Testifying before a Senate panel, FCC Chairman-designate Julius Genachowski told lawmakers that the expansion of broadband services, particularly in rural and other underserved areas, would top the FCC’s priority list during his tenure. Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell—who was nominated earlier this month for a second FCC term—stressed that the FCC’s primary focus should be to “foster economic expansion by helping shape an environment that is attractive to capital investment.” Confirmation hearings for Genachowski and McDowell were conducted Tuesday by the Senate Commerce Committee, where, overwhelmingly, members of both parties spoke of both FCC nominees in favorable terms. Although the committee approved both nominations yesterday, Senate sources could not predict when a full Senate vote would take place. (Observers believe the vote will be postponed until the Obama Administration forwards its paperwork on FCC nominee Mignon Clyburn and a yet-to-be named candidate for the FCC’s remaining Republican seat.) Emphasizing that $7.2 billion in economic stimulus funds earmarked for broadband should be spent primarily on unserved areas, Genachowski said the FCC’s broadband deployment effort should focus on the expansion of “affordable and robust” broadband services to every American and should also spur entrepreneurship and the advancement of education and healthcare. As Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) challenged Genachowski to “fix this agency, or we will fix it for you,” Genachowski promised that the FCC under his leadership would be more open and transparent. Agreeing that rural broadband development should be prioritized by the FCC, McDowell told committee members that the usage of universal service funds to deliver broadband to unserved areas would form “part and parcel to any broadband reform.” McDowell also pledged his cooperation in fostering greater transparency at the FCC, where he said he would continue to work in a bipartisan manner as an “independent commissioner.” Applauding the committee’s vote, Rockefeller said, “I look forward to Mr. Genachowski’s leadership at the FCC and a future of good and honest communications policy.”
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