Reed E. Hundt tells his version of what happened during the rapid development of the information economy during the 1990s, witnessed from his perch as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for four years. This is, of course, a political post--and Hundt has written a political book about Washington, D.C.'s wars over deregulation, education, and technology. Hundt won his job because he was so well connected to the Clinton-Gore administration: he knew Al Gore in high school and attended law school with Bill Clinton. As might be expected, then, You Say You Want a Revolution is a frankly partisan book: "Our central effort, based on a vision articulated by Al Gore, was to have the federal government guarantee that new communications technology would be at the fingertips of every child in every classroom.... The self-styled Republican Revolution of 1994 intensified the degree of difficulty for my group's ambitions, as the new leaders of Congress insisted vehemently on a narrow vision of the uses of government." This tone may limit the book's appeal, but it would be a mistake to think Hundt has written an arid manual only a policy wonk could love--as might be expected of a former top bureaucrat.
He packs his book with humor and offbeat stories: When he walked into his FCC office for the first time, it was a dusty mess--the staff wanted to see if he would be confirmed before ordering a cleaning crew. And then there's the FCC's version of the Batmobile: a high-tech, high-cost "vinyl and blackwalls job chockablock with antennae, tuners, and radar equipment worthy of a Tom Clancy novel" used to track down pirate-radio operators. Hundt faced enormous pressures and demands on his job--there were about 200 lawyers and lobbyists in the Federal Communications Bar for every member of Hundt's staff. He also encountered dozens of famous personalities, including Clint Eastwood, George Gilder, George Lucas, and Nick Negroponte--all offering advice or seeking favors. Bill Gates came by his office, but, writes Hundt, his staff was more excited about the visit from Quincy Jones. Hundt was also satirized on the cartoon show Animaniacs "as a regulator named 'Reef Blunt,' who forced kids to watch shows they did not like." You Say You Want a Revolution simply crackles with this kind of nifty detail. It's a bit self-congratulatory, and the Republicans always seem to wear black hats, but it's a surprisingly entertaining memoir. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
The Wall Street Journal branded him a "French bureaucrat," and cable television magnate John Malone famously quipped that he should be shot. But it was all in a day's work for former FCC chairman Hundt, who served as chief regulator and de facto architect of the New Economy from 1993 to 1997. In this insightful and good-natured memoir of his experiences at the helm of the "deep-inside-the-Beltway" regulatory agency, Hundt recounts the savage battles he waged to help introduce competition and technological change into America's communications markets, all the while shielding consumers from profit-hungry cable and telephone lobbies. The former lawyer was propelled to center stage with the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which empowered the FCC to interpret the thousands of regulatory decisions required by the law. As vulturelike lobbyists swooped down to win concessions on everything from digital television to long-distance rates, Hundt kept to a high-minded mission to connect the Internet to every classroom in America and called for more public programming on broadcast media. While his consistent poise amid roiling market forces is commendable, Hundt's narrative occasionally gets waylaid when justifying a certain policy decision or waxing piously about Al Gore. Such digressions, however, are compensated for by a welcome sense of humor, evident in one anecdote about a trip to discuss communications policy in Ireland: after Hundt laid out his master plan for a globally networked society, one member of the Irish contingent shot back, "Can you pour Guinness by e-mail? Then there will always be an Ireland!" (May)
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