FCC Chief Sees Clouds Darkening Broadband Skies

What keeps a man like FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski up at night? Try 40th out of 40. That’s the U.S.’ ranking in broadband improvements from 1999-2009 according to a study last year by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. The bottom line is Genachowski is worried that the U.S. is not keeping pace with global broadband competition and is in danger of losing its competitive advantage.

In an interview at the Web 2.0 Summit, Genachoswki apparently rehashed a speech he gave on Monday and cited the move by Applied Materials (s amat) to relocate its CTO Mark Pinto to Beijing, something he chalked up to America’s technology challenges. “The question we have to ask ourselves is how long before another company moves their CTO away before we fix this,” he said at the Web 2.0 Summit.

Genachowski said the U.S. is struggling to contend with some of the forward-looking policies and progress of the 20th century, which are making it harder to push ahead with broadband in the 21st century. He flogged the need for spectrum and reiterated the need to take some of the spectrum set aside for the television industry and move it over to serve the needs of mobile broadband, a process the FCC is working on with broadcasters. The dependence on copper for voice and DSL has also hampered the growth of broadband, which he said requires “fatter pipes.”

Genachowski said the FCC is also hard at work on net neutrality, but he said the commission is taking its time to get the decision right. He said he didn’t believe the change in Congress in the recent elections would hurt the FCC’s chances at getting rules passed on net neutrality. But he did acknowledge that an agreement by Verizon (s vz) and Google (s goog) on a framework for an open Internet slowed down the process that could have led to a resolution. “I would have preferred if they didn’t do what they did when they did,” he said. At least they did something.

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