President George W. Bush is expected to nominate telecommunications lawyer Robert McDowell to fill the third Republican seat on the five-member Federal Communications Commission according to a story from Reuters. This news is crucial to the future of telecommunications because McDowell serves as senior vice president and assistant general counsel at Comptel, a group representing companies that primarily compete against big telephone carriers like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications.
It may not be common knowledge that AT&T was a powerful lobbying force against the incumbent telephone companies and the acquisition of the company by SBC has reduced the competitive lobbying burden on all LECs proportionately.
It goes without saying that if McDowell is nominated it will be a big win for consumers in 2006 as I expect McDowell to be pro competition. Not faux competition with concepts like tiered-Internet services being thrown around in an effort by incumbent providers to hold content providers and consumers hostage.
In the worst case scenario McDowell will be outvoted repeatedly but at least will ensure the American people have a strong ally in the FCC. Comptel has been perhaps the most vocal critic of FCC Chairmen Michael Powell and Kevin Martin and as such it may be a bit awkward to have McDowell as a commissioner at all.
Still, I hope the commissioners and the Bush administration realize that putting a pro competition pro CLEC representative on the commission is exactly what we need to ensure we have balanced dialogues in the FCC and the interests of the average Joe are always represented. Dual-tiered Internet is such an esoteric topic that consumers will probably not realize how important it is that we are careful when discussing a major change to the inner-workings of the Internet. It is my hope that Robert McDowell will become the person who cares about the desires of the American people within