New FCC commissioner Robert McDowell is a more important guy than it might first appear, because he'll serve as the swing vote on a number of critical regulatory and policy issues the FCC plans on addressing in upcoming months. A few examples ...Last week, we examined the bio of the newest FCC commissioner, Robert McDowell. He's a more important guy than it might first appear, because he'll serve as the swing vote on a number of critical regulatory and policy issues the FCC plans on addressing in upcoming months. A few examples:Net neutrality. Unless you've been buried under a snowdrift all winter, you've heard about net neutrality. Proponents of the concept - chiefly content producers such as Google and Yahoo - argue that government should prohibit carriers from charging differently for varying types of traffic. Carriers respond they should have the right to charge more for particular types of content, including services such as VoIP and content generated by massive sites such as Google. The Senate started looking into the issue two weeks ago, and it's becoming a contentious debate that will ultimately force key semantic and philosophical clarifications. This is a big hairball, folks.Universal broadband access. Should the government get involved to accelerate deployment of broadband access in the United States? That may sound like a no-brainer, but on closer examination, maybe we're better off when the government stays out of the business of regulating broadband access. As noted in previous columns, state governments and the feds have aggressively moved to limit municipal and city governments from attempting to roll out municipal broadband networks. So let's see: The government needs to start promoting broadband access to stop itself from prohibiting broadband access? Hmmm.Wiretapping, and specifically CALEA. Sick of hearing about government wiretapping initiatives? Too bad. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which compels carriers to assist law enforcement authorities in obtaining access to communications that may be part of an ongoing investigation, is supposed to take effect on the Internet in 2007. But it may not: Various organizations have filed suit in federal court to block its application to the Internet, arguing that Congress explicitly said CALEA would not apply to the 'Net. So does it or doesn't it? I'll keep you posted.Internet backbone interconnection agreements. As most readers are aware, the Internet has multiple backbones. There are two basic ways for traffic to get from one backbone to another: peering, in which "like-sized" service providers agree to carry each others' traffic at no cost; and transit, in which one provider pays another for delivery. The catch is that sometimes providers can fail to come to either a peering or a transit agreement, in which case entire networks of users can become disconnected from the Internet. Thus, one of the ongoing and (I'd argue) most critical behind-the-scenes issues facing the Internet is figuring out a consistent framework for peering and transit to ensure that providers are compensated fairly for the costs of running their networks, and not arbitrarily disconnected.Yep, Commissioner McDowell's going to be a mighty busy guy. Let's hope he and the rest of the FCC act wisely.