The Seattle Times has a nice editorial about the retirement of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, calling him “Mr. Public Interest.” The FCC’s mandate is to further the public interest, and nobody has done it better. The editorial focuses on Copps’s opposition to media consolidation, but Copps was instrumental in fighting for a range of good rules.
Perhaps nobody had as important an impact on network neutrality. As a geeky lawyer, I can list off a few arcane legal moves that changed the future of the Internet–his dissent in the 2003 Cable Modem Order that warned about the coming threat to net neutrality, his concurrence in the 2005 Wireline Order that helped create the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement which provided guidance in complaints against network providers, his vote in the AT&T Bellsouth merger in 2006 imposing a net neutrality condition on AT&T, and his aggressive negotiating in December 2010 for the strongest network neutrality rule the wavering FCC Chairman would agree to.
Michael Copps is not a household name. He toiled in a bureaucracy with arcane rules and legal orders, implementing multi-year strategies to pursue the public interest–one dissent, one speech, one public hearing, one vote, one day at a time. But the millions of Americans using an open Internet today have Mr. Copps, in part, to thank.