FCC Nominee Robert McDowell:
Lobbyist Past Has No Effect
Bloomberg News 10mar2006
[Other articles and bio below]
WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission nominee Robert McDowell said Thursday that his work as a telecommunications lobbyist won't influence his decisions if confirmed for the government post.
"I will prejudge nothing, and I ask that my ability to be impartial not be prejudged," McDowell, a Republican, told the Senate Commerce Committee.
Confirmation of McDowell would give FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a 3-2 Republican majority as the agency will be considering AT&T Inc.'s proposed $67 billion purchase of BellSouth Corp. McDowell, nominated by President Bush [More on Bush] last month, must be endorsed by the committee and the full Senate.
McDowell, 42, is a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at Comptel, a Washington group representing companies that compete against larger carriers, including AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc.
source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0603100200mar10,1,3217832.story?coll=chi-business-hed 10mar2006
Senate Questions FCC Nominee On Telecom Mergers
AMY SCHATZ / Wall Street Journal 10mar2006
WASHINGTON — A veteran telecom lobbyist tapped to join the Federal Communications Commission told Senate lawmakers he wouldn't prejudge any issues, such as AT&T Inc.'s $67 billion merger with BellSouth Corp., even as lawmakers began moving on legislation to help phone companies expand into the pay-television business.
Although no lawmakers brought up the merger yesterday, questions have been raised about whether FCC nominee Robert McDowell's 16-year career as a telecom lobbyist would require him to recuse himself from FCC proceedings, possibly including the AT&T merger.
"I will prejudge nothing and I'd ask my ability to be partial not be prejudged," Mr. McDowell told senators at the hearing. If confirmed, Mr. McDowell would give the FCC a full contingent for almost the first time in a year. FCC chairman Kevin Martin has placed on hold several issues, notably changes in media ownership limits, until he had another Republican ally at his side.
The Bells have been uneasy about Mr. McDowell's nomination because he is currently assistant general counsel at Comptel, a trade association representing small telephone companies which lobbied against the two Bell mergers last year.
Meanwhile, key House lawmakers agreed Wednesday on a framework for a telecom bill, which would give phone companies national video franchises, essentially eliminating the need for the Bells to get approval from local communities to offer pay-TV. The bill would also include some language instituting "net neutrality" standards, or rules that would require all Internet traffic to be treated equally.
The bill hasn't even been drafted yet, but drew fire yesterday from the cable industry, which is concerned about provisions that would give the Bells a national video franchise but would apparently keep the same franchising system in place for cable companies. The legislation would also apparently prevent the cable industry from lowering prices only in areas where the Bells offer video service.
Robert M. McDowell:
Portrait of an FCC lobbyist
MATTHEW LASAR / Lasar's Letter on the Federal Communications Commission 30jan2006
Likely FCC nominee Robert M. McDowell's filings with the Federal Communications Commission in the late 1990s reveal a scrappy lobbyist who enjoyed direct access to top FCC officials and on more than one occasion scolded them, describing their decisions as "inconsistent and capricious."
For years McDowell has worked as an advocate for two organizations: Comptel, the Competitive Telecommunications Association, and America's Carriers Telecommunications Association (ACTA). Both groups represent Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs), upstart phone companies that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandated must be allowed to connect to the infrastructures built by Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs), many of them Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs).
McDowell took a break from his work in 2000 to serve as part of the legal team for the Bush-Cheney ticket during the 2000 Florida recount crisis. He has unsuccessfully run for Congress. Reuters news service reported on Monday, January 23rd that President Bush plans to nominate McDowell to the last vacant Commission seat on the FCC.
As an advocate for CLECs in the 1990s, McDowell pushed deregulation. He called for "radically revising the [telecom] access system to reflect contemporary economic realities." But just as often he advocated more regulation if it suited the needs of his clients.
Truth, Slamming, and Cramming
The late 1990s saw an uproar over how confusing telephone bills had become since Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996. McDowell played a role in setting FCC policies that addressed these problems. In 1998, over 60,000 consumers called, emailed, or wrote the Commission "expressing confusion, anxiety and concern about their telephone bills," in the FCC's own words. Many had been "slammed" by small telephone companies—their carrier switched without their permission. Others had been "crammed"—fooled by misleading information about their telephone bills.
