This week, for the third time in his presidency, Joe Biden has nominated longtime consumer advocate and net neutrality champion Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.
If confirmed, her appointment would give the agency a Democratic majority -- ending the deadlock that has prevented it from moving forward with an ambitious agenda that includes restoring the Obama-era open internet rules.
The Senate Commerce Committee previously voted 14-14 on her nomination.
The tie vote empowered Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) to call for a full Senate vote on Sohn, but he failed to do so.
Sohn's supporters -- including advocacy group Free Press -- praised Biden for sticking by her, and calling for the Senate to schedule a confirmation vote as soon as possible.
But some businesses that would prefer to see the FCC hamstrung appear to be gearing up to fight her confirmation.
This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reiterated its opposition to Sohn, citing her supposedly “extreme” views and support for “harmful” policies -- including “regulating broadband like a public utility,” and “establishing government-owned networks.”
“Last Congress, members of the Senate did not move forward with Gigi Sohn's nomination to serve as FCC Commissioner due to concerns about her longstanding advocacy of policies harmful to consumers and America's thriving communications sector,” Jordan Crenshaw, a vice president of policy at the Chamber, stated.
To be clear, the views Crenshaw attributes to Sohn are not extreme or harmful.
Three FCC commissioners, including current chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, voted in 2015 to regulate broadband like a public utility. They did so because there is no other way to impose net neutrality regulations that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling content, or from charging higher fees for paid prioritization.
In fact, when the FCC attempted to pass net neutrality rules without first reclassifying broadband as a utility, the rules were invalidated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges on that court said the FCC lacked authority to regulate broadband, unless it first categorized broadband as a utility service.
Three FCC commissioners, including Rosenworcel, also voted in 2015 to promote municipal broadband service -- a move supported by advocacy groups as well as the Obama administration. Endorsing muni-broadband is hardly an extreme position. On the contrary, lawmakers and policymakers have long touted city-owned broadband networks as a viable alternative to networks operated by cable companies and telecoms.
On Thurssday, Republican Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) also weighed in against Sohn, calling her one of the “most radical” nominees he had seen during his time in the Senate.
Despite these attempts to paint Sohn as out of the mainstream, her nomination to the FCC has drawn support from a wide range of individuals -- including Brad Blakeman (formerly a member ex-President George W. Bush's senior White House staff) and Preston Padden, a former senior executive and lobbyist for Fox and ABC.
Last year, Padden urged lawmakers in the Senate to approve Sohn's nomination, describing her as “one of the most prepared and experienced nominees in the history of the FCC,” and “a particularly effective advocate for competition and new market entrants.”
The Senate Commerce Committee hasn't yet scheduled a new vote on Sohn.