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DorobekInsider: State of the Union history

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President Obama gives his first State of the Union address tonight just days after his first year in office and days befire the administration issues its first full budget. And this White House is doing something like State of the Union 2.0 taking question on YouTube among other things.

There are some interesting highlights on the history of this speech, which is generally a big deal here in Washington.

The Congressional Research Service has actually published a FAQ on the State of the Union [PDF or Flash version] — which I have also posted below.

According to the Clerk of the House:

The formal basis for the State of the Union address is from the U.S. Constitution:

  • The President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.

The constitutionally mandated presidential address has gone through a few name changes:

  • It was formally known as the Annual Message from 1790 to 1934.
  • It began to be informally called the State of the Union address from 1942 to 1946.
  • Since 1947 it has generally been known as the State of the Union address.

According to the State:

On January 27, 2010, President Barack Obama will fulfill his constitutional duty to “give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union” (Article II, Section3). Presidents George Washington and John Adams delivered their messages in person, but in 1801 Thomas Jefferson chose to send his in writing. That precedent held until Woodrow Wilson decided to deliver his message in person in 1913, a tradition that continues today. Franklin Roosevelt referred to it as the “State of the Union Address,” a title that became official during the Harry Truman administration. The first radio broadcast of the message occurred in 1923, and the 1947 address was the first televised. View a list of speakers before joint sessions of Congress. Read a report from the Congressional Research Service. See a list of opposition responses to the annual address. Each year, one member of the President’s cabinet is absent from the address, to maintain the line of succession in case of an emergency.

The BBC has a great primer on the State of the Union Address.

And you can read State of the Union addresses through history from the Government Printing Office.

We’ll see what the President has to say tonight.

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Written by cdorobek

January 27, 2010 at 3:27 PM

DorobekInsider: On DC’s NewsChannel 8 tonight talking transparency – the liner notes

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I’ll be on DC’s NewsChannel 8 in the 7:30p ET half-hour — their Federal News Tonight program — and I’ll be talking about (what else) transparency. They stream the show live… and I’ll post the video when they post it.

For those looking for more information, here are the liner notes:

* The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and reader: Just last week, I pulled together The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and reader, which has many of the links related to the Obama administration’s openness and transparency initiative.

* Open Government Dialogue: This is the site established where, through Thursday, the administration is seeking your ideas on transparency and openness. Today on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to John John Kamensky is Senior Fellow and Associate Partner at the IBM Center for The Business of Government, spoke to us about the process so far. Hear that conversation here.

Thanks for Federal News Radio Internet Editor Dorothy Ramienski, pulled together some notes from that conversation.

* 12,000 visits so far on the Open Government Dialogue site as of this afternoon;
* 42,000 page views
* 600 total unique ideas/posts so far
* 6,000 votes for the different ideas
* participation from every state, as well as visits from over 90 different countries

Kamensky also notes that the most voted on item is one recommended from Republican Minority Leader John Boehner recommendation that there be a 72-hour mandatory waiting period to allow public comment on all spending bills.

* DorobekInsider column in Signal magazine on transparency: Find a link to the Signal magazine column on transparency here… or read the column here.

* This is the Obama administration’s main transparency and openness site

* This is federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s baby, and it is similar to one he created when he was the DC CTO. The site will be a place where public, machine readable data is posted.

* Apps for Democracy 2: Similar to DC’s Apps for America that Kundra led while the DC CTO, the Sunlight Foundation is sponsoring Apps for America 2, which is offering real prize money — up to $25,000 — for the best application developed using data. Find all the information about the Apps for Democracy 2 contest here. Another Obama weekend address, and news on government reform

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Last weekend, President Obama used his weekend address to announce the chief performance officer and the Obama chief technology officer. This week, he was talking government reform. (BTW, reporters just love it when they find out news is breaking over the weekend.) Read the AP story here.

The president offered up a few ideas that impact feds and how they will do their job.

