D.C. Weighs in on Biden FCC Picks

The White House
(Image credit: Matt H. Wade/Wikimedia Commons)

A city that has been looking, previously in vain, for a permanent Federal Communications Commission chair and third commissioner to bring the agency to a full complement, weighed in Tuesday following President Joe Biden‘s renomination of acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel — taking the “acting” from in front of her name — and tapping veteran progressive policy shaper Gigi Sohn to the third seat.

Also Read: Biden Renominates Jessica Rosenworcel to FCC, Gigi Sohn Also Gets Nod

"“We congratulate Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel on her nomination for a new term as the permanent chair of the Federal Communications Commission," said NCTA–The Internet & Television Association president and CEO Michael Powell, himself a former FCC commissioner and chairman. “To date, Chairwoman Rosenworcel has served with distinction and ably led the Commission over the past 10 months as the country increasingly turned to the internet to adapt to pandemic demands. We also congratulate Gigi Sohn … to serve as FCC commissioner.”

Jessica Rosenworcel

Jessica Rosenworcel (Image credit: FCC)

“NAB congratulates Jessica Rosenworcel on her nomination as chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission,“ said National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith. ”As the first woman nominated as permanent chair, this marks a significant milestone at the commission and a fitting progression in her long and distinguished career in public service. NAB also extends congratulations to Gigi Sohn on her nomination to the commission. We look forward to working with the full Commission on how the FCC can ensure a thriving local broadcast industry.”

"In Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC will have a highly qualified leader with unmatched experience," said ACA Connects President Matt Polka. He cited her experience as "a former senior staffer at the FCC, as a senior Senate aide, and with nearly a decade as an FCC Commissioner."

"Throughout her career, she has championed issues that are so vital to our nation, especially in this moment, from providing support for low-income consumer access to broadband to bridging the 'homework gap' to supporting emerging technologies," said Polka. 

"Gigi Sohn brings not just a wealth of experience in communications, tech, and media policy, but also a true passion for the issues before the FCC," said Polka. "She has been a trusted public interest advocate, senior FCC staffer, and academician. She has been in the forefront of supporting policies that ensure equitable broadband access for all Americans, a concern that has never been more important."

Meredith Attwell Baker, president of wireless industry group CTIA and a former FCC commissioner, called Rosenworcel "a dedicated public servant who has demonstrated tremendous leadership during her time as the FCC’s acting chairwoman, including guiding the FCC through the continued global pandemic and launching innovative programs to help keep Americans connected during this challenging time. Her keen understanding of spectrum policy, including quickly launching a much-needed auction of spectrum to facilitate 5G deployment, and commitment to closing the digital divide make her the right fit for this critical position. We look forward to her swift confirmation by the Senate.”

Of Sohn, Baker said: “She has a distinguished career in the public-interest community and at the FCC. We look forward to working with her to help close the digital divide and ensure the U.S. leads the emerging 5G economy.”

“Now more than ever, the work of the FCC extends far beyond Washington and reaches into the very heart of our schools, workplaces, hospitals and homes," said USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter. “The past 19 months have shown us how much the Commission’s work matters. In Jessica Rosenworcel, President Biden selected a leader with deep expertise and an enduring commitment to bringing technology and connectivity to all in America.

“Gigi Sohn is a passionate advocate for the promise and potential of universal connectivity and will bring formidable knowledge of the issues and the workings of the Commission to her role,” Spalter said.

WISPA is excited that President Joe Biden has nominated Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to chairperson of the FCC; Gigi Sohn as FCC commissioner; and Alan Davidson as head of the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a third nomination announced Tuesday, Oct. 26],” the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association said in a statement. ”Each person brings into these core positions years of experience, deep connections, and legal and administrative know-how. Importantly, with these agencies now at ‘full power,’ their work will surely benefit American consumers, our economy, as well as those who linger without competitive and evolving broadband solutions in the digital divide.”

“Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has distinguished herself throughout her tenure as a Commissioner and as Acting Chairwoman, and we congratulate her on the nomination as the FCC’s first woman Chair of the Commission," said Comcast in a statement. "She has continued to be a leader on important communications issues, such as closing the Homework Gap, enhancing public safety, and promoting a balanced spectrum policy. Rosenworcel has already successfully managed the Commission’s implementation of the Emergency Broadband Benefit and Emergency Connectivity Fund on an accelerated schedule with millions of Americans receiving benefits in just the first several months. 

"Gigi Sohn has been an advocate for consumers for many years and would bring her tireless advocacy on the critical issue of connecting all Americans to broadband back to the FCC. We have long shared that commitment," the top U.S. cable operator added. 

“In nominating Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission, the President has made a wise choice for America’s broadband future," said Adrianne Furniss, executive director, Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, where Sohn has been serving as a senior fellow. “Sohn has long been at the forefront of helping advance pragmatic policies that help improve the lives of everyday Americans. She’s not only a broadband and telecommunications policy expert, but is expert at mastering complex policy issues, bringing disparate voices together to find common purpose, and pursuing the public interest.  We are excited that such a smart, committed, and capable leader will help guide the nation's communications future at such a pivotal time in history.”  

“We commend President Biden for advancing key appointments to lead the United States’ digital infrastructure efforts, and congratulate Jessica on her historic designation as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission," said Jason Oxman, president of global tech trade group ITI," as well as Gigi Sohn as commissioner. "These announcements come at a critical time. The United States’ infrastructure challenges have been magnified due to the global pandemic, and the need for significant investments to close the digital divide and increase connectivity has been sharply brought into focus. Digital infrastructure is the foundation connecting Americans to the economic and social benefits that flow from a well-connected online economy, including access to virtual healthcare services, online education, small business development resources, and remote working opportunities, among others."

Sohn a Ground-Breaking Choice

Sohn would be the first LBGTQ+ FCC commissioner, the White House pointed out in announcing the nomination.

Gigi Sohn

Gigi Sohn (Image credit: Public Knowledge)

“Gigi is poised to make history as the first out LGBTQ commissioner at the FCC, but more important is that nobody is more qualified than her to tackle the breadth of issues the FCC faces in the near future,” said Ruben Gonzales, executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, of the nomination. “Not long ago, appointing an LGBTQ person to such a key position would be considered a political liability. Yet the Biden administration is building the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration ever and is proving they can do so while appointing the best possible people for each position.”

“Dish congratulates Jessica Rosenworcel on her designation as permanent head of the FCC and Gigi Sohn on her nomination as FCC commissioner," said Jeff Blum, executive VP, external and legislative affairs, for satellite-TV provider Dish Network. “Dish looks forward to working with Chairwoman Rosenworcel and her talented staff in the years to come as she builds on her many successes in 2021, including advancing U.S. leadership in 5G, increasing mid-band spectrum supply, highlighting the benefits of Open RAN technologies, and expanding broadband access and affordability for American consumers. The addition of Gigi Sohn brings to the FCC her impressive record of accomplishment in public service and as a public interest advocate, where she has championed consumers and competition.  Ms. Sohn’s intelligence, pragmatism and principles will serve the FCC well, and we look forward to working with her in this new role.”

“American families want and need faster internet faster. President Biden has made internet access and competition a national priority. By selecting Jessica Rosenworcel as Chairwoman of the FCC, America will be getting a proven leader who takes on big challenges with substance, vision and grace,“ INCOMPAS president Chip Pickering said. “A hero to parents, children and open internet advocates, Jessica has proven to be an inclusive and thoughtful leader who leans on new ideas to move our networks into a better future."

Of Sohn, Pickering said: “Gigi Sohn is a consumer champion who never backs down from a fight. Honest, smart and substantive, Gigi has long advocated for the rights of all families, consumers and small businesses who need competition, better services and affordable prices. Gigi is a unique leader who is bold and progressive in her vision and is pragmatic and inclusive in achieving good public policy goals. Now more than ever, our nation needs bold leaders with big hearts and that is what the FCC is getting with Gigi Sohn.”

“Charter congratulates Jessica Rosenworcel on her renomination and designation to serve as chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission," said Charter Communications executive VP, government affairs Catherine Bohigian. "Through two decades of public service, Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel has demonstrated a commitment to consumers, particularly through efforts to eliminate the homework gap, close the digital divide, and improve our country’s public safety communications.

