Former CLEC attorney Robert McDowell was confirmed Friday to become the fifth FCC commissioner, giving the commission its first full board in more than a year.

McDowell, who previously worked for the Comptel trade association representing competitive telecom carriers, sailed through his confirmation hearing in March but someone in the Senate placed a hold on the confirmation, which forced the delay until last week.

McDowell is the third Republican on the five-member commission. In a Republican administration, the partisan makeup of the FCC normally would favor the Republican Party. However, the commission has been split evenly since former Chairman Michael Powell resigned in March 2005.

In December, former Tennessee regulator Deborah Tate—a Republican—was named to the commission, and Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps was granted a new term. Tate assumed Powell’s unfinished term, while McDowell would fill the commission spot vacated by former Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy in early December.

Many have attributed the lack of FCC action regarding controversial topics such as media ownership to the fact that the commission has had a partisan deadlock since Kevin Martin became chairman. However, the partisan makeup on the FCC has not affected public-safety communications issues, said Robert Gurss, director of legal and government affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

“I’m not aware of anything involving public safety] that’s been held up because of a lack of a majority,” Gurss said. “Most of our issues tend not to be 2-2 issues divided along partisan lines.”