One is cutting programs. The president says that the administration is looking to cut spending and that they will “identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.”

Two… we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works.

Three… the administration is going to create a process where front-line workers can offer up ideas. (I would recommend the administration look at TSA’s Idea Factory, a Digg-like system that allows front line TSA workers to offer up ideas — and allows others to vote on the best ideas.)

After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

Four… the administration is reaching out to industry.

We will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.

The transcript can be found here … or below:

Good morning. Over the last three months, my Administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.

One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.

All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special interest spending that doesn’t advance the peoples’ interests.

But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.

It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.

Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.

But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my Administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.

First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.

Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.

Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.

We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people.

Thank you.

Written by cdorobek

April 25, 2009 at 11:31 AM

Government 2.0 challenges — and some solutions

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This afternoon, I was at the New America Foundation’s Wiki White House forum held at Google’s DC offices. It was a fascinating session featuring Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Mindy Finn, director of e-strategy for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, and Sascha Meinrath, research director for the New America Foundation’s wireless future program. I’ll flesh out my thoughts for a full post this weekend, but… you can read my very rough notes here… and you can also search Twitter for people who used #WWH on their posts.

One document that is getting a lot of attention is the one below, Social Media and the Federal Government: Perceived and Real Barriers and Potential Solutions. Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Jason Miller spoke to GSA’s Bev Godwin about this document. That will air on the Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Tuesday… and it will be posted on WFED’s Tracking the Transition page.

But… read it for yourself.

View this document on Scribd

Written by cdorobek

January 9, 2009 at 2:07 PM poll: What do you think of Team Obama’s team?

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Another day — more names… but we’re starting to get a sense of what the Obama administration is going to look like. The WSJ’s Gerald Seib has a fascinating piece in the paper this morning headlined Obama Team takes two shapes.

Here is how’s Today’s Paper summed up the story:

The WSJ‘s Gerald Seib says Obama is “giving the country two administrations for the price of one.” While Obama’s first round of high-profile appointments were heavy on Washington veterans who are seen as largely moderate, the second wave include “the kind of folks who look like the fabled ‘agents of change’ promised in the campaign.” These newer faces are concentrated in areas of energy and the environment, signaling that’s where Obama wants to implement changes, while he stuck with known commodities in the economics and national security fields to signal continuity in a time of war and an economic crisis.

So… what’s your sense of the team of rivals so far?

Written by cdorobek

December 19, 2008 at 7:35 AM

Posted in poll, Presidency, Transition

What would you ask Team Obama — is now ‘open for questions’

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20081211-questionsMany of us are watching the Obama transition Web site for indications about how the new administration might tap into the Web 2.0 as a tool for governing. And we’re getting a very interesting peek with the newest feature on the Web site — “open for questions.”

The Obama-Biden Transition wants to hear from you. The transition team, using the Google Moderator application, lets people post their questions for the transition team — but, more importantly, it lets you go in and grade those questions — yes, you would like to get this questions answered, no you wouldn’t, or “flag as inappropriate.”

Here is the blog post about ‘open for questions’:

With so many Americans involved in the political process for the first time, there’s a great deal of interest in what’s happening inside the Transition right now — and what happens next.

Today, we’re rolling out a new feature that lets you ask the Transition team any questions you have about the issues that are important to you.

You can also browse through questions other folks have and check off the ones you think are the most interesting.

The community has jumped into a true two-way dialogue with our Transition team members. So far, we’ve asked you questions about major issues in our discussion forums, and you’ve flooded this site with your comments (see here or here).

Check out our new “Open for Questions” feature, and keep the conversation going.

There are many interesting issues here — some of them the government questions. So the transition team posts the following disclaimer:

Have feedback on this system or want to suggest a better way to do this? Let us know. Before asking a question, please review our comment policy.

Disclaimer: This tool is powered by Google Moderator, a third party service. Here is their privacy policy and terms of service.

