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Most attorneys are delighted to be dubbed a “leading lawyer.” A. Richard Metzger Jr. seems mostly embarrassed. Reports of his modest and self-effacing nature are not wrong. But neither is Metzger’s reputation as one of the country’s foremost experts on common carrier regulations. Just listen to Robert Foosaner, senior vice president of government affairs and chief regulatory officer for Sprint Nextel Corp. He calls Metzger “a lawyer’s lawyer.” Foosaner continues, “His understanding of wireline issues is pre-eminent in telecom, period. There’s Richard Metzger, and then there’s a lot of other people. He is the pinnacle.” As a top official in the Federal Communications Commission’s Common Carrier Bureau during the mid-1990s, Metzger was closely involved in implementing major portions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Now in private practice as a name partner at 11-lawyer Lawler, Metzger, Milkman & Keeney, he advises companies such as Sprint Nextel, Yahoo Inc., and Comcast Corp. on a range of telecom issues. “I enjoy trying to help clients find solutions to complex, difficult, and novel problems,” Metzger, 58, says. Sprint Nextel turns to him for advice on regulatory issues and mergers, including the $36 billion deal that combined the two companies in 2005. Foosaner, who spent the first 20 years of his career at the FCC, also notes that Metzger has been a mentor to a number of key people in senior positions at the agency. One current issue of concern to Sprint Nextel is paying for special access service. Wireless carriers such as Sprint Nextel lease telephone circuits to connect individual cell sites to their networks. The cell sites, which consist of antennas and other equipment, are often in remote areas where the Bell companies are the only available providers of phone circuits. Other carriers and large businesses also rely on special access to meet their communications needs. Altogether, Bell companies receive more than $15 billion a year in special access revenues. “It’s a very important cost to Sprint Nextel,” says Metzger, who says a rulemaking is pending at the FCC to determine if the commission should re-impose price caps. Another issue for Metzger’s clients — including Yahoo, Microsoft Corp., and Internet telephony network Skype Ltd. — is the privacy of customer proprietary network information. He filed comments on their behalf with the FCC last year when the agency considered proposals for better securing that information. The FCC recently issued some new rules and is considering others. Metzger is also currently representing Comcast on VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) matters. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1976, then spent a year clerking for U.S. District Judge Murray Schwartz of Delaware. He joined Boston’s Nutter McClennen & Fish, but left in 1978 when a former law school professor made him an offer that sealed his fate as a telecom lawyer. The professor, Thomas Krattenmaker, had been named co-director of the FCC’s network inquiry special staff, a two-year project to analyze the effect of FCC rules and policies on the commercial TV networks. “It seemed like an interesting project, although I knew nothing about the FCC or television,” Metzger recalls. When the report was finished, Metzger first joined Washington’s Wald, Harkrader & Ross as a regulatory lawyer and then moved to Rogers & Wells in 1986. When Reed Hundt was named FCC chairman in 1993, he recruited Metzger to come back to the agency. Hundt was looking for an expert on the nitty-gritty theory and history of telecom regulation: “I asked around and was told there was one person who was the guy. The guy, who I couldn’t do without. That was Richard Metzger.” But when Hundt called Metzger to offer him a job, Metzger’s trademark modesty was in full force. “He said, �I don’t really want a title. I’ll just come work for you. Give me an office, but just don’t put anything on the door,’ ” Hundt remembers. Metzger initially joined as deputy chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, then was promoted to acting chief, and finally chief in 1997. “He tries to hide his light under a bushel, but his light is just too bright,” says Hundt, who singles out Metzger as one of the most outstanding “authors of policy and philosophy and decency and logic in the history of the FCC.” Metzger left the FCC again in 1998. In 1999, he joined forces with Gregory Lawler and Ruth Milkman to launch their own telecom boutique. Regina Keeney signed on with them in 2001. “I thought it would be exciting if we put together our expertise in trying to find new solutions to difficult telecom problems for clients,” Metzger says. “We’re not a traditional telecom firm.”

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