"We also congratulate Gigi Sohn on her nomination to serve as Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission," said Bohigian. "Through her roles at the FCC and in civil society organizations, Ms. Sohn is an accomplished consumer advocate, championing policies to increase competition and help close the digital divide."

“Big congrats to Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn for their well deserved FCC nominations," said Preston Padden, former top executive with News Corp. and The Walt Disney Co. "Through her service at the FCC and in Congress, Jessica has earned this! And Gigi, who I love but with whom I agree on very little, brings a lifetime of great preparation for her new post."

“The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) warmly congratulates Jessica Rosenworcel on her nomination as Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission,” said that group. “For more than nine years, Chairwoman Rosenworcel faithfully served as a commissioner, then acting chair of the FCC. She has proven time and again that she is an astute and balanced decision-maker who is highly capable of bringing forward-looking policy prescriptions to the Commission and serving the best interests of the American people.

“IIA also welcomes and congratulates Gigi Sohn for being named the newest FCC commissioner. Sohn is both well-qualified and respected, and will bring years of policy and consumer advocacy to bear in her work at the Commission. IIA looks forward to supporting chairwoman Rosenworcel and to partnering with commissioner Sohn on internet issues that affect Americans‘ quality of life and U.S. global competitiveness. Achieving universal broadband availability and adoption, and upholding the bipartisan framework that helped the internet flourish for a quarter century, are critical to America’s future prosperity.”

“We congratulate Jessica Rosenworcel on her nomination as FCC Chairwoman, and Gigi Sohn on her nomination as an FCC commissioner," said Richard Kaplar, president of The Media Institute.

“Jessica Rosenworcel has distinguished herself throughout her tenure at the FCC, and without question possesses the skills, expertise, and vision to be a highly effective chair. She is a truly dedicated public servant who will continue to champion the interests of American consumers.

“Gigi Sohn brings a wealth of public policy experience forged during her service at the Commission, in academia, and in the nonprofit sector," Kaplar added. "She is an innovative yet pragmatic thinker who is not afraid to challenge the status quo."

“I congratulate Jessica Rosenworcel upon her nomination to continue to serve as an FCC commissioner and her appointment to chair the Commission," said Free State Foundation President Randolph May. "And I congratulate Gigi Sohn on her nomination to serve as a commissioner. Gigi has participated as a speaker at many Free State Foundation events over the years, and I’ve always welcomed the opportunity for FSF to provide a platform for the presentation of her views. We always have been, and always will be, a forum that values respectful discussion and debate.

"If they are confirmed by the Senate, I’m certain that Free State Foundation scholars will not always agree with Chairman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Sohn on the issues, especially with regard to proposals to maintain or impose regulation of communications and information service providers, and the media, in the absence of convincing evidence of market failure or consumer harm," said May.

The FCC under a Democratic majority is likely to reimpose net neutrality rules and could restore some media ownership regs as well. "In today’s marketplace environment, there should be a deregulatory rebuttable presumption," said May, "and it is important for the FCC to acknowledge that we live in an age of media abundance, not media scarcity. This too, along with the need to be cognizant of the First Amendment's free speech guarantee, suggests the need for application of a deregulatory presumption when considering media ownership regulation and regulatory proposals."

“These nominations would bring the FCC back to a full slate of regulators, which is important as issues from net neutrality to spectrum to the expansion of high speed broadband access are more necessary than ever as more people rely on internet connectivity during the pandemic," said Computer & Communications Industry Association President Matt Schruers.

“Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel exemplifies grit and grace," said 

Francella Ochillo, executive director of Next Century Cities. "For years, she has implored policy experts and the public to address the homework gap and other pain points that contribute to the digital divide," said . Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Benton Senior Fellow, has led public interest advocates in a decade-long campaign for an open internet while inspiring countless organizations to support digital rights. 

“Together, alongside Commissioners Brendan Carr, Geoffrey Starks, and Nathan Simington, the FCC is poised to deliver on its promise of universal connectivity at a time when we simply have no other choice." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.