Opposition to President Joe Biden’s pick for the Federal Communications Commission is rooted in a desire to deny Democrats a majority of agency seats, said nominee Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] in prepared testimony for a Senate committee hearing February 9. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a second confirmation hearing for Sohn, who was initially nominated in late 2021, at the request of Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS).
A confidential settlement involving Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] appears to undercut a key Republican senator’s stated reason for opposing her nomination. The delay in confirming Sohn is preventing Democrats from securing a majority at the independent regulatory agency, which would allow them to pursue policies such as reinstating Obama-era net neutrality rules.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman
The part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill dedicated to distributing $42.5 billion in broadband funds would give preference to companies with a record of following labor and employment laws—a requirement that, practically speaking, could give an advantage to professionalized union workforces over the constellation of subcontractors that power the telecommunications industry.
Billions of dollars aimed at helping low-income households afford internet access are going unclaimed as the Federal Communications Commission faces hurdles to enrolling participants in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. FCC officials and their nonprofit partners have to marshal resources for outreach to help individuals understand how the program works and overcome mistrust of government. Nonprofits and local organizations are best suited to enroll low-income individuals because they are trusted in those communities, agency officials and partners said.
Under the Senate infrastructure bill, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) would distribute $42.5 billion in new broadband subsidies through grants to eligible states. Local authorities would then competitively award that money to broadband service and infrastructure providers.