Big Data

Memorable Moments From a Departing Telecom Regulator

One of the country’s top federal regulatory officials is resigning. Robert McDowell, one of two Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission, said Wednesday he plans to step down. He doesn’t have anything lined up—except for a vacation—which is about the most boring plan, ever. But after his seven-year stint regulating the nation’s communications industry, he’s had his own share of colorful moments and exchanges with lasting impacts. Take these, for example:

McDowell wanted to review every FCC regulation on the books. The commission rulebook is over 3,695 pages long, McDowell complained in 2011. The commissioner said the collection was “mind-numbing” and vowed to go through the whole thing, recommending cuts as he went.

He sometimes clashed publicly with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. As the commission wasdebating network neutrality—the regulation prohibiting Internet service providers from giving certain kinds of Web traffic priority over others—McDowell took on his boss for not making the draft order available to the public for review. “Openness used to be standard operating procedure for the FCC,” he said. “But the commission's transparency has become more opaque in recent years."

McDowell sounded the alarm on Internet freedom. After the United States walked out of an international conference to regulate the Internet, effectively killing a proposal that critics said would allow countries to spy on its citizens, the commissioner told Congress earlier this year that the Web was “under assault.” Of China and Russia, McDowell said the two countries pushing for regulation wanted to upend the largely libertarian culture of the Internet and replace it with a closed system. “They were able to create a new paradigm to destroy the old paradigm,” he said.

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