17 Free-Market Tributes to Robert McDowell on His FCC Tenure

by on March 23, 2013 · 0 comments

Robert McDowell, one of the two Republican Commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission, announced on Wednesday that he would soon resign. In his seven years on the FCC, Commissioner McDowell has been a consistent critic of over-regulation and a champion of both Internet freedom and the rule of law. He’s earned a uniquely loyal following among policymakers and thought leaders alike in the free market tech policy community, not only in the U.S. but around the world.  Here are just a few tributes to this remarkably humble and personable regulator—the regulator who, again and again, cried, in the most mild-mannered-but-firm way possible: “Hold on a minute, have we really thought this one through?”

  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD): “As we have seen with his recent leadership on efforts to prevent foreign government intervention in the operation and use of the Internet, Rob has been a consistent voice cautioning against unnecessary governmental regulations. I hope the president’s nominee to replace him will approach the job with the same passion and energy that Rob exhibited and will be similarly committed to finding market-based solutions to our nation’s communications challenges whenever possible.”

  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI): “At a time when broadband and wireless technology are transforming voice, video, audio and data communications, we could not have asked for a better steward than Commissioner McDowell. With every decision, he has fought to ensure we are creating an environment for investment, innovation, and growth. And he has done so with both eloquence and good humor. No question that he has left the communications landscape better than he found it. We thank him for his service.”

  • Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR): “For more than a half decade, Robert McDowell has embodied the consummate FCC commissioner. He has kept a steadfast eye on how to foster a vibrant communications marketplace for the American people and the American economy. He has always stood up to protect the freedom of the Internet for all, and at every turn he has made sure to respect good process, good policy, and the rule of law. The country is all the better for his service. With much gratitude, we wish him all the best wherever his path may take him.”

  • Ajit Pai, FCC Commissioner: “Robert McDowell has served with honor and distinction since 2006. On issues as varied as Internet governance, spectrum policy, and media ownership, the American people have benefited from Rob’s steadfast leadership. I’m proud to call him a friend and a colleague.”

  • Michael Powell, former FCC Chairman: “Rob McDowell is a man of vision and principle who has fully digested the lessons of free markets in a free society.  His commanding articulation of policy and his compelling advocacy for market mechanisms is not a product of ideology or cheap political theater.  Rather, It is the result of studious examination of what approaches best maximize the public interest.  The American people have been well-served by his stewardship.”

  • Bryan Tramont, Former FCC Chief of Staff: “Commissioner McDowell has been a stalwart defender of freedom throughout his FCC career. He and his team have been both intellectually robust and consistent in standing for free markets, consumers, and the rule of law. His leadership and generosity of spirit will be sorely missed.”

  • Berin Szoka, TechFreedom: “Rob McDowell has been the Internet’s best friend in Washington. He’s consistently warned against the Trojan Horse of regulations like Net Neutrality and the ‘ends-justify-the-means’ tactics behind them. From inside the regulatory ‘sausage factory,’ he cautioned that even the best-intentioned regulation is all too often captured by corporate interests—and always spreads.”

  • Geoffrey Manne, International Center for Law & Economics: “Rob McDowell has been one of the most powerful voices of reason and restraint at the FCC. His speeches, statements and dissents demonstrate his unwavering recognition that regulators are constrained by ignorance of the future and the inevitability of unintended consequences—that the communications network to Hell is paved with Title II. Nowhere is this humility more important than in the regulation of the Internet. His voice will be sorely missed.”

  • Adam Thierer, Mercatus Center: “Commissioner McDowell has been a great champion of freedom across the board, from traditional communications and media reform to cutting-edge Internet policy issues. On one issue after another, fans of liberty could count on Rob McDowell to perfectly articulate and defend the pro-freedom position on high-tech policy matters whenever and wherever he wrote or spoke.”

  • Randolph May, The Free State Foundation: “Throughout his entire tenure, Commissioner McDowell brought a principled approach to his work, and his decisions were always thoughtful, and, yes, even scholarly. These attributes are to be valued in any Commissioner, and they are especially valued by think-tankers. The fact that Rob applied his principled approach in the service of advancing free market-oriented and First Amendment-friendly positions made his service that much more important, and his legacy that much more enduring.”

  • Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform: “Rob McDowell is that rare man in the alphabet soup (FCC, FDA, EPA) regulatory swamp of Washington who did not fall to “regulatory capture”—being captured by the interests of government over the american people. The goal is freedom, opportunity and not European social engineering. Rob McDowell never took his eye of the ball.”

  • Katie McAuliffe, Digital Liberty: “One of the great things about Commissioner McDowell is that he knows how to let the market work.  At a panel when talking about Net Neutrality he said ‘There was no problem before the order, and no problem after the order. There was no market failure.’  And he has stayed consistent in this belief fighting for internet freedom at the ITU and UN meetings.  As a champion of Internet Freedom he will be sorely missed.”

  • Dominique Lazanski, TaxPayers’ Alliance (UK): “Rob is an international leader and a strong defender of freedom. He has accomplished so much at the FCC because he has stood up for what he believes. He is a role model for free market policy internationally. He is an outspoken voice of reason in the ongoing ITU Internet governance debates. There is no doubt that he will continue to be a positive force on technology and communication policy in the future.”

  • Alberto Mingardi, Instituto Bruno Leoni (Italy): “Limited government is an art that requires patience and care. Rob McDowell defended individual liberty and free markets in the terra incognita of telecommunications. He did so with passion and humility, understanding the fragility of the fabric of technological innovation. I hope Rob’s passion will gain him many imitators, all over the world.”

  • John Stephenson, American Legislative Exchange Council: “Robert has been a leader for reform of our nation’s communications policies. He showed other policymakers how consumers and the Internet benefit from more market-based and innovative approaches to regulation. With his strong, thoughtful outlook, and sense of humor, Robert has also been a delight to know and hear speak.”

  • Larry Downes, author, The Laws of Disruption: “Comm. McDowell is both a gentleman and a scholar. That, alas, is a very rare combination, perhaps even an endangered species.”

  • Jeff Eisenach, American Enterprise Institute:  “Rob has shown an unsurpassed willingness to endure personal sacrifice in the cause of Internet freedom and the common weal.  With this in mind, and apologies to his family, I hereby nominate him for Chairman … of the ITU!”

Here are just few of McDowell’s greatest lines:

  • “[W]e are losing the fight for Internet freedom…. The Internet is no longer at a crossroads – with freedom and prosperity down one avenue, and command and control government domination down the other” – Senate Testimony (2013)

  • “The most common request we receive from industry is, ‘Please regulate my rival.’ Essentially, this request translates into, ‘My rival is running too fast, and I want government to slow him or her down to my level.'” – The Siren Call of “Please Regulate My Rival”: A Recipe for Regulatory Failure (Italy, 2012)

  • “The most sublime of the first 10 amendments is, of course, the First. Instead of limiting rights, the Framers intended the Bill of Rights to act as a bulwark protecting the sovereignty of the individual from state intrusion.” – Defending the First Among Our Freedoms (2011)

  • “To me, the core mission of the FCC is to promote freedom, especially the freedom of speech or the freedom to communicate. The freedom to communicate has been the singular fundamental right at the heart of every successful democracy over the centuries.” – Technology and the Sovereignty of the Individual (Sweden, 2011)

For more McDowelly goodness, check out his speeches, statements and testimony. Last year, we tried to distill the values McDowell has championed in our  Declaration of Internet Freedom, especially the top two:

Humility. First, do no harm. No one can anticipate what the future holds and what tradeoffs will accompany it. Don’t meddle in what you don’t understand — and what you can all too easily break, without even seeing what’s been lost. Often, government’s best response is to do nothing. Competition, disruptive technological change, and criticism from civil society tend to resolve problems better, and faster, than government can.

Rule of Law. When you must intervene, start small. Regulation and legislation are broad, inflexible, and prone to capture by incumbent firms and entrenched interests. The best kind of “law” evolves one case at a time, based on simple, economic principles of consumer welfare — alongside the codes of conduct and practices developed by companies under pressure from competitors and criticism. Worst of all, when regulators act without legal authority, or regulate by intimidation, they undermine the rule of law, no matter how noble their intentions.

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