More than one year ago, President Joe Biden nominated longtime net neutrality proponent and consumer advocate Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.
As of today, the full Senate has yet to vote on her confirmation. That failure has left the FCC politically deadlocked with two Republican commissioners and two Democratic ones.
While the FCC has been able to agree on relatively noncontroversial policies, the political tie at the agency has left it unable to move forward with more contentious issues -- including net neutrality.
President Joe Biden consistently said he supports a return to the former net neutrality rules, which prohibit broadband carriers from blocking or throttling traffic, and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.
Those rules, which were passed in 2015, were repealed during the Trump administration. Former FCC head Ajit Pai, who shepherded the repeal, claimed the rules depressed investment -- a claim disputed by the pro-neutrality advocacy group Free Press
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has made it perfectly clear that she supports net neutrality rules. “Net neutrality is internet freedom. I support that freedom,” she said in 2017 in a written dissent to the repeal.
But Rosenworcel is in no position to even propose net neutrality rules until a fifth, tie-breaking commissioner joins the agency.
Consumer advocates have been pressing for a full Senate vote on Sohn for more than a year. In October, hundreds of advocacy organizations wrote to Senate leaders, imploring them to schedule her confirmation vote.
“Her life’s work is the embodiment of the FCC’s mission, and we simply cannot have a less-than fully functioning FCC to persist any longer,” the groups wrote.
Her supporters include left-leaning advocacy groups as well as some prominent conservatives.
For instance, Brad Blakeman, formerly a member ex-President George W. Bush's senior White House staff, recently defended Sohn from baseless suggestions that she would use her position on the FCC to censor conservative media outlets.
“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 in Newsmax.
“Even when other liberals wanted to shut down conservative voices, Gigi stood up for free speech,” he added.
Next year, assuming the White House doesn't withdraw her nomination, the Senate will have another opportunity to vote on Sohn. Whether lawmakers plan to do so any time soon remains unclear.