Chamber Of Commerce Urges Senate To Block Biden Pick For FCC

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday told lawmakers that it opposes the nomination of longtime net-neutrality supporter Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.

“Ms. Sohn is one of the leading advocates for policies that amount to regulatory overreach in the broadband market,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the business organization said in a letter to leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee, which is slated to vote Thursday on Sohn's nomination.

Bradley adds that Sohn's “extreme views” on issues including net neutrality would make it difficult for the FCC to reach a consensus.

“She was a strong supporter of the 2015 Open Internet Order which regulated broadband like a public utility,” the letter says.

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Despite Bradley's claims, Sohn's position on the 2015 net neutrality rules appears to be similar to that of current FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted in favor of the 2015 order and has repeatedly expressed support for it. The 2015 order classified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier rules on providers -- including prohibitions on blocking or throttling traffic, and on charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.

The FCC is currently deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. Until a third commissioner is appointed, the agency appears to be unlikely to move forward with new net neutrality rules, despite Rosenworcel's long-held views.

The Chamber of Commerce also claimed in its letter that the 2015 net-neutrality rules led to a drop in broadband investment by the private sector.

But the group advocacy group Free Press says its analysis of stock filings and other public documents shows that investment by carriers declined after the Obama-era rules were repealed.

The Chamber of Commerce also wrote that Sohn had taken an “alarming position” in favor of government-owned broadband networks.

“It would be a mistake to embrace a public option for broadband as opposed to focusing on private ... providers,” the letter says.

Rosenworcel has also supported municipal broadband. In 2015, she voted in favor of an order that invalidated restrictions on government-owned networks in North Carolina and Tennessee.

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.

President Joe Biden initially nominated her last year for a spot on the agency. Numerous public interest groups support Sohn's nomination, as do some conservative media executives who have disagreed with her on policy issues.

Last month, the Senate Commerce Committee held an unusual second hearing on her nomination. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) suggested at the time that Sohn's critics wanted to derail her nomination in order to prevent the FCC from moving forward with policy initiatives.

“It is part of an effort to deadlock, disarm and disable the FCC,” Blumenthal said.

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