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Senate Confirms New FCC Commissioner

Senate Confirms New FCC Commissioner
By LongDistanceUS.com on Tuesday, May 30 2006

he U.S. Senate on Friday unanimously confirmed COMPTEL lawyer Robert McDowell as the fifth member of the FCC.

McDowell’s nomination had been on hold for some time; his confirmation gives FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin a Republican majority, which he has not had since he was appointed chairman in early 2005.

"Rob McDowell's confirmation today is great news for the FCC," said Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which held McDowell’s initial nomination hearings in March. "Rob's expertise and experience will be an asset to the commission as it tackles a variety of critical communications issues in the future. The FCC will be required to implement portions of our communications bill, and it is essential it has a full complement of commissioners."

McDowell’s soon-to-be colleagues welcomed the news of his confirmation.

“Robert will bring a wealth of experience and valuable perspective to the commission and I am looking forward to working with him on the many important communications challenges confronting our nation,” said Democrat Michael J. Copps.

Martin and Jonathan S. Adelstein, the FCC’s second Democrat, agreed.

“I am anxious to have [McDowell] onboard and look forward to working with a full complement of commissioners to address the important issues before us,” he said.

Adelstein said, “Rob has a great deal of experience in the field of telecommunications that should be of significant value to all of us at the commission.”

As a lawyer for the competitive carrier association COMPTEL, McDowell has opposed megamergers, although, he clarified in his March hearings with the Senate Commerce Committee he has not argued cases before the FCC in several years. A COMPTEL spokesperson said the organization was happy for McDowell’s success but was not planning to release a formal statement regarding his confirmation. During the hearings earlier this year, McDowell told senators he would consult with the FCC’s general counsel in deciding when it would be appropriate for him to remove himself from certain matters, such as the pending merger of BellSouth Corp. with AT&T Inc.

President Bush, McDowell said, “is asking me to be a fair … thorough, thoughtful adjudicator, arbiter and policymaker. … I will prejudge nothing and ask that my ability to be partial not be prejudged.”

McDowell, a Republican, rounds out an FCC that has lacked a majority for more than a year. By law, the party controlling the White House is given three of the commission's five seats. McDowell’s presence gives Martin three Republicans, leaving Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein as the minority Democrats. Deborah T. Tate is the other Republican; she came to Washington, D.C., from the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

The Senate’s confirmation on Friday comes approximately two months after McDowell’s nomination was stalled by at least one senator, for various reasons. Any senator can impose a hold on a nomination for reasons that might not even relate to the matter at hand. Such action also can allow policymakers more time for review.

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