So on April 15, 1999, the FCC set forth its "truth-in-billing" policies. The Commission ordered the telecom industry to "clearly identify" service providers, provide bills "containing full and non-misleading descriptions of charges that appear therein," and make "clear and conspicuous disclosure" about details consumers might need to question or contest the bill's charges.
Five months before the FCC adopted these policies, however, McDowell sent FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin, now the Chair of the Commission, an ex-parte presentation regarding slamming. He urged the FCC to adopt the "Voluntary Code Concept" regarding the problem, which, he argued, "comports with the 1996 [Telecommunications] Act's de-regulatory intent."
McDowell's presentation also asked the Commission not to punish slammers by anything harsher than 30 days of free long distance charges. And he argued that states should not be allowed to establish anti-slamming rules that were tougher than federal rules.
A week before the FCC issued its truth-in-billing policies, McDowell personally met with the FCC. He spoke with representatives of three FCC Commissioners about their impending decision, including an Assistant to then FCC Chief William Kennard. McDowell urged the Commission to issue guidelines, rather than specific rules about truth-in-billing. The latter would impose "compliance costs" on Local Exchange Carriers, he warned in a bullet point list of suggestions. "Bills that are micro-managed by government are likely to produce lengthy documents that actually frustrate policy by being too complex."
McDowell urged the Commission "not to adopt rules mandating the segregation of service providers and types of services" in bills. He opposed billing in which "deniable and nondeniable charges must be distinguished." That requirement, he claimed, "would only embolden subscribers who wish to withhold payment." His list of proposals opposed efforts "to regulate the content of bills in any detailed fashion vis-a-vis description of charges," arguing that some consumers would try to duck their charges by "gaming" the system—repeatedly disputing the accuracy of bills just to get out of paying. "Furthermore, carriers enjoy First Amendment protection of their commercial speech."
A week later the FCC issued truth-in-lending guidelines that echoed McDowell's philosophy. "Our decision to adopt broad, binding principles, rather than detailed, comprehensive rules, reflects a recognition that there are typically many ways to convey important information to consumers in a clear and accurate manner," the FCC declared.
McDowell didn't get everything that he wanted. The FCC still ordered segregation of some charges and rejected a purely voluntary approach. But he got a lot. The FCC declared that their guidelines responded "to the concerns of many carriers that detailed regulations could increase their costs."
McDowell the regulator
But while McDowell urged voluntary codes to deal with slamming and cramming, he encouraged the FCC to get tough when it came to regulating the access charges that Regional Bell Operating Companies charged his clients. On October 26, 1998 he submitted comments to the FCC on "access charge reform" that excoriated the FCC's policies towards CLECs, calling them "inconsistent and capricious" and "capricious and arbitrary."
In brief, McDowell charged that the FCC had taken too lenient and flexible approach to regulating the access toll rates that the Bell companies charged smaller competitive local exchange carriers. He cited and agreed with earlier FCC studies suggesting that "relying purely on market forces might not fulfill Congress's goal of breaking up the local monopolies," since RBOCs like BellSouth appeared not to be cooperating with the access provisions in the Telecommunications Act.
McDowell demanded that the FCC use stricter formulas for determining rates that established carriers charge CLECs for access to their networks. " . . . it is inconsistent and capricious for the Commission to conclude," he scolded, "that local competition does not exist, and simultaneously opine that competition is sufficient to bring access charges down to true cost . . . "
McDowell also called for tougher regulation on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that were just starting to get into the Internet telephone business. On March 27, 1997, he submitted comments to the FCC complaining that his clients, interexchange carriers (IXCs), were now competing with ISPS "that do not have to pay for their ride."
Speaking on behalf of ACTA, he argued that IXCs and ISPs were doing the same job "and should therefore bear the same or equivalent infrastructure support obligations." He protested the fact that ISPs did not have to pay access charges to RBOCs or even pay into the Universal Service Fund, a progressive tax on long distance calls that subsidizes low income telephone use. "[T]he Commission has no choice but to treat Internet phone providers in the same manner as it does 'traditional' IXCs," McDowell's statement concluded.
