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Patricia O'Connell
Senior Communications Manager

Robert McDowell Testifies at Senate Hearing on Net Neutrality

January 21, 2015

Robert M. McDowell, a partner in Wiley Rein’s Communications Practice, testified at today’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on net neutrality.  The hearing examined the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) current authorities, and Congress’ options, to update outdated laws for the Internet age.

The FCC plans to vote next month on a proposal to treat the Internet like a public utility by subjecting it to Title II of the Communications Act.  Mr. McDowell said today in written testimony that “Title II has the potential to be devastating to the entire Internet ecosystem.”

Mr. McDowell served as an FCC commissioner from 2006 to 2013, during which he voted against the agency’s two previous attempts to issue net neutrality rules.  “I am deeply familiar with Title II, having studied its mandates for seven years as a senior commissioner on the FCC and as an attorney for more than 24 years in the telecommunications arena,” he told the panel.

“The notion that retrofitting Title II, an antiquated—but powerful—80-year-old statute designed for the copper-based, analog, voice-only phone monopolies of the early 20th Century, would somehow be good for the dynamic and ever-evolving Internet ecosphere is a faulty premise,” Mr. McDowell added.  “Rather than applying the 80-year old Communications Act to the Internet, if Congress believes that a change is needed to protect consumers, entrepreneurs, innovation and free markets, it should consider new legislation that is narrowly tailored and reflects the market realities of the early 21st Century.”

In an opinion column published this week by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McDowell noted that the FCC vote, scheduled for February 26, will be a “turning point for Internet freedom.”

“While Republicans and Democrats try to work out a deal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler should hit the pause button on next month’s vote and let the elected representatives of the American people try to find common ground,” Mr. McDowell said in his January 19 op-ed.  “At the end of this constitutional process, all sides may be able to claim victory.”

Mr. McDowell’s written testimony can be found here.  His op-ed for The Wall Street Journal can be found here.