Backers of Democratic Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn argued that getting Sohn to the commission, where she would give it a three-Democrat majority, should be a top priority and one those same ISPs were impeding.
That came in responses to the Monday (May 9) tag team event featuring Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden praising ISPs at the Rose Garden for helping connect 11.5 million households to high-speed through the American Connectivity Program (ACP).
MediaJustice, which says it advocates for "a more just and participatory media," was not joining the broadband bandwagon, suggesting securing a full complement of FCC commissioners, rather than patting ISPs on the back for partnering on the subsidy effort, would have been a bigger boon to connectivity.
“Instead of applauding corporations that continue to fail families needing to stay connected to healthcare, jobs, school and one another through the pandemic, President Biden should be applying pressure to Senate leadership to confirm his [FCC] nominee Gigi Sohn,“ MediaJustice said. “While Sohn’s confirmation has stalled for over six months, preventing the full functioning of the FCC, these Internet Service Providers watched their profits rise as 21 million Americans go without home broadband. These companies don’t need a White House ceremony, they need the oversight and regulation that only a complete FCC can provide.”
Former acting FCC chairman and Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps was on the same page when it came to Sohn being a key piece in the broadband connectivity puzzle.
“[N]one of the White House’s initiatives around halting ongoing consolidation in the broadband sector, restoring a free and open internet, and ensuring marginalized communities have equitable access to communications services can be fully achieved if the FCC remains deadlocked,” he said in a statement following the event. “Congress must take action now to ensure Ms. Sohn receives a vote,” Copps said.
Copps said those gatekeepers were conducting a “sleazy” campaign to undermine Sohn because they knew that “a functional FCC would hold them accountable and prevent them from engaging in anticompetitive and discriminatory practices that undermine our ability to get online.”
Sohn was nominated, then renominated, and has had not one but an unprecedented two nomination hearings in the Senate Commerce Committee. But her nomination was not favorably reported out of committee because it was a 14-14 political draw. To get confirmed, Sohn would need the Senate to first vote to discharge the nomination from the committee, then vote to confirm her, perhaps even requiring a tie-breaking vote from Harris.
But that Senate vote has yet to be scheduled and Sohn fans see the handiwork of ISP lobbyists working against a return of Title II-based net neutrality rules and, writ larger, Republican legislators hoping to stall a Biden re-regulatory agenda until after the midterms.
The FCC’s current 2-2 political tie has left it unable to act on controversial items, like net neutrality and media ownership regulations. ▪️
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.
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