McDowell the FCC Commissioner?
Even though President Bush has not yet formally nominated Robert M. McDowell to the FCC, industry leaders are praising the choice. "It goes without saying that if McDowell is nominated it will be a big win for consumers in 2006 as I expect McDowell to be pro competition," wrote Rich Tehrani, president of the media news company TMCNet, last week. "Not faux competition with concepts like tiered-Internet services being thrown around in an effort by incumbent providers to hold content providers and consumers hostage." Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R), chair of the crucial Senate Commerce Committee, also says he supports McDowell.
But once ensconsed at the Commission, McDowell will have to prove whether he is really pro anything besides the clients he has represented over the last decade, alternately using the rhetoric of deregulation or government mediation, depending on which suited his immediate needs.
source: http://www.lasarletter.com/freepage.php?id=200601301 10mar2006
Robert M. McDowell
Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, COMPTEL
Robert M. McDowell is senior vice president and assistant general counsel for COMPTEL. With more than 350 members, COMPTEL is the leading industry association representing competitive facilities-based telecommunications service providers, emerging VoIP providers, integrated communications companies, and their supplier partners. COMPTEL members are building and deploying packet and IP-based networks to provide competitive voice, data and video services in the U.S. and around the world. The association, based in Washington, D.C., includes companies of all sizes and profiles, from the largest next-generation network operators to small, entrepreneurial companies. COMPTEL members share a common objective: To create and sustain true competition in the telecommunications industry.
As senior vice president and assistant general counsel, McDowell leads COMPTEL's advocacy efforts before Congress, the White House and executive agencies. He also has 15 years of experience representing entrepreneurial telecommunications companies before the Federal Communications Commission, state regulatory and legislative entities and the appellate courts. He has served on the North American Numbering Council (NANC) and on the board of directors of North American Numbering Plan Billing and Collection, Inc. (NBANC).
Prior to joining COMPTEL in February 1999, McDowell served as the executive vice president and general counsel of America's Carriers Telecommunications Association (ACTA), which merged with COMPTEL at that time. In addition, McDowell served as outside deputy general counsel to ACTA while with the Washington, D.C.-based telecommunications law firm Helein & Associates.
McDowell was graduated cum laude from Duke University in 1985. After serving as chief of staff to a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, he attended the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. Upon his graduation from law school, McDowell joined the Washington, D.C., office of Arter & Hadden, a national law firm based in Cleveland.
McDowell is extensively involved in civic and political affairs. He has served on numerous boards and commissions. He was appointed by Virginia Governor George Allen to the Governor's Advisory Board for a Safe and Drug-Free Virginia, and to the Virginia Board for Contractors, to which he was reappointed by Governor Jim Gilmore. Also he is a veteran of several presidential campaigns, serving as counsel to the Bush-Cheney Florida Recount Team in 2000 and leading advance teams for President and Mrs. Bush in 2004, among many other endeavors. McDowell has twice been a candidate for the Virginia General Assembly. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the McLean Project for the Arts.
McDowell is admitted to practice law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia, First, Fourth and Fifth Circuits and the U.S. Supreme Court. He resides in Vienna, Va., on the farm where he grew up, with his wife Jennifer and their two children.
source: http://www.comptelascent.org/about/staff/bios/rmcdowell.html 10mar2006
COMPTEL has a 25-year history as the leading trade association for the competitive communications marketplace.
COMPTEL originated in 1981 as the Association of Long Distance Telephone Companies (ALTEL) to promote competition with AT&T. In 1984, ALTEL merged with the American Council of Competitive Communications (ACCC) and expanded its services to include local service providers, wireless communications companies and Internet service providers. At that time, the association's name was changed to the Competitive Telecommunications Association (COMPTEL). Then, in 1999, COMPTEL merged with America's Carriers Telecommunications Association (ACTA).
