Tuesday, September 26, 2023

President Biden Nominates Gigi Sohn for FCC — Again

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President Joe Biden re-nominated Gigi Sohn to serve on the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, reiterating his support for the contentious choice whose confirmation has been delayed for more than a year.

Sohn, a public interest advocate and former FCC consultant, was first nominated for the post in October 2021. Since then, she has struggled to gain the necessary support from moderate Democrats and has faced an intense campaign of opposition from Republicans and telecom industry groups. But last November’s Democratic Senate midterm victories could be a boon to Sohn’s nomination, adding an additional Democratic senator to the mix and potentially securing her confirmation.

Before the midterm elections, Democrats had a narrow 50-50 majority in the Senate, requiring all Democratic senators to support Sohn’s confirmation. Any Democratic defector would need the support of Republicans, many of whom have accused Sohn of holding extremist policy positions and a personal and professional disdain for conservatives. All of this pressure extended a partisan standoff with the nation’s top telecom regulator throughout Biden’s presidency thus far.

The stakes are high not only for the Biden administration, but also for the titans in the telecom industry

Without a Democratic majority, the FCC has been unable to pursue many of the Biden administration’s telecom priorities, hampering efforts to restore net neutrality and expand high-speed broadband access across the country.

Some moderate Democrats, such as future Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, have long opposed federal net neutrality laws. Sinema previously voted to approve Sohn’s nomination from the Senate Commerce Committee, but it’s unclear whether she would vote for final approval if Sohn’s nomination were brought up for discussion. Other Democrats, such as Senator Mark Kelly (AZ) and Catherine Cortez Masto, have yet to declare their support for Sohn.

The successful senate elections of Raphael Warnock (D) and John Fetterman (D) could shift the caucus’ support in favor of Sohn.

The stakes are high, not only for the Biden administration, but also for telecom industry titans like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. Under the Trump administration, the FCC has repealed net neutrality, a gift to broadband providers. But if Sohn is confirmed, the agency could work quickly to put those controversial rules back in effect before the end of Biden’s first term.

Prior to her nomination, Sohn worked under former Obama-era FCC chairman Tom Wheeler when the agency first passed new net neutrality rules, such as prohibiting providers from blocking or throttling services or offering paid online fast lanes for certain sites and content. She also co-founded Public Knowledge, a technology and telecom policy advocacy group, in 2001.

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