FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Robert McDowell: Champion of Liberty, Innovation, and Competition
As you may have heard, my colleague and FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has announced that he will be leaving the FCC in the next few weeks. This is a loss not just for the FCC, but for everybody who believes in Internet freedom. Rob has been one of the most important and eloquent champions of free-market conservatism in our time.
I have had the privilege of working with Rob for several years, first as a lawyer in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel and now as a fellow Commissioner. In that time, I have come to know Rob as a colleague and as a friend. Before he steps down, I want conservatives to know about the terrific work he’s done to modernize communications regulation and defend liberty.
In his almost seven years of service at the FCC, Rob has been a consistent champion of innovation and competition. This wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, it seemed like the world was against him. And in fact, sometimes it was. Rob was among the very first to sound the alarm about international threats to Internet freedom. His early leadership on this issue was critical to forging the broad, bipartisan consensus we have today against international regulation of the Internet.
Rob applied that same caution here at home, where he consistently urged regulatory humility in the absence of pervasive market failure. Rob recognized that even the best-intentioned rules cannot keep up with technology or avoid unintended consequences.
Rob worked hard to reform the Universal Service Fund, to achieve a smooth digital television transition, and to update obsolete media ownership rules. He consistently urged the FCC to play by the rules—to stay within the letter of the law, to avoid placing unrelated conditions on welfare-maximizing transactions, and to be more responsive to Congress and the American public.
Even those who usually disagree with Rob recognized his integrity. As a representative of Public Knowledge wrote, “McDowell came by his convictions honestly and defended them eloquently and thoroughly—his dissents were always well-researched and sprinkled with a plethora of citations. He was not a shill for any special interest, shifting his position based on the shifting financial interest of some industry patron. He was . . . intellectually rigorous and intellectually honest, willing to engage intellectually, personally charming and quick witted—an articulate champion of [his] philosophy of governance.”
On a personal note, I’m going to miss my friend. I’ve enjoyed our meetings, when shop talk regularly gives way to sharing stories about everything from the joys of fatherhood to the vagaries of politics. I’ve admired his ability to take the issues seriously without taking himself too seriously. And I’ll always be grateful for the many courtesies he showed me during the Senate confirmation process, in my early days as a Commissioner, and over the past ten months.
Conservatives everywhere can learn from the example Rob has set. He was a happy warrior on behalf of liberty, and America is fortunate to have had the benefit of his service over the better part of the past decade. I thank him for his sacrifices for cause and country.