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Alec Ross, a co-founder and former Executive VP of One Economy and a major presence in the Obama campaign and transition team on tech policy has been appointed Senior Adviser on Innovation to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. This continues the trend in the Obama Administration to treat broadband and information technology as an integral part of overall policy, and appointing folks steeped in tech and broadband to important positions, rather than relying primarily on folks from traditional carriers or cable.
I should say I've known Alec for a number of years and I like and admire him enormously. He has a proven track record of understanding that what makes access to technology and connectivity critical is how it improves peoples lives, and that these programs only fulfill their potential if they empower local communities and individuals so that they make these new technologies a part of their lives. I have absolutely no doubt that, given the opportunity and the resources, he will be able to help the State Department craft technology policies and programs that will alleviate poverty, create economic opportunity, and thus raise our standing in the world.
More critically, Alec's appoint to a high level position in the State Department will likely facilitate coordination between the various Administrative agencies handling broadband policy and our foreign policy on technology. During the Clinton Administration, there was an active high-level inter-agency task force based in the Department of Commerce to ensure at least some coordination on what were then thought of as primarily e-commerce issues. This included ICANN, encryption and privacy, and opening international telecommunications markets. During the Bush years, where tech policy generally had a fairly low priority, there was little effort to try to coordinate among agencies other than to repeat the deregulatory mantra as the only policy prescription you'll ever need.
Once appointments are confirmed, we will begin broadband policy with key players familiar with each other at Commerce (Larry Strickling at NTIA), FCC (Julius Genachowski), RUS (Jonathan Adelstein) and now State. This overlaps with the interagency coordination currently taking place around the broadband stimulus package.
Several key appointments remain, of course. But it appears that the Administration is still on track in its efforts to have a coherent broadband policy, and is continuing to view broadband and technology as a critical element of broader economic and policy development goals. If this proves to be the case, it will open up new opportunities for real and positive change, and I can think of few people better qualified to make this happen than Alec .