In a not totally unexpected move, Commissioner Robert McDowell (R) announced during the Federal Communications Commission’s monthly meeting, that he would be exiting the agency “in a few weeks.”
McDowell’s exit wasn’t completely out of the blue. His chief of staff, Angela Giancarlo, resigned last month.
His imminent departure paves the way for Chairman Julius Genachowski to safely announce his exit and make it easier for President Obama to nominate at the same time a Republican and a Democrat. Many FCC watchers have been speculating that Genachowski would not step down without McDowell leaving because it would leave the Commission at 2-2 (Dem-GOP) when it came to controversial votes.
The longest-serving commissioner, McDowell, a free-market thinker, was a strong voice for deregulating broadcast ownership and ridding the agency of unnecessary regulations. In the last year, he became a leading advocate of Internet governance and keeping control of the Internet out of the hands of the United Nations. At the same time, McDowell spoke out fiercely against the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which will be argued in court in the coming months.
McDowell joined the FCC in 2006 and was renominated by President Obama in 2009 for a five-year term.
In a statement, McDowell said: "This is not a time for farewells, I’m just announcing my plans to step down sometime soon. So what am I doing next? I will be talking to the FCC’s Chief Ethics Officer, Patrick J. Carney, to make sure that my departure is in full compliance with the letter and spirit of all of our ethics rules. Beyond that, I have no plans other than to take my family on a much-needed vacation starting this weekend."