nothing? That’s not the way it works. Likewise, do you think tomorrow he will wake up and decide to actually schedule real items for a vote, and run a process so the vote is successful?

    Nope, we are doomed to live with this horrible situation. At least until he has to resign to go raise money again, for the 2012 campaign. That is our only hope.

    AT

    PS Bob, you are wrong. Many people miss Martin, me included. You should be glad he gave you the boot. You are way better off where you are now than just wasting away at the FCC not accomplishing anything like the poor souls who have to work there now are.

    I disagreed with most of what Martin did, but he did things, and a few of them were actually good. He was willing to be disliked to get things done. But this Chairman will leave having done nothing.

    Which would you rather have?

  10. Bill Clay says:

    The stasis is pervasive.

    Harold’s examples of inaction are big-ticket items that impact markets being reshaped by rapidly-evolving technology, but the stasis (there’s too little action to call it “dithering”) extends downward to more straightforward questions involving fully-mature technologies and markets.

    In the case of my hobby horse for the last eight years — broadcast radio licensee abuse of the “first local service” channel allotment preference to effect non-competitive station “move-ins” from rural to urban markets (47 CFR 1.420(i), 73.3573(g), and 73.3572(j)) — Commission stasis likewise continues to favor incumbents at the expense of the public. And this despite Commissioner Copps’ strong understanding of the issue, his clear position in favor of reform, and last year’s “Rural Radio” rulemaking (MB docket 09-52) that gave us hope for just such change.

    Again, a First Report and Order making a few small non-controversial tweaks along with the claim that the Commission must still “devote the proper time and analysis to those major reforms” that are the heart of the issue — as if every relevant argument hadn’t been fully ventilated over almost a decade, including several vigorously contested (and still non-final) adjudications and two successive rule makings.

    It appears that despite its new Chair, the Commission remains well and thoroughly captured by the industries it supposedly regulates, and stasis suits their business objectives quite nicely, thank you.

  11. And now we see the fruits of Genachowski’s passivity, Google and Verizon in Talks on Selling Internet Priority – NYTimes.com.

    Funny though, this is what happened in healthcare, the Employee Free Choice Act, financial reform, etc.

    Just do nothing, and allow the incumbents to chip away.

    Well, I guess that Obama will gets lots of donations from them in 2012.

  12. Fred Casserly says:

    Harold, you had the courage and conviction to write what is being said throughout the town. Except for 100 new hires, workshops and new website designs, this Commission is doing nothing on a substantive basis. Busy work and no action for the American consumer (well maybe with the exception of a public notice regarding this Chairman’s concern about the wealthy elite traveling in Europe and how they should be using named IP products to save money on calls back to the U.S. Funny, I don’t think we saw a similar public notice on high cable bills and how the majority of Americans who actually watch TV on their couch and don’t make calls from Europe can save money.)

    Only disappointment with your analysis, you are wrong about Kevin Martin, the cable industry, and Comcast especially, doesn’t miss him. Genachowski’s Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake is turning out to be the biggest shill for the cable industry that this town has seen in a long time. Oh by the way, what has happened to all those protesters against Media Consolidation that were so active when Powell and Martin were in charge? Guess approving the largest media merger in history is only ok when you have a Democratic Chairman and one who fails to show up to hearings on the topic since he is too busy soliciting himself to Hollywood.

  13. Harold says:

    @Fred Haven’t had time to blog much on Comcast/NBCU. Did a a couple of pieces against it back when it came out, but it just hasn’t moved that much so far and, as you might have noticed, my overall output here has decreased significantly while we run in place.

    MAP and Free Press and others have been carrying the ball on this a lot more, for which I am grateful. We at PK filed short comments in opposition focusing on over-the-top video, and will probably do what we can as we move forward.

    The same groups have been fighting media consolidation as always were, but it doesn’t attract much press and this Chairman does not appear to care. Nothing is more telling about how sad the state of media consolidation has become that the Quadrenniel Review NOI was released on _circulation_. At this point, am pinning my hopes to block Comcast/NBCU on Christine Varney.

  14. John says:

    Harold,

    Well said. Cogent, specific, and depressing as all hell.

    I don’t follow these issues as closely as you do, (or as closely as any of your other readers do, most likely). But I *did* find Kevin Martin quite reasonable on the subject of Net Neutrality and the role of the Internet in maintaining democracy. I can’t say that his policies always backed up his stated opinions, but on the other hand his policy positions on net neutrality were not, if I recall correctly, horrible.

