The Federal Communications Commission has been without a Democratic majority for the entirety of President Biden’s 21-month tenure, hamstringing efforts to restore open internet protections and close the digital divide. Breaking the deadlock at the Federal Communications Commission hinges on confirming Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institue for Broadband & Society], a longtime public interest advocate and former Democratic FCC official who was first nominated by the White House nearly a year ago.
The Senate on May 11 voted to confirm law professor Alvaro Bedoya to serve on the Federal Trade Commission, solidifying a Democratic majority at the agency that will enable FTC Chair Lina Khan to move on her ambitious agenda to rein in Big Tech’s power. Fifty senators voted in favor while 50 voted against. Vice President Harris cast the tiebreaking vote in her role as president of the Senate.
The Biden administration arrived in Washington with an ambitious agenda for taming Big Tech, which it portrayed as concentrating too much power in the hands of a few billionaires — the moguls of a new, digital Gilded Age. Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter has put that critique into sharp relief, underscoring how badly Biden’s tech agenda has stalled in the 15 months since taking the White House.
The federal government is slated to pump a record amount of funding into projects to expand Internet access and affordability.
Consumer advocates say the 3G shutdown will leave some of society’s most vulnerable people without critical communications tools. Many devices have moved to 4G networks and newer phones are now moving onto 5G. But a motley assortment still relies on the more rudimentary 3G service and consumer advocates are urging the Federal Communications Commission to slow the change, which is set to start in February 2022. Older and low-income Americans are more likely to be affected by the shift.