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McDowell Exit Draws (Mostly) Praise for His Tenure

The announced departure from the commission of Republican
Robert McDowell drew immediate reaction from many quarters, most of it

"We extend our gratitude to commissioner McDowell for his
excellent service to the Federal Communications Commission and American
public," said National Cable and Telecommunications Association president
Michael Powell. McDowell was named to the commission in 2006 to fill the
unexpired term of then chairman Powell, and then was renominated to a full,
five-year term in June 2009. "During his time at the FCC, commissioner
McDowell has been a thoughtful and fair public servant who has always promoted
the ideal that competitive marketplaces are best suited to meet consumer demand
for vital communication services," said Powell.

"Robert McDowell has been a remarkably gifted public
servant during his seven-year tenure at the FCC," said National
Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith. "His good humor and
grace have been matched only by his ardent support for fair media ownership
rules and full-throated support for a vibrant First Amendment. Commissioner
McDowell will succeed in whatever path he chooses...."

Coincidentally, a Smith cousin, Sen. Tom Udall, spoke at the
FCC meeting Wednesday at which McDowell eventually revealed his exit strategy.

"I've been around the FCC for 40 years and have never
seen anyone render greater public service," said Preston Padden, executive
director of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition.

AT&T senior VP Jim Cicconi called McDowell a "true
leader, focused on promoting the interests of consumers as well as innovation
and economic growth. His impressive knowledge of communications law and
regulations has been a major asset to the Commission in so many of the
important and complex issues it has tackled. Moreover, commissioner McDowell
has used that knowledge to challenge his own agency to match the dramatic
innovations of technology with a more innovative approach to how the FCC regulates.
He was also the first to sound the alarm about international efforts to
regulate the Internet, and has been a consistent voice urging similar restraint
by the FCC itself.  In short, Commissioner McDowell has made a positive
difference during his time in office, which is perhaps the highest praise one
can give to any public servant."

But it was not simply deregulatory-minded industry types
singing McDowell's praises, appropriate since one of his oft-repeated points at
public meetings has been the relative commity of the commission and its
90%-plus record of unanimous votes.

"Although we often disagreed, working with commissioner
McDowell was a pleasure," said Public Knowledge in a statement. "His
willingness to hear opposing views, the intellectual rigor in his analysis, and
his leadership at the WCIT made him someone we enjoyed working with.
Commissioner McDowell deserves enormous credit for defending TV white spaces in
its darkest hour and pushing back against House Republicans who saw no value in
preserving unlicensed spectrum."

Free Press, another group with opposing views, did not join
the choir, suggesting they were not unhappy to see him go.

"We congratulate commissioner McDowell on his decision
to leave the FCC," said Free Press president and CEO Craig Aaron. "As
he considers his next move, we hope he will reject the revolving door and
resist becoming another FCC leader who exploits his public service to cash in
at the companies he was supposed to regulate." That appeared to be a
reference to the exit of former FCC Republican commissioner Meredith Attwell
Baker, who left to join Comcast, a move Free Press pilloried.

McDowell said at the meeting that he would "be talking to the FCC's chief ethics officer to make sure that my departure will be in full compliance with not only the ethics but the spirit of all of our ethics rules."

"We urge the president to nominate a
Republican successor who is not simply another cheerleader for the biggest
businesses and media monopolists, but who recognizes the free market cannot
work if companies are allowed to amass and abuse market power," said

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.