Republican FCC commissioner to step down

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Robert McDowell announced Wednesday morning that he would be stepping down in a few weeks from his position at the FCC “in a few weeks.”

McDowell — a Bush-era appointee, and one of two Republicans on the commission — emphasized that his announcement was not a farewell, but that it was just him announcing his plans “to step down sometime soon.”

“After nearly seven years of carrying out the incredibly high honor of serving the American people at the FCC, it is time to turn more of my energies towards an even higher calling: serving my family”, McDowell said in an official statement Wednesday.

McDowell’s departure will leave FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai as the lone Republican among the four remaining commissioners.

His replacement would be named by the ranking member of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s resignation from the commission has also been anticipated for some time, but a replacement is needed to fill his spot before he can leave.

McDowell said in his statement that he will be talking to the FCC’s chief ethics officer, Patrick J. Carney, to make sure that his departure is in “in full compliance with the letter and spirit” of the agency’s ethics rules.

“Beyond that, I have no plans other than to take my family on a much-needed vacation starting this weekend,” he said.

McDowell’s inquiry into the ethics of his departure leaves open the question about his post-FCC plans and whether there might be a future conflict of interest.

While congratulating McDowell on his decision to leave the commission, media advocacy group Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron highlighted that concern and urged him not to take a position at a company regulated by the FCC.

“As he considers his next move, we hope he will reject the revolving door and resist becoming another FCC leader who exploits his public service to cash in at the companies he was supposed to regulate”, Aaron said.

Following the commission’s approval of Comcast’s highly contentious merger with NBC in early 2011, then-FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker left her post at the FCC to become a top lobbyist for the company — a move that was considered highly controversial by many, including Free Press.

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