The Senate Commerce Committee today voted to install Robert M. McDowell as the fifth commissioner at the FCC; the approval was expected, especially after McDowell sailed through his nomination hearing last week.
The committee, chaired by Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, has sent McDowells name to the full Senate for confirmation, although it is not known when lawmakers will vote on McDowells appointment.
McDowell works as a lawyer for the competitive carrier association COMPTEL. He has 15 years experience representing entrepreneurial telecommunications companies before the FCC, state regulatory and legislative entities and the appellate courts. He has served on the North American Numbering Council and on the board of directors of North American Numbering Plan Billing and Collection Inc.
Before he joined COMPTEL, he worked as executive vice president and general counsel of America’s Carriers Telecommunications Association, which then merged with COMPTEL. He also served as outside deputy general counsel to ACTA while with the Washington, D.C.-based telecommunications law firm Helein & Associates.
McDowell, a Republican, would round out an FCC that has lacked a majority for a year. By law, the party controlling the White House is given three of the commission’s five seats. McDowells presence would give Chairman Kevin J. Martin three Republicans, leaving Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein as the minority Democrats. Deborah T. Tate has served on the commission for two months; she came to Washington, D.C., from the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
The nominee said in his hearing last week that he expects to judge issues such as the pending megamerger between AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. fairly; as a lawyer for COMPTEL, he has opposed such combinations, including the ones last year between then-SBC Communications Inc. and then-AT&T Corp., and Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI Inc. AT&T and MCI were SBCs and Verizons largest CLEC rivals, and swallowing them up reduced the competitive carrier market significantly. Still, despite COMPTELs opposition to the deals, McDowell told lawmakers last week, I will prejudge nothing and ask that my ability to be partial not be prejudged.