Does that mean that they don’t have to follow the Privacy Act — the site requires that you sign in, but… how does that relate to privacy laws? Did they compete this application? And there are already questions about whether uncomfortable questions are disappearing by being flagged an inappropriate. Really?

Getting away from those more bureaucratic questions, I absolutely adore the idea. In the end, it is similar to the popular Digg site… and similar to the Web site, which has grown into something of a portal of various issue areas — including what kind of dog the Obamas should get. (More on here… and hear our conversation with the creator of on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris.) By the way, is powered by an applicated called UserVoice.

And… then there are the actual questions.

According to the site, these are among the leaders:

  • “What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?”
  • “What will you do as President to restore the Constitutional protections that have been subverted by the Bush Administration and how will you ensure that our system of checks and balances is renewed?”
  • “Will you lift the ban on Stem Cell research in your first 100 days in office?”
  • “What will you do to end the use of mercenary forces (ie Blackwater) by our military?”

Read others… after the break…
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

December 11, 2008 at 8:39 AM

Obama CTO frenzy: More names in the mix

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So there almost seems to be a frenzy around who might be named the Obama CTO.

The Industry Standard has its selections of 10 contenders (and one real long shot) for Obama’s CTO.

Frankly their list seems like mostly long-shots. Their list includes Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and’s Jeff Bezos — my good friend — kidding.

Most of these seem like long shots to me. First off, most of them would have to give us some of the best jobs in the world — and some of the highest paying jobs in the world. And most of them are used to being able to do what they want — they create the bureaucracy. Are they really going to have to work within the confines of government — even an Obamaized government? Finally, are those people going to be willing to fill out the Obama team’s job application form, which is seven pages long and has more than 60 questions? (The NYT has a copy of the application here. PDF)

The Industry Standard’s actual long-shot is Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, who just announced that he is stepping down from his post.

The list has some more likely names — Julius Genachowski makes their list. As the DorobekInsider told you, he part of the Obama transition leadership and is one of Obama’s former colleagues from the Harvard Law Review. Genachowski seems one of the more likely. The other candidates in their list is Sonal Shah.

Shah is one of the few rumored contenders to have actually worked in government. She currently heads global development initiatives at Google, but prior to that worked at Goldman Sachs, the Center for American Progress, and the U.S. Treasury Department. She’s also advising Obama’s transition team on the CTO search.

They also have Donald Gips

Gips is the vice president of corporate strategy and development for Level 3 Communications, and served Al Gore. Although Gips didn’t help the former vice president invent the Internet, he was Gore’s chief domestic policy advisor and has a deep understanding of technology and communication policies. He too is advisingObama’s transition team.

The Silicon Alley Insider also has a list of CTO candidates.

And’s list, which has been the buzz around town, includes some government IT luminaries:

  • Cisco’s Alan Balutis, who served as the Commerce Department’s chief information officer
  • Bob Gourley, the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency and now chief technology officer at advisory firm CrucialPoint.
  • Dawn Meyerriecks, a consultant in Washington, D.C., formerly CTO of the Defense Information Systems Agency.
  • Harry Raduege Jr., who was director of DISA and now chairs the Deloitte Center for Network Innovation.

More than the person — we’ll get that when we get it — I’m interested in what role the CTO will play. To that end, this afternoon on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we’re going to talk to CJD-fav Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School and the person credited with the term ‘enterprise 2.0.’ He recently post an item on his blog headlined What This Country Needs is a Chief Technology Officer .

Written by cdorobek

November 18, 2008 at 7:36 AM

Hearing from the creator of… and more on the Obama CTO

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I mentioned earlier the innovative Web site where you can make suggestions for the new, yet-to-be-named (or even defined) Obama chief technology officer, which the WP Friday called “most talked-about tech job in government is one that never before existed.”

Friday on the Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with Matt Lerner, the CTO of Front Seat out in Seattle, who created Its important to note that is independent of the Obama transition team. Lerner and I had a wonderful pre-radio conversation about why he created the site. I understand that I focus on this stuff intensely — and there are many in this community, but a young guy in Seattle? It’s great that this stuff is touching people out there.

