The GOP commissioner made the announcement at today’s open meeting, but didn’t say what he’ll do after he departs. The development is consistent with the widespread belief that his departure, after seven years on the commission, is a precursor to an announcement that Chairman Julius Genachowski also will move on. Once McDowell is out, the thinking goes, Genachowski’s departure would still leave the Democrats retaining the majority with two seats (Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel) vs. one (Ajit Pai). McDowell often opposed Genachowski’s initiatives including ones to establish net neutrality regulations, and favored moves to relax ownership rules on broadcasters. Yet Genachowski today lauded McDowell as “essential to major FCC achievements like the landmark reform of universal service and intercarrier compensation, and many steps to unleash spectrum.” National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith praised “his ardent support for fair media ownership rules and full-throated support for a vibrant First Amendment.” But activist group Free Press, which often was at odds with McDowell’s views, urged him to “reject the revolving door” and asked President Obama to nominate a Republican “who is not simply another cheerleader for the biggest businesses and media monopolists.”
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