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McDowell gets nominated for second FCC Commissioner term

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has been nominated for a second term by President Barak Obama.  Now maybe the Republicans can stop stalling and start voting to approve him and FCC Chairman nominee Julius Genachowski already.

According to reports floating around since Genachowski was nominated, the Republican leadership and/or Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) didn’t want to vote on Genachowski and other FCC Democratic nominees until they had “pairs” of Republicans to approve at the same time. Trouble was the Republicans either couldn’t agree or weren’t ready to nominate their own people, so the process of approving Genachowski has been stalled.

Now it appears Genachowski will get his day on Capital Hill later this month, along with McDowell.  A second pairs hearing of Democratic nominee Migon Clyburn and former NTIA head Meredith Baker is expected further down the road and should prove to be interesting given Clyburn’s relative inexperience with spectrum issues and Baker’s involvement with the DTV coupon box program and its associated delays.

McDowell, a Republican and Bush-era appointed commissioner, was first confirmed by the Senate in June 2006 and had been the senior VP and assistant general counsel for COMPTEL and had represented competitors to AT&T, so he recused himself from voting on the AT&T/Bell South merger before the commission.

When FCC Commissioners were deadlocked 2-2 in December 2006 to approve the merger, Martin asked McDowell to vote to break the tie and the FCC General Counsel issued a memo saying the government’s “significant interest” in the merger outweighed the appearance of a personal conflict. Once again, McDowell disqualified himself from participating.

Two week later, AT&T, Bell South and the FCC worked out terms and the FCC voted to approve the merger 4-0 on December 29, 2006.  McDowell stood his ground and stuck to his principles. Don’t find that often in Washington D.C. Unsurprisingly, AT&T reportedly wasn’t in favor of McDowell getting a second term; be interesting to hear the off-the-record story on why McDowell got the thumbs up all of a sudden.

An interview I did with McDowell for (the original) VON Magazine in April 2007 is still available on line.

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