You can hear our conversation with Lerner here.

On Friday, we also spoke to Eric Lundquist, the editor in chief of eWeek, who argues that the CTO should actually be a CIO. You can hear that conversation here.

Finally, on Tuesday Monday on The Big Show, we’re going to talk to CJD-fav Andrew McAfee, an assoiate professor at the Harvard Business School and the person credited with the term ‘enterprise 2.0.’ He just did a post headlined What This Country Needs is a Chief Technology Officer .

The precise job description is not yet clear, but how could it be? Technology’s role in American society is boundaryless and constantly increasing, so delineating the CTO’s role is going to be hard. Is it confined to information and communications technology, or should also include other blossoming flields like energy and life sciences? And is the mission to make policy, to allocate resources via something like a venture capital fund, to take control of large portions of the federal government’s IT spending and personnel, and/or to to be an advocate for enlightened use of technology in both the private and public sectors?

Written by cdorobek

November 16, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Obama’s yet-to-be-named CTO suggestion box

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So there is a ton o’ buzz about President-elect Obama’s proposal to create a CTO — a chief technology officer. The proposal came out of the campaign and the then senator made his technology proposal, which included the creation of “the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.” Here is what Obama’s technology platform says:

Bring Government into the 21st Century: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Obama and Biden believe in the American people and in their intelligence, expertise, and ability and willingness to give and to give back to make government work better. Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

So what should the priorities of the Obama CTO be? Well, you can sound off — and make suggestions. There is a new Web site,, where you can make suggestions… and vote on other’s suggestions for the yet-to-be-named CTO.

I first read about the site on CNet.

While the technology pundits are debating the role of an Obama administration CTO, a few programmers in Seattle yesterday decided to do something more useful. Using an application from UserVoice, they launched, a site, unaffiliated with the Obama machine, that allow citizens to list and vote on what should be the top tech priorities for the new administration.

“User voting is an easy way for people to prioritize ideas,” said Matt Lerner of, which created the site. While the voting on this site is more like on Digg than a scientific sampling, and can be gamed, it is part of the Internet-fueled movement to give more of voice to the populace. The Obama campaign provided ample evidence of the benefits of using the Web for massive outreach. Now the question is how much weight the wisdom of the crowd will carry in influencing the direction of government policy.

Tonight, I actually spoke to Matt Lerner, the… er.. CTO of, and we are going to have him on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris in the 5p ET hour Friday.

After talking to Lerner — who is wonderful — I then found that NextGov’s Tech Insider had written about the site pointing to the NYT Bits blog.

Tech geeks are tickled that come January, one of their kind will be in the White House. With the election of Barack Obama, a text-messaging Facebook user.

Who should get the role of C.T.O. — the geeks’ representative in Washington — has been the subject of intense debate in the tech community. On Tuesday, a few of those geeks started, a Web site with advice for the C.T.O., whomever he or she might be. (Obama has said he planned to get ideas directly from voters, and he is already doing so at his transition Web site,

Obama CTO was built by Front Seat, a small Seattle software company that creates Web sites for civic causes. Its biggest project is Walk Score, a site that ranks neighborhoods by how walkable they are. They got the idea to build Obama CTO around noon on Tuesday and posted it by the afternoon.

The idea came, oddly enough, from the Republicans, who are soliciting citizen ideas online at Rebuild the Party, said Matt Lerner, chief technology officer at Front Seat. He started getting involved in Democratic politics while working at Microsoft in 2004, when he founded Driving Votes to register Democratic voters in swing states. “Appointing a C.T.O. has been an invitation for Silicon Valley to get more involved,” said Mr. Lerner, who co-founded EQuill, a Web development software company, and sold it to Microsoft in 2001. “Hopefully the C.T.O., when elected, will take a look at the site and see what some of the priorities of the community will be.”

