FCC boss tackling broadband shortfall and mobile competition

The new head of the Federal Communications Commission says broadband provision will be the agency’s top priority under his leadership. He also confirmed the commission will examine exclusivity agreements with cellphone handsets.

Julius Genachowski (pictured), who had not previously served as a commissioner, took office as chairman on 29 June. He’s now given his first major round of interviews laying out his plans.

He told the MercuryNews, which serves Silicon Valley, that though mobile telephone issues were an immediate concern, the key issue for his administration was broadband provision. He said a lack of long-term planning in the past had led to too few homes today having access to broadband services, while in areas which do have access, there are concerns over prices, speeds and a lack of competition.

In an interview with GigaOM, Genachowski indicated it would take more than legislation to tackle such issues. He said that the commission needed more than just lawyers on its staff and that the door was open for “great engineers, strong economists and people with entrepreneurial backgrounds.”

In the same discussion Genachowski appeared unwilling to give specific answers to several questions including whether he supports the idea of metered broadband and where cable companies need regulating in the same way as phone companies. Instead he reiterated a message that, under his watch, FCC policymaking will be “fact-based and data-driven.”

While broadband may be the priority, it’s mobile issues which have filled Genachowski’s in-tray in recent weeks. He’s announced that the FCC is following up a request from several senators to investigate concerns over cellphone manufacturers signing exclusive deals with networks and the effects that has on people in rural areas not covered by the networks in question. Genachowski noted to Reuters “In some markets, no matter what, you can’t get an iPhone or you can’t get a Pre.”

The FCC has also written to both Google and Apple asking for more details on Apple’s decision to throw Google Voice out of the iPhone App store. The application allowed users to make calls through an internet connection rather than through AT&T. That’s bad news for Apple as AT&T expects to get all call revenue as part of its deal to subsidize iPhone sales.

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