More recently, in March 2005, the association merged with the Association for Local Telecommunications Services (ALTS). ALTS was created in 1987 to represent companies that build, own and operate competitive local networks.
This merger was preceded by the November 2003 union with the Association of Communications Enterprises (ASCENT). ASCENT was formed 1992 when the Telecommunications Marketing Association and the Interexchange Resellers Association merged to form the Telecommunications Resellers Association (TRA) in an entrepreneurial effort to promote switchless long distance resale. In November 1997, TRA merged with the National Wireless Resellers Association, creating a trade association designed to serve the entire telecommunications industry. In May 2000, TRA changed its name to ASCENT.
COMPTEL has long served as the strong, unified advocate for the competitive communications industry before Congress, the White House and federal and state regulatory authorities. The association was a particularly effective lobbying force during the development and implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Through the mobilization of its membership, the association was instrumental in improving the language of the legislation in order to advance the interests of competitive telecommunications carriers. The association's most significant victory was ensuring that the Act included opportunities for its members to compete in the local telephone market through resale, the purchase of unbundled network elements, and/or facilities-based interconnection.
The association has spent the years since the Act's passage working to ensure that opportunities to provide competitive communications services become a reality. Entering today's new era of communications, COMPTEL is committed to ACTION — advocating for laws and regulations based on the principle of "Advancing Communications Through Innovation and Open Networks".
source: http://www.comptelascent.org/about/history.htm 10mar2006
COMPTEL is the leading industry association representing communications service providers and their supplier partners. Based in Washington, D.C., COMPTEL advances its member’s business through policy advocacy and through education, networking and trade shows. COMPTEL members are entrepreneurial companies building and deploying next-generation networks to provide competitive voice, data, and video services. COMPTEL members create economic growth and improve the quality of life of all Americans through technological innovation, new services, affordable prices and customer choice. COMPTEL members share a common objective: advancing communications through innovation and open networks. For more information, please call (202) 296-6650.
source: http://www.comptelascent.org/about/who-we-are.htm 10mar2006
For nearly 25 years, COMPTEL has served as an advocate for the competitive telecommunications industry before Congress, the White House, and the Federal Communications Commission. Moreover, COMPTEL is active in state regulatory and legislative proceedings, as well as beyond U.S. borders through information submitted to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as part of World Trade Organization (WTO) proceedings.
As a fierce advocate for the principles of a competitive telecommunications marketplace, COMPTEL is active in proceedings underway at the FCC and state regulatory agencies, before Congress and the Bush Administration, in the international arena, and in the courts. COMPTEL focuses its policy advocacy efforts on five key areas:
- network access
- cost-based pricing
- international market access
COMPTEL encourages its active and vocal membership to participate in its committees – regulatory, legislative, international, and the meetings council, supplier council, and PR task force. These committees are vital in helping the association formulate its positions and policy strategies as new industry trends develop. COMPTEL also hosts a CEO Council, which provides top executives a forum to network and discuss business, technology and policy issues impacting their companies and the industry.
COMPTEL also is known for its twice-annual Conventions & Expos, as well as providing its members business and networking opportunities and educational and technical support through special events throughout the year.
Through its meetings and conventions, which are considered among the best in the industry, COMPTEL offers members numerous opportunities to stay on top of industry trends, share information and network with peers and customers. COMPTEL hosts two major conventions and expos annually – in the Spring and the Fall. These events provide exhibitors with ample business opportunities. In the course of each meeting, exhibitors meet with potential new customers, renew contact with current clients, and showcase their products and services to an audience seeking their solutions. In addition, the association offers conference attendees a full slate of educational sessions and workshops designed to address business and policy issues, and technological trends that impact member companies’ bottom lines.
source: http://www.comptelascent.org/about/mission.htm 10mar2006
Comptel Member Companies
3PV - Third Party Verification
Access One, Inc.
Access Point Inc.
Accxx Communications, L.L.C.
ADVA Optical Networking
Advanced Software Concepts
Alliance Group Services, Inc.
American Farm Bureau
American Fiber Systems
American Long Lines
Arrival Communications, Inc.