Among some of the suggestions on

Open Government Data (APIs, XML, RSS)
We can unleash a wave of civic innovation if we open up government data to programmers. The government has a treasure trove of information: legislation, budgets, voter files, campaign finance data, census data, etc. Let’s STANDARDIZE, STRUCTURE, and OPEN up this data.

Gov to be ran on 100% free software
Premise: Software is licensed to distribute the overhead of its initial development, the cost of which few organizations could afford. Because all government software purchases are made with public funds, the public should be licensed to use it.

Proposition: All future investments are to be made in software that is licensed to grant use and source code access to all governed subjects. Security will be maintained with the use of trusted concepts, including asymmetric cryptography, and not rely on the obscurity of closed source software. Where viable further development of existing operating systems and applications will be funded. Where not viable, or where competition is lacking, new projects will be originated. No patents will be granted for pubic works. Release of existing patents will be used as bargaining in the contract bidding process.

Opinion: The ability of corporations and individuals to support themselves by developing software will not be impeded. On the contrary, the funding will be fair market representations of what the development is worth. The only thing that will change is that public will receive direct benefit from having paid for the software. The result will be a new renaissance in software advancement. We will also realize boons in hardware utilization and life cycle extension, helping to relieve the e-waste crisis.

Allow the public to comment on all legislation

Allow at least a 5 day comment period where the public can comment on all legislation before it is signed into law.

You can vote for suggestions… or make your own.

So tomorrow, we’re going to talk to eWeek editor in chief Eric Lundquist about his column suggesting that the CTO should actually be a CIO… And hear from one of the creators of… on Friday’s Big Show.

Written by cdorobek

November 13, 2008 at 9:57 PM

Tech guru Genachowski named to Obama transition team

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The Washington Post is reporting that Julius Genachowski, a former executive of Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, has been named to the Obama transition team.

Genachowski worked at the Federal Communications Commission as chief counsel to former Chairman Reed Hundt. He has also been advising Obama’s campaign on tech policy issues and chaired a group of advisors on the president-elect’s Tech & Innovation Plan.

Here is his blog post on the Obama campaign Web site.

I recently heard this summary of the core principles of the Obama Technology & Innovation Plan:

Open Government. Open Networks. Open Markets.

The plan is the most comprehensive and detailed tech & innovation plan put forward by any candidate. But also bold, and simple at its core. I liked the sharp summary and wanted to share it.

I was fortunate to chair the group that advised Senator Obama and the campaign on the tech & innovation plan – a large and hardworking group that generated terrific ideas, rooted in the great work that the Senator and his strong Senate staff have been doing in this area for quite some time.

The response to the plan has been great. One independent comment that stands out: “If even half of the proposals outlined here were to be implemented, it would fundamentally change the nature of our democracy for the better”. That’s why Barack Obama is running for President – fundamentally changing the country and the world for the better. A lot will have to happen on many fronts for that to occur, and Senator Obama has been addressing all the topics in compelling ways. He is a 21st century candidate who recognizes that technology will be a key part of the solution to better government, and a key part of the solution to so many of the specific issues that concern Americans: health care, energy, education, as well as job creation and economic growth.

Send copies of the plan to people you know, especially people interested in technology and innovation. Or better, send them to where they can read the plan and also participate in the discussion on the site. The Senator wants the feedback – and (not a small thing) is using technology to generate the best thinking and best ideas to make the country a better place.

More from the WP post:

With a relationship with Obama that goes back to their days at Harvard Law School, Genachowski helped push technology issues to a more prominent spot in the campaign, according to analysts and high-tech lobbyists.

Among those issues are laws that would prevent telecommunications carriers from slowing, blocking, or placing other controls on Internet content over their networks.

Obama has said he would also focus on protecting online privacy of users and improve access to broadband Internet services by increasing speed standards for broadband and freeing up more government spectrum for public use.

Read more from the WP here.

Written by cdorobek

November 6, 2008 at 8:59 AM