Sohn: Pai Should Be Fired

Gigi Sohn, former top counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, says his successor should be fired.

In an op ed in The Verge, Sohn wrote that if her readers "believe communications networks should be fast, fair, open, and affordable, you need ask your senator to vote against Pai’s reconfirmation. Now."

That came on the verge of Congress taking up Pai's nomination.

Pai could get a vote on his confirmation to a new, five-year term--retroactive to June 2016-- as early as this week, and likely by Monday (Oct. 2).

Sohn, who was counselor to Wheeler for three years, said the vote on Pai would be a "stark referendum" on communications networks and consumer protections.

She said that while Pai was a nice guy to have a beer with, his FCC record meant "real danger" for consumers and the internet.

Sohn was a big booster for the Title II reclassification of ISPS, as well as a strong critic of Pai's proposal to reverse that classification.

She is also a critic of the Sinclair-Tribune merger proposal, and says Pai's "gifts" to Sinclair--restoring the UHF discount, for one, she says--"have gone wildly beyond mere deregulation."

Pai has long promised to take a weed whacker to the regulatory underbrush, and has pledged monthly meeting items targeting what he sees as outmoded or unnecessary regs.

"[T]he real basis of Ms. Sohn's objection to Mr. Pai's confirmation to a new term is that his policy predilections differ in fundamental respects from hers and those of Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman she served," said Randolph May, president of free market think tank Free State Foundation, of the Verge piece. "Well, that's to be expected in a new administration-and it is in no way a sufficient reason to oppose Mr. Pai's confirmation. And it never has been....

"The agency needs to turn away from the doggedly pro-regulatory disposition of Mr. Pai's predecessor toward a free market and rule of law-oriented disposition suited to today's dynamic digital communications marketplace. Mr. Pai surely is the right person to lead the FCC at this time."

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.