President Joe Biden has renewed his nominations of net neutrality supporter Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission and privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission.
As long as the agencies remain deadlocked, neither is likely to advance their leaders' more ambitious goals -- including FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel's goal of restoring the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited broadband carriers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.
Last year, Senate Commerce Committee split 14-14 about whether to confirm Bedoya, founding director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, and known for proposing curbs on the use of facial-recognition technology.
Despite the tie vote, Bedoya's nomination can still advance to the full Senate.
The same committee held a hearing on Sohn's nomination last December, but hasn't yet voted on whether to approve her.
Sohn, currently a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, previously served as counselor to former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, who led the agency during President Obama's second term. She also co-founded the advocacy group Public Knowledge in 2001.
Some Republicans have voiced opposition to Sohn, partly because she has publicly criticized Fox News.
In October of 2020 she tweeted: “For all my concerns about #Facebook, I believe that Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It's state-sponsored propaganda, with few if any opposing viewpoints. Where's the hearing about that?”
The Wall Street Journal, which called attention to that tweet, suggested that Sohn would attempt to censor conservative media outlets.
But some prominent conservatives -- including One America News Network President Charles Herring and Brad Blakeman (formerly a member ex-President George W. Bush's senior White House staff) -- support Sohn's nomination.
“I know Gigi. I have worked with Gigi. And I have seen her fight for people's right to express themselves, even when she disagrees with them,” Blakeman wrote recently in Newsmax.
“Even when other liberals wanted to shut down conservative voices, Gigi stood up for free speech,” he added. “We will never agree on a lot of things, but Gigi Sohn will fight for my right -- and yours -- to be heard and to have access to the most important information and communications services.”
Charles Herring added that Sohn “believes in the First Amendment and the advantages of a strong and open media for the benefit of our democracy.”
(Charles' father, Robert Herring, CEO of One America News Network, says the company does not support Sohn.)
The National Association of Broadcasters has raised concerns about Sohn's role on the board of streaming service Locast -- which shuttered last year after a federal judge ruled the company infringed broadcasters' copyrights.
“Although NAB does not currently oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn, we have serious concerns about her involvement as one of three directors of the illegal streaming service Locast,” the organization's President and CEO Gordon Smith stated in November.
At her hearing in December, Sohn said she thought she thought the service benefited viewers as well as local broadcasters.
Locast, created by the nonprofit Sports Fans Coalition NY, captured over-the-air broadcast signals and streamed them to people within specific geographic areas.
“I thought it was a good thing, both for local broadcasters. And local broadcasters didn't sue. The networks sued,” she said in response to questions from Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). “I also thought it was good for viewers. And these were viewers, for example, in orphaned counties who maybe couldn't get certain programming. There were a lot of low income folks that also used the service.”