McDowell praised as he departs FCC

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell received praise from supporters and critics alike following the announcement Wednesday of his coming resignation from the Commission after seven years of service.

Politicians and advocates from the tech and telecom world commended McDowell for sounding the alarm against the intentions of totalitarian regimes to use the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) as a way to create international regulations on the Internet. McDowell gave no reason for his departure.

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune praised McDowell’s commitment to the promotion of free markets and “the free expression of ideas.”

“As we have seen with his recent leadership on efforts to prevent foreign government intervention in the operation and use of the Internet, Rob has been a consistent voice cautioning against unnecessary governmental regulations,” said Thune.

Thune — as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation — is expected to have a hand in choosing McDowell’s replacement on the commission, which will have only one Republican member after McDowell leaves.

“I hope the president’s nominee to replace him will approach the job with the same passion and energy that Rob exhibited and will be similarly committed to finding market-based solutions to our nation’s communications challenges whenever possible,” said Thune.

Top leadership from AT&T, Comcast and USTelecom — a broadband trade association — offered similar praise of McDowell’s service in their remarks.

Randolph May, president of the free-market oriented tech policy think tank Free State Foundation, called McDowell’s departure as a “real loss for the Commission.”

“The fact that Rob applied his principled approach in the service of advancing free market-oriented and First Amendment-friendly positions made his service that much more important, and his legacy that much more enduring,” said Mays.

Berin Szoka, president of the free market tech policy think tank TechFreedom, called McDowell “the Internet’s best friend in Washington,” praising him for fighting against the expansion of the FCC’s jurisdiction to the Internet through its so-called “net neutrality” regulation.

Groups who have at times found themselves at odds with his positions, including progressive digital and media advocacy groups Public Knowledge and Free Press, also offered congratulations to McDowell.

“Although we often disagreed, working with Commissioner McDowell was a pleasure,” said Public Knowledge in a statement. “His willingness to hear opposing views, the intellectual rigor in his analysis, and his leadership at the WCIT made him someone we enjoyed working with.”

Public Knowledge gave McDowell credit for defending TV white spaces, the unused spectrum between TV stations, and for “pushing back against House Republicans who saw no value in preserving unlicensed spectrum.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron also offered his congratulations, but urged McDowell to not take a lobbying job for any company regulated by the FCC.

The leadership at the National Regulatory Utility Commission, which represents state public utility commissions before the federal government, also applauded McDowell’s service to the country, wishing him “the best in his future endeavors.”

“Throughout his tenure, Commissioner McDowell utilized a consumer friendly, market-based approach to regulation,” said NARUC President Philip Jones and NARUC Committee on Telecommunications Chair John Burke in a joint statement.

“We did not always agree on everything,” they said, “but he kept his door open and was always available to hear our views.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Randolph May as Randolph Mays. This article has been corrected.

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