The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a Dec. 1 hearing to consider the nomination of Gigi Sohn for the open FCC seat and look for some Republicans to push back hard on the progressive candidate. Though despite her strong support for Title II-based net neutrality rules and other positions Republicans oppose, she also has friends among Republicans who respect her intellect and skill.
At the same hearing, the committee plans to vote on the nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel for another five-year term, paving the way for her to become the first female full-time FCC chair. She is expected to have no trouble being favorably reported to the full Senate, which must vote on her nomination before the end of the year or she would have to leave the commission.
Sohn's path to confirmation could be more problematic given that she represents the third Democratic vote and the majority Rosenworcel will need to tackle things like net neutrality and potential media ownership reregulation.
Sohn is the former top advisor to then FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, and founder of Public Knowledge, the iconic fair use public interest group. Atop that group, she was at the table when FCC chairman Julius Genachowski struck a compromise approach to net neutrality rules that were not based in Title II, but under Wheeler, Sohn, who appeared always to prefer the Title II route, became a strong advocate for that approach, which was ultimately reversed under Republican chairman Ajit Pai, a move strongly opposed by Rosenworcel.
It would have been customary for Sohn and Rosenworcel to have had their nomination hearings at the same time -- Rosenworcel's hearing was Nov. 17 -- but there had been reports both would get their own hearings.
Although there are three other nominees for various Commerce Department jobs whose nominations will also be considered alongside Sohn's at the Dec. 1 hearing, look for her to get the large majority of questions, as was the case with Rosenworcel at her hearing.
Former acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn, the first woman to hold that title, has come out strongly for Sohn. ■
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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.