Atlantic Communications Products Inc.
BCN Telecom, Inc.
BeQuick Software, Inc.
Blue Tie, Inc.
Bridgecom International, Inc.
Broadriver Communication Corporation
Broadwing Communications, LLC
BT Americas, Inc
BullsEye Telecom, Inc.
Candice Clark Consulting
Casey, Gentz & Magness, LLP
Cassara Management Group, Inc.
Choice One Communications
Cirilium Holdings, Inc.
Cleartel Communications, Inc.
CMC Telecom Inc.
Coastal Technologies Group
Cole Raywid & Braverman
Communications Data Group
Comtel Telcom Assets
Control Point Solutions
Covad Communications Company
Covaro Networks, Inc.
Creative Interconnect Communications, LLC
Custom Network Solutions, Inc.
CustomCall Data Systems, Inc.
Daniels & Associates
Data Access America
DataProse Billing Solutions
David Taylor & Associates, LLC
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
DCI Voice Solutions
DDR Broadband Networks
Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky
Digital Realty Trust
Direct Line Communications
Dun & Bradstreet
Eagle Teleconferencing Services
Easton Telecom Services, LLC
Edison Carrier Solutions
Enventis Telecom, Inc.
Equinox Information Systems
Eschelon Telecom, LLC
European Competitive Tele Assoc. (ECTA)
FiberNet Telecom Group Inc.
Fibertech Networks, LLC
First Avenue Networks
Foster & Malish, LLP
France Telecom Long Distance - USA
Funds for Learning
General Communication Inc
Global Capacity Group
Go Solutions, Inc.
Great Works Internet
Gregory M. Casey
Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, LLP
Helein Law Group
ILD Telecommunications, Inc.
Independent Optical Network
Indiana Fiber Works
Info Directions, Inc.
InfoHighway Communications Corp.
Institute Of Telecom Resellers
International Prepaid Communications
Iowa Network Services
None at this time.
Kelley, Drye & Warren
Konfer Technologies, Inc.
Last Mile Connections
Lightyear Network Solutions, LLC
Line Systems, Inc.
Long Distance Billing Service, Inc.
Looking Glass Networks, Inc.
Magee Group, LLC
Martin Group, Inc.
McGraw Communications, Inc.
Midwest Telecom of America, Inc
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
Mpower Communications Corp.
NEON Communications, Inc.
New Cross Technologies, Inc.
New Global Telecom
New Paradigm Resources Group
NexTone Communications, Inc.
Nii Communications, Ltd.
Northern Telephone & Data (NTD)
NTT USA, Inc.
OneEighty Communications, Inc.
OnFiber Communications, Inc.
OSG Billing Services
Pac-West Telecomm, Inc.
Pacific LightNet Inc.
Paradigm Cable & Networking Services
Peak Communications, Inc.
Phone + Magazine
PPL Telcom, LLC
Preferred Long Distance
Profitec Billing Services, Inc.
Reliance Communications, Inc.
Road America Motor Club
Sandy Beaches Software
Step 9 Corporation
Swidler, Berlin, Shereff & Friedman
Switch & Data Facilities Co.
TCAST Communications Inc
TCO Network, Inc.
Tech Valley Communications
Technologies Management, Inc.
Telcom Products International
Telcove, Inc. (formerly Adelphia Communications)
Telecom Compliance Services
Telecommunication & Information Mgmt
Telia Sonera International Carrier
The Conference Group
The KDW Group
The Northridge Group, Inc.
The Pager & Phone Company
Thermo Credit, LLC
Transaction Network Services
Transcom Communications Corporation
Transworld Network Corporation
Tri-M Communications, Inc. d/b/a TMC Communications
United Telecom Council
US Signal Company LLC
Vero Systems, Inc.
Virtual Back Office Software
Volo Communications, Inc.
VOX Communications Corporation
White Rock Networks
Wholesale Carrier Services
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice
XO Communications, Inc.
Xspedius Management Company
XTel Communications, Inc.
None at this time.
source: http://www.comptelascent.org/membership/member-companies.htm 10mar2006