By Kim Hart - 10/29/09 10:00 AM EDT
Over the past few months, Google has brought on new staff to its growing Washington office, and the company is looking to fill at least four more policy-related positions.
Megan Stull, who was in the telecommunications group at law firm Wilkie Farr & Gallagher, has joined Google to work with Richard Whitt, who has been Google’s sole telecom lobbyist for the past three years.
Seth Webb, who was the House Financial Services Committee’s second-most senior Republican aide, joined Google in June to handle Republican outreach and to head small business development. Frannie Wellings, a senior staffer to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), will soon begin her new role handling third-party outreach for Google.
Google also brought on board Mistique Cano, formerly vice president of communications for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Cano takes over media responsibilities for Adam Kovacevich, who had been the key press contact at Google for the past three years. In his new role, Kovacevich is leading the broader policy and communications strategy in the Washington office.
Google’s D.C. office started with one person, Alan Davidson, in 2005. As tech issues such as net neutrality started to bubble up in Washington, Google hired a slew of lobbyists. Andrew McLaughlin became Google’s director of public policy and government affairs.
McLaughlin is now deputy chief technology officer in the Obama administration. Davidson’s role has since expanded to oversee all of the Americas, including Canada and South America. The Washington office now has more than 20 full-time employees.
To handle the growing range of issues Google is involved in — from online privacy to government transparency — the company is seeking to expand even more. It is looking to hire an academic relations manager who will serve as a liaison to university faculty, economists and researchers and commission policy papers.
The company is also hiring a small-business community outreach manager, who will work on small-business issues on the state and federal levels. Google is also looking for a policy associate to join its government-relations team.
The tech giant has spent just under $3 million on lobbying so far this year, up from the $2 million it spent during the first nine months of 2008.
In addition to the openings at its Washington office, Google is looking to fill a dozen more legal and policy jobs at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
Intel takes ‘nuanced stance’ on net neutrality
Intel’s Washington operation has also expanded, quadrupling in size over the past decade. It temporarily grew by one more this week with the visit of Sean Maloney, executive vice president and head of Intel’s Architecture Group. Maloney, who’s widely believed to succeed Chief Executive Paul Otellini, was in town for 24 hours to attend a technology showcase hosted Wednesday by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Capitol Hill.
Before the showcase, which also included companies such as IBM and Dell, Maloney met with a few reporters to talk about policy and the company’s wireless future with Clearwire, in which Intel has made significant investments.
“If you come from Silicon Valley, you need a special passport to come to Washington,” he joked, referring to the cultural gap between the two regions.
“They’re two of the most insular places in the United States and they both have a certain arrogance toward each other. But I think they can both learn a great deal from each other, too.”
Intel, along with Sprint Nextel, Google, Comcast and Time Warner, has made a nearly $1 billion bet on Clearwire, a start-up wireless company that is trying to deploy WiMax networks for broadband access across the country. Like its cousin WiFi, the technology will beam wireless Internet access. But unlike WiFi, which blankets a coffee shop or airport, WiMax can cover a 10-mile area, making it a possible solution for connecting rural areas.
“Data usage is doubling every couple of years,” he said. “We need to make lots of spectrum available.”
More spectrum available for WiMax services means more people will be able to use mobile devices to connect to the Internet. And that means more Intel chips will be needed throughout the market for new cell phones, laptops and netbooks.
Maloney said he takes a “more nuanced stance” on net neutrality. “We believe the Internet should be open to every application. The reason people are banging down the door for broadband is because there are all these new, weird applications out there. On the other hand, we believe companies have the right to manage their traffic … Both camps have oversimplified this issue.”
When I asked how he felt about having a fast lane for certain priority traffic for telemedicine, for example, he said he is wary of “over-engineering” the Internet.
Technology that is “good enough,” he said, “is the most underappreciated concept in engineering.”
Intel has filed an application for $25 million in broadband stimulus dollars with Connected Nation, hoping to fill in coverage gaps in rural areas.
Peter Cleveland, Intel’s director of global public policy, joined the company nearly a year ago after serving as chief of staff for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Cleveland said Intel mostly supports the current patent reform bill Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is trying to get to the floor, although the company would like to see a few tweaks when the bill goes to conference.