As expected, the White House has announced its intention to renominate Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell for a five-year term on the FCC.
McDowell was sworn in to fill the unexpired term of former FCC chairman Michael Powell in May 2006. His term ended June 1, but he could remain on until this session of Congress ends--or someone else was nominated to take his place.
If the Republicans have settled on the other GOP seat --former NTIA acting head Meredith Attwell Baker is thought to be the choice-- that could pave the way for the scheduling of nomination hearings for Democrat chairman-designate Julius Genachowski and Mignon Clyburn, a South Carolina utility commissioner. Republican leaders were widely thought to be intent on picking the Republicans before moving on the Democratic choices.
Before joining the FCC, McDowell was senior vice president and assistant general at COMPTEL, which represents competitive facilities-based telecommunications companies.
At the commission, McDowell has been a free market fan as well as a voice of caution that some of the FCC's decisions could have trouble passing muster in the courts.
In announcing its intention to renominate McDowell, the White House pointed to broadband issues and advancement of unlicensed wireless devices in the TV spectrum space among his credits.
The White House said that McDowell had "collaborated with his fellow commissioners to develop and establish American communications policy covering the wireless, media, and Internet industries, in addition to international policy matters. Among other matters, he has worked to create rules governing wireless auctions; establish a framework for unlicensed use of TV "white spaces" spectrum; develop incentives to encourage the development of new broadband technologies; review public interest benefits as part of the approval process of proposed corporate mergers; and adjudicate enforcement proceedings."
Among the first to weigh in on the nomination was AT&T, which "extend[ed] its congratulations to commissioner McDowell on the announcement that President Obama intends to renominate the commissioner for another term at the FCC."
McDowell has fans on both sides of the aisle, but his renomination was said to have been getting some phone company push-back, stemming from his recusal from the AT&T/Bell South merger decision back in 2006. In the wake of that recusal, AT&T had to offer up conditions, including network neutrality, to get Democrats to sign on to the deal.
"Decisions on who is nominated at the FCC rest with the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress," AT&T in a statement two weeks ago in the wake of reports of its pushback on the nomination. "As a regulated company, we strive to work well with whoever is nominated and confirmed for these important jobs."
"While we have not always agreed on every issue," said AT&T's senior executive vice president of legislative affairs Jim Cicconi, "we feel that Commissioner McDowell's understanding of industry investment dynamics, as well as his experience with the many complex issues facing the telecommunications sector, will be of value to the new FCC. In particular, we count on Commissioner McDowell's appreciation of the vital and massive investments being made by America's broadband network industry, as well as his sensitivity to the impact the regulatory environment can have on investment."
McDowell has long expressed both views.
"We look forward to a speedy confirmation of chairman-designate Genachowski, and all of President Obama's nominees to the Commission," said AT&T.
Verizon also gave a quick shout-out:
"Robert McDowell has shown a deep understanding of this industry and the role that market incentives play in stimulating both wireline and wireless broadband deployment," said Susanne Guyer, Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs. "At this crucial time for broadband investment, jobs and the economy, there needs to be a full team of commissioners in place. So we hope Congress will act quickly to approve the nominees."
For its part, Sprint said" "During his tenure at the FCC, commissioner Robert McDowell has fought to promote innovation and competition within the telecommunications industry, which has benefited consumers and our economy," said Vonya McCann, vice president of government affairs, for Sprint Nextel Corp. "Sprint looks forward to working with commissioner McDowell as he continues his efforts to implement policies in the public interest, including the growth of broadband services and wireless technologies."
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which will hold the nomination hearing for McDowell, said she was looking forward to McDowell's confirmation.
"Robert McDowell will provide continuity for many important issues on the FCC, including the upcoming digital television transition," she said. "I look forward to working with chairman Rockefeller to ensure that he receives a fair nomination hearing and is confirmed."
Sources say McDowell was the choice of Senator Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, while Hutchison (D-Tex.) is backing Baker.
"NAB salutes President Obama and congratulates Commissioner McDowell on today's announcement," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "We have deep respect for Commissioner McDowell. His good humor and open-minded approach to issues facing the Commission have served the public well, and we look forward to working with him during his second term."
"Rob's hard work and outstanding performance as Commissioner for the past three years merit this renomination," said fellow FCC commissioner Democrat Jonathan Adelstein. "A thoughtful and conscientious public servant, Rob strives tirelessly to be knowledgeable about the granular details of all the issues that come before the Commission and to be fair to all interested parties representing views across the spectrum. He has earned a reputation for having the utmost integrity, demonstrating collegiality during very challenging times, and adhering to the rule of law -- all the hallmarks of excellence for this position."
"I am pleased that President Obama intends to nominate Commissioner Robert McDowell for another term at the Federal Communications Commission," norted Motion Picture Association of America President Dan Glickman. "Commissioner McDowell is a dedicated and thoughtful public servant and a tremendous asset to the commission. We congratulate him on his renomination and look forward to continuing to work with him and his staff."