    But now we’re faced with the prospect (as Matthew S alludes to, above) of an FCC-blessed Google/Verizon of a Germany/Soviet Union non-aggression treaty to put a stake through the heart of Net Neutrality once and for all. If this goes through, believe me, I’ll be among those who miss Kevin Martin. And the good Lord, as well as any readers of my blog know, I’m about the farthest thing from a Republican as can be found on earth.

  15. Alan says:

    What did you expect Google to do? After weeks of participating in “secret” meetings and being pressured to accept some agreement that says nice things but has no teeth, they saw the handwriting on the wall that Julius was going to sell them out. Julius’ incompetence in pushing this issue has led to alienating most of the congressional support for neutrality that existed when he first came into office. If they stayed the course they would have gotten screwed.

    So they did the rational thing – they cut a deal when they still had some leverage. Can you really blame them?

    Sure, everyone will now pile on them and accusing them of being turncoats, but Julius forced them into this.

    here’s a better way of thinking about this: If the police can’t protect businesses from the mob’s extortion, the rational thing for an business owner to do is pay the protection money. Do you blame the the businessman for doing this when the alternative is the mob coming in and forcing him out and maybe killing him, or do you blame the police for not protecting him.

    Google is the victim here. Do you really think they wanted to do this?

  16. John says:

    Alan,

    I’m assuming your comment is directed to me.

    I expected Google to do what they’re required to do by law, which is maximize shareholder value. Google obviously thinks that doing a deal with Verizon is the best way to maximize their shareholder value, so I expect them to do a deal with Verizon. Just as, if were legal for Google to send people to the ovens, I would expect them to send people to the ovens. Sorry to Godwinize this thread, but if for-profit corporations are people, per Citizens United & the Robets/Alito court, then surely they’re by definition sociopathic people–the law *requires them* to behave sociopathically.

    Google a victim? Too bad for Google. Call me a speciesist if you want, but I care about biological people, not incorporated people. Google can go fuck itself or have a margarita on the beach; I don’t give two fucks about Google. It’s problems are its problems. Google is *by definition* a sociopathic entity. And Google has lots of money to pay for lots of lawyers to advocate for its interests in court and out of court. Google can watch out for itself.

    But I’m perplexed by one thing in your comment. You refer to Google as a singular entity (which it of course is), but then say, “Do you really think they wanted to do this?”. Who is “they”? If Google is a singular victim, why the plural pronoun?

  17. john slewer says:

    You got it right on JG’s personality, his need to please everyone, and his inability to fight. There is one major problem you did not mention: the quality of the people around him (whom he chose!).

    Eddie is a good, smart guy, but knows nothing about the industry and cannot play politics as a pro. Gottlieb – now gone – is the most risk averse guy in the world and never managed anything in his life, the thought he could manage all the bureaus is just insane. Crowell left, probably before killing himself due to frustration (one can picture Colin thinking and saying: “we won the fre**ing election! Let us do what we ought to do!”. Then you have people like Zac Katz – the net neutrality gu – and John Leibovitz in the wireless bureau. People meet them and leave asking “where did these morons come from? Where are the grown ups?” And you have the ultimate bureaucrats or corporate shills like Milkman and Lake (nice people, but not fighters). I wont even get into the joke of DC, the FCC’s public safety plan that got no support from the White House and push back from DHS in the hearing. There has not been anyone competent and with the right experience in a senior FCC position since Blair left.

    To be sure, there are some reasonable, smart people (Gillett, Knapp, and De Sa come to mind), whom you can admire and respect even when you disagree with them, but these are exceptions, and it is not clear to me how influential they are.

    But in general, you have a leader who cannot or does not want to decide, surrounded by broadly incompetent people who cannot compensate for the lack of leadership. A very sad situation.

    You are right, it is painful to say this but at least Martin got stuff done. I thought much of it was evil, but it was a disagreement of point of view not a view that he was incompetent. Looking at the Obama FCC one really wonders whether the Rs dont have a point when they talk about small government and the need to restraint the authority of the agency!I

  18. SB says:

    The issue is absolutely leadership. Small Gov or not, it comes back to responsibility & accountability, regardless of which body they represent

  19. […] president’s promises and failed the public on… public safety.” And details from website Wet Machine: “…the “D Block” is a 10 MHz block of spectrum left over from the auction of the […]

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  1. […] president’s promises and failed the public on… public safety.” And details from website Wet Machine: “…the “D Block” is a 10 MHz block of spectrum left over from the auction of the […]

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