Gigi Sohn, Biden’s pick to run FCC, withdraws from consideration

Gigi Sohn, a prominent activist and former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) official, was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the next head of the FCC. However, it has now been confirmed that she has withdrawn from consideration for the position. Sohn cited “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” from cable and media industry lobbyists as her reason for stepping back.

The FCC plays a crucial role in regulating the US telecommunications industry, which includes everything from broadband connectivity to cable television. As such, the appointment of its leadership is a matter of considerable importance for the country.

Sohn had been widely seen as a progressive choice for the role, having spent many years advocating for consumer protection and net neutrality. Net neutrality, for those unfamiliar with the term, refers to the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all internet traffic equally and not be allowed to discriminate against any particular type of content or service. Sohn has long been an outspoken supporter of this principle.

Many of those in the media and telecoms industry, however, were less enthused about the prospect of Sohn leading the FCC. Some cable and media industry lobbyists reportedly began to attack Sohn shortly after her nomination was announced, labeling her as an “extremist” who was hostile to business interests.

Sohn herself addressed these attacks in a statement to the media. “It is abundantly clear that due to wholly partisan politics and extreme special-interest lobbying, my nomination will not be considered fairly, if at all,” she said. “This is particularly troubling, given the urgent need for the Biden administration to fill leadership positions with qualified, experienced candidates to address the overlap between COVID-19 and the digital divide.”

Sohn’s decision to withdraw from consideration has been met with disappointment by many of her supporters. Several consumer advocacy groups issued statements expressing their hope that her views and vision for the FCC will continue to be influential in the years ahead.

Progressive lawmakers have also weighed in on the matter, with some criticizing the Republican Party’s response to Sohn’s nomination. “Instead of attacking Gigi over completely bogus charges, Republicans should have been working with Democrats to expand broadband access to every corner of America,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).

Regardless of the reasons for Sohn’s withdrawal, her exit will inevitably raise questions about the future direction of the FCC. Under the leadership of Ajit Pai, who served as chairman under the previous administration, the FCC was criticized by many consumer advocates for being too friendly to business interests and for dismantling many of the protections put in place during the Obama era.

The Biden administration has signaled that it intends to take a more consumer-friendly approach to telecoms regulation, but it remains to be seen who it will nominate to fill the top FCC roles. With Sohn out of the picture, an alternative progressive candidate may be considered, or the president may look to appoint someone with a more moderate stance.

Whoever takes the reins will have a significant impact on issues ranging from broadband access to fighting robocalls. One of the key issues on the agenda for the FCC in the coming years will be expanding internet access to rural and underserved communities. This has become even more pressing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the crucial role that connectivity plays in daily life.

Another important issue is data privacy. The previous administration rolled back many of the regulations put in place to protect consumer data, but the current FCC will have an opportunity to reverse this trend.

Against this backdrop, the pressure will be on the Biden administration to find a nominee who can balance the interests of industry and consumers while also navigating the complex political landscape. Sohn may no longer be a contender, but her activism on behalf of consumers will continue to be an influential force in the conversation about telecoms regulation in the years to come.


Related Posts