Given the war of words that's been building over Net access, the naming of U. of Penn prof David Farber as chief technologist at the FCC grabbed the media's attention more than the average bureaucratic appointment.
The New York Times pegged Farber as a lifer when it comes to tech research. He helped develop the first electronic telephone switches at Bell Labs during the 1960s and followed that up with groundbreaking work in networks at the University of California at Irvine, according to John Markoff. The Philadelphia Inquirer scored with warm fuzzies on its hometown boy. According to the Inquirer, Farber is not your average lab rat. The deck for the paper's coverage patted Farber's ideas as "both great and nutty." Gushed reporter Patricia Horn, "How many other government employees quote Mao Tse-tung on their personal Web sites, were called the 'Paul Revere of Cyberspace' by Wired Magazine, or publish one of the most engaging e-mail lists in the world?"
As for what Farber's appointment means in the loud battle over Net access, open-access advocates are doubtless raising eyebrows. The Wall Street Journal speculated that the Net and telecom expert would march in step with fellow Feds, favoring a hands-off approach to regulation.