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One Big Kidney Stone

I like both the cut of new FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell's jib, which the FCC has put some content control wind in, by the way, and the turn of his phrase.

In this case, actually, it is the turn of his paraphrase, since I will give you the flavor from my notes now, and later, if I have time, the chapter and verse from the tape of McDowell's first sit-down with reporters Tuesday, or what he called his Q&D: Question and Dodge.

Actually there were quite a few answers, with the dodges along the lines of his wanting to "refresh" the record before weighing in on some media issues–he is a veteran of the wireline business.

Here are just some highlights from the colorful Mr. McDowell:

On having to follow the court's instructions on reviewing media ownership rules: Threading the eye of the needle of the Prometheus decision, something he called a "chalky, dense, document."

On the government trying to anticipate Internet problems through tough network neutrality laws: The FCC does not want to be the French goalie of net Neutrality, dodging left while everyone goes right. He also called net neutrality a Rorschach issue, referring to those inkblots whose definition–girl with flowers, tractor with hay rake–dependes on how you look at it and who is doing the turning.

McDowell asked whether one reporter didn't think surfers would storm the government with pitchforks and torches if a telco or other network tried to block access to Google.

By the way, McDowell lives on a farm near Tyson's Corner, Va., one of the growing Internet capitals of the world if you extend it down the Dulles Airport corridor toward AOL. And he actually has pitchforks in his barn if any networks do actually block Google, as well as a John Deere tractor and some old saddles in case anyone needs transportation, though he did not offer it. In fact he did not say that the government should necessarily wait until it sees the light of the torches before intervening in market failures, though he did suggest there first needed to be a market failure.

He had a horse–since age 8–but it died in 2002–when McDowell was 39. Sept. 27, he recalled the date before wiping his eyes with his red power tie in mock mourning, though anyone who remembers that date was doing more than mock mourning at the time.

While I am on a digression, he also gets cable from Cox, but says it is no knock on the satellite folk, only that he would have to cut down some trees to get the requisite exposure for the dish.

On Congress' boosting indecency fines recently: They blew wind in the sails of that issue. Editor's note: I would just say they blew that issue, but then, nobody asked me.

On his possible preference for breaking up the media ownership review into smaller pieces rather than one omnibus proceeding, he talked about taking it in smaller bites rather than "one big kidney stone to pass."

If I, personally, had to chose between passing the rhetorical stones or torches McDowell referred to, I would take the latter. Which I shall do to the next blogger, though for all I know that may wind up being me.

By John Eggerton