Cisco Hires FCC's Pepper

Longtime FCC advisor Robert Pepper has joined Cisco Systems' worldwide government affairs division, where he will help drive Cisco's advanced technology policy agenda.

July 7, 2005

3 Min Read
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He still doesn't know how to use the corporate Web site to order pens and pencils, but in every other aspect of his new job at Cisco Systems, former FCC staffer Robert Pepper should be able to hit the ground running.

That's because Pepper, an advisor to six chairmen of the FCC during his 19-year stay at the commission, will largely drive the same type of evangelistic telecommunications policy agenda -- in such areas as Voice over IP, broadband services, wireless access and security -- that he did in his most recent role as the FCC's chief of policy development.

"I'll basically be working on the same set of policy issues, but now with a global focus," said Pepper in a phone interview Tuesday, his second day working for the networking giant. With a title of senior managing director, global advanced technology policy, Pepper will be working under Laura Ipsen, Cisco's vice president of worldwide government affairs. Pepper said his role will be similar to the one he performed at the FCC -- mainly, educating policymakers about new technologies and their potential impact on economic growth.

"It'll be the same kind of education I helped bring to the chairmen [of the FCC]," Pepper said. "I'll help people look at the cool new things, and try to understand what are the [policy] implications."

Cisco's goal in such matters, Pepper said, is to foster as much competition and growth as possible, so there is a larger market for its products. But the company, which has been mainly neutral in its lobbying efforts, is clearly taking a more-active role in the policymaking debate with the hiring of the well-connected Pepper.Pepper agreed that Cisco seems to have a greater interest in policymaking these days, and isn't surprised, given the headline-grabbing nature of today's telecommunications issues. The somewhat arcane nature of technologies like VoIP also mean that lawmakers and regulators the world over need help to get quickly up to speed.

"You can't assume that policymakers know enough [about advanced technologies] to make the right decisions," Pepper said.

Pepper, who was a close advisor to former FCC chairman Michael Powell, said his desire to look for employment outside of the commission was spurred in part by a quirk in a government retirement program (where an early departure would be financially advantageous to Pepper) and in part by a desire to spend some time in the private sector, after jobs in public service and academia. He said he was not asked to leave by current FCC chairman Kevin Martin, adding that Martin had actually asked Pepper to stay on if he didn't find something "really interesting."

The Cisco job, which was basically created for Pepper, qualified.

"I was really torn, because I'm very fond of him [Martin], having known him since he was an FCC staffer," Pepper said. "But the Cisco job was pure serendipity."And it'll even get better when Pepper's IP phone gets installed, and he figures out how to order office supplies, a process done through an internal Web site. "I've only been here two days, but I'm having a lot of fun," said Pepper, who will be working out of Cisco's Washington, D.C.-area offices. "So far it's met all my expectations."

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