For FCC Chair, Obama Should Look Outside the Beltway

11BusinessWeek today has a short list of the people being considered to head up the Federal Communications Commission. The decision as to who will be appointed FCC Chair is a critical one, for in coming years the country faces some major issues that will need to be addressed head on — not from a corporate, but from a citizen perspective, including Network Neutrality, the availability of broadband, telecom competition and privacy. Among those in the running are:

  • Julia Johnson: Florida consultant and chairperson of the Video Access Alliance who also sits on the board of the networks builder MasTec.
  • Mignon Clyburn: Commissioner for the Public Service Commission of South Carolina and daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
  • Blair Levin: Managing director at investment firm Stifel Nicolaus and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt’s chief of staff.
  • Scott Blake Harris: Managing partner with law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, where he has represented technology and telecom companies.
  • Larry Strickling: Currently works for policy think tank Aspen Institute, a Harvard Law School grad, and previously worked for Broadwing, which was acquired by Level 3.

The Obama team is taking recommendations from former FCC Chairmen Bill Kennard and Reed Hundt, along with Henry Rivera, a lawyer who works for the law firm Wiley Rein and represents companies including AT&T, Verizon, Viacom and Sirius Satellite Radio.

Those three folks, with their links to powerful communication companies, represent the old guard. And that is why I am really scared that we might be getting yet another ineffectual, bureaucratic FCC chair who puts special interests ahead of taxpayer needs. Current Chairman Kevin Martin just happens to be one of the more disappointing of the bunch.

If I had to pick from the above-mentioned short list, Levin and Strickling would be on my short list of candidates. Nevertheless, President-elect Obama should look outside the beltway and find someone who truly represents the taxpayers.

Tom Evslin, who is a retired telecom executive, is the kind of person I would expect to be in the FCC. He knows the machinations of the big companies and at the same time is an Internet liberal who can keep broadband providers and their anti-consumer tricks under check.

Who would you like to see named as chair?

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