Last week, Blair Levin officially returned to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “help coordinate its development of a national broadband plan,” saith acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. But let’s be honest, Blair probably already had a reserved parking space over there given his involvement in the Obama transition team on tech policy, working hand-in-hand with FCC Chairman-in-waiting Julius Genachowski. What might this mean — if anything — for HD Communications and Jeff Pulver’s plan to submit a petition this fall for upgrading phone call voice quality in the United States?
Levin is no stranger to the FCC. He was chief of staff for former FCC chairman Reed Hundt between 1993 and 1997 and got the nickname the “the sixth chairman” during the days of rewriting and implementing telecom policy.
More recently, Levin was one of the two strongest names for a potential nominee as FCC Chairman and the favorite of the telecom policy wonk set. My personal opinion is that Genachowski probably is a better basketball player — Levin being partial to baseball — and got the nod to be nominated for chairman.
Even after Genachowski became the leaked/obvious favorite as Obama’s FCC Chairman, Levin kept on popping up in public places talking about national broadband policy.
In January, Levin appeared at the “”State of the Net” Conference event organized by the advisory committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus to spell out how broadband involvement would play out in the economic stimulus package and how broadband stimulus would work moving forward. He explained that what would happen in the an economy recovery package was something that was designed to be timely, targeted and temporary to create jobs, using existing bureaucratic mechanisms to distribute funding. More innovative programs would have to wait.
Since Levin is now point man for the development of a national broadband plan, it is likely we will see some “innovation” on the table as he builds a comprehensive national broadband policy — and I suspect, despite the worrying over at GigaOm, intelligent people have been working on the problem before announcement have been made.
Does innovation mean raising the bar for phone call quality beyond 1937-era technology?
It is an interesting question. Levin is a free market guy at heart, but I suspect he’d also like to raise the bar if it falls into line with delivering faster broadband to more underserved and unserved communities.