After facing three hearings and nearly two years of fighting heavy opposition, Gigi Sohn has asked President Joe Biden to withdraw her nomination to the Federal Communications Commission.
President Biden first nominated Sohn to the FCC in October of 2021.
If confirmed, Sohn, a longtime net neutrality supporter and consumer advocate, could have provided the tie-breaking vote that would allow FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to move ahead with ambitious policy goals, including restoration of the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited broadband carriers from throttling or blocking traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.
Sohn’s nomination was supported by consumer advocates — and even some conservatives — but opposed by the cable/telecom/media industries that stand to lose billions if net neutrality regulations are reinstated, by most Republicans, and by one or two Democrats.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, said this week that he would vote against Sohn.
“The FCC is not a place for partisan activists; free speech is too important," stated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a longtime vocal opponent of Sohn. "Now, it’s time for the Biden administration to put forth a nominee who can be confirmed by the full Senate and is committed to serving as an even-handed and truly independent regulator.”
"A win for big-spending special interests, to be sure, but a tragic loss for the common good," countered Mike Copps, special adviser to Common Cause and a former FCC chairman.
“The industry won. Consumers lost," echoed former Fox and Disney executive Preston Padden, a Sohn supporter who has pointed out that, although a progressive herself, Sohn helped Fox Broadcasting Company obtain necessary FCC waivers to launch as a network in the 1990s.
“When other liberals wanted to shut down conservative voices, Gigi stood up for free speech,” Brad Blakeman, formerly a member of ex-President George W. Bush's senior White House staff, wrote in a Newsmax column earlier this year.
“Let’s be perfectly clear: Democrats promised to restore net neutrality and FCC oversight of telecom monopolies, and instead they caved to corporate interests and homophobic smears," charged Evan Greer, director of network-neutrality proponent Fight for the Future. "The same telecom companies that were caught red-handed funding a flood of fraudulent comments to the FCC and paying for misleading robocalls to senior citizens to kill net neutrality rules now will seemingly get to pick their own regulator.”
"As someone who has advocated for my entire career for affordable, accessible broadband for every American, it is ironic that the 2-2 FCC will remain sidelined at the most consequential opportunity for broadband in our lifetimes," Sohn said in part, in her statement explaining her withdrawal. "This means that your broadband will be more expensive for lack of competition, minority and underrepresented voices will be marginalized, and your private information will continue to be used and sold at the whim of your broadband provider.
It means that the FCC will not have a majority to adopt strong rules which ensure that everyone has nondiscriminatory access to broadband, regardless of who they are or where they live, and that low-income students will continue to be forced to do their schoolwork sitting outside of Taco Bell because universal service funds can’t be used for broadband in their homes.
And it means that many rural Americans will continue the long wait for broadband because the FCC can’t fix its Universal Service programs."