The Guardian, February 2, 2013
As President Obama’s second term takes shape, many of his top appointees are leaving – a standard pattern for all two-term presidencies. While most of the press attention has been focused on the major cabinet posts such as Treasury, State and Defense, some important posts below that tier are also being vacated or are expected to be. One of the most important of those is the top job at the Federal Communications Commission, where current Chairman Julius Genachowski is widely believed to be on the way out. His replacement, assuming he’s leaving, should be someone who tries harder to keep the promises Obama made as a candidate in 2008.
With few exceptions, such as the Justice Department’s blocking of the AT&T buyout of T-Mobile, American telecom policy in recent years has tended to reward consolidation and control of broadband and wireless communications by a few huge companies. Among other alarming realities, two-fifths of US states, bowing to the lobbying clout of the telecom companies, now bar local governments from offering internet service or have erected legal barriers making it much more difficult.
Comcast, by far the biggest cable provider, made a deal with Verizon that amounts to a non-compete treaty, by which Comcast gets the “fixed line” business and Verizon gets the wireless – a deal that should never have passed regulatory scrutiny. Broadband speeds in America lag behind other developed nations – not surprising, given that many other nations require their telecom companies to let competing ISPs offer service on the lines.