Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama Pushes Ambitious Tech Agenda; Tops on List: Privacy, Fast Net

Original Article - Daily Tech

Obama is recruiting a transition team of former tech executives will help to push his vision of low-cost, fast, private internet

President-elect Barack Obama has an ambitious and comprehensive national agenda that seeks to put into effect many initiatives and changes. To assist him in implementing this vision, he is recruiting top leaders to his transition team, which will prepare his plans and flesh out his plans, and ready them for proposal to the new House and Senate.

Top on Obama's agenda are many technology-related efforts. President-elect Obama is no stranger to technology and has said that he wants more expansive protection of users rights to online privacy, a stance which surely runs counter to the RIAA, MPAA, and other groups' aggressive litigation efforts. Also on the list are plans to free up unused government spectrum for public use. Obama during his presidential campaign referred several times to the White Space, a section of the spectrum which Google and Microsoft have been lobbying for the government to free up.

Finally, Obama wants to fight bandwidth caps and mandate faster internet from internet service providers. He is concerned of what he sees as a trend among companies like AT&T and Time Warner to give the customer less for more.

Among those whom Obama has recruited for his team are's Sonal Shah and Julius Genchowski, a former IAC executive. Both individuals bring with them diverse and varied backgrounds to the table.

Sonal Shah is a part of Google's global development team. She also served as a Vice President at Goldman, Sachs and Co. in the environmental protection department. She is the founder of Indicorps, a U.S.-based non-profit organization offering one-year fellowships for Americans of Indian origin to work on specific development projects in India. She's an expert on a diverse range of tech topics and an expert in global trade and the internet.

She also has government experience, serving in the Department of Treasury in a variety of roles, working in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Julius Genachowski, an executive with Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, likewise has government experience. He worked with the Federal Communications Commission as chief counsel to former Democratic Chairman Reed Hundt. He has been advising Obama on tech issues as is chairing the President-elect's Tech & Innovation Plan.

The pair first met in Harvard Law School, and he has helped sway Obama into making tech a focus of the campaign. Mr. Genachowski is pushing for laws that would ban ISPs from slowing, blocking, or placing other controls on internet content over their networks, a plan tentatively approved by President-elect Obama. The proposal has drawn harsh criticism from ISPs who argue that place limits on what their customers receive is critical to their business.

Rick Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, says Mr. Genachowski is the perfect advocate with the technical know-how and desire to represent the average American, and the perfect leader for Obama's team. Mr Whitt states, "Julius is a true believer in the power of technology to change lives and I think that bodes well for the Obama administration that someone like him is part of the transition team."

Both advisers eschew the traditional lobbyist background that many of the advisers from the past several administrations had hailed from. Supporters say that this is a sign that Obama-administration really is about change, including in the tech industry. With his party in firm control of the new House and Senate, barring a conservative filibuster, it looks like he may be able to pass through some impressive legislation which will protect citizens' rights on the internet.

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