Recap: Sohn Nomination Hearing III

Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden's long-stalled nominee to the Federal Communications Commission fired back at her critics at a Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing, saying that the telecommunications industry shouldn't be allowed to choose its own regulators. "Unfortunately, that is the exact intent of the past 15 months of false and misleading attacks on my record and my character," she testified. "My industry opponents have hidden behind dark money groups and surrogates because they fear a pragmatic, pro-competition, pro-consumer policymaker who will support policies that will bring more, faster, and lower-priced broadband and new voices to your constituents."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said, "If we want someone on the Federal Communications Commission who is truly committed to the job, then I believe Ms. Sohn fits that bill. She has a very long history at being part of the process at the FCC and she is qualified. She will help deliver for the American people and she has a keen eye on something that all members of this committee care passionately about and that is affordable, accessible broadband....Sohn has a history of putting the public interest first, regardless of whether that means supporting policies endorsed by Republicans or Democrats.  She is well-known for convening a broad range of stakeholders from both sides of the aisle on almost every part of the debate that we are looking at. Regulatory framework, broadband deployment, broadcasting, and mass media in the marketplace."

"We know enough from today’s extreme left what happens when power is put in the wrong hands," said Committee Minority Leader Ted Cruz (R-TX). "It doesn’t take much to imagine a partisan FCC going down a dark path in attempting to censor what we see, hear, read, and ultimately, think. As such, our responsibility as senators is to make sure an FCC nominee not only has the expertise to be an independent regulator, but also possess good judgment and temperament.  The nominee must be fair, ethical, and perhaps most importantly, honest. On all these fronts, Gigi Sohn fails."

Among her backers is Preston Padden, former top lobbyist for The Walt Disney Co. and top executive at News Corp., wrote in a letter to the committee that Sohn was being subject to “the worst, and most cynical and baseless smear campaign ever waged against a nominee to serve on the FCC. Ms. Sohn’s only sin is that she roots for the underdog and for consumers. As a result, some of the dominant Cable TV companies and Internet Service Providers have stooped to lows never before seen to smear Ms. Sohn,” Padden wrote. “They correctly fear that she would be a vote to require them to compete fairly and to respect consumers.”

Republican members of the committee cited political contributions that Sohn made to Democratic candidates while her nomination was pending. They totaled over $1,000. Federal Elections Commission records show contributions of $550 to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a committee member. “I am a citizen who just wanted to participate in the Democratic process,” Sohn said during the hearing, adding that the contributions were “relatively small donations.”

If confirmed, Sohn repeatedly said that the first thing she will do at the commission is to help improve the new national broadband map on which billions in federal broadband infrastructure funds are dependent. But a delay in the Senate vote could mean that the map is not improved in time to ensure accurate allocation of Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by June 30, 2023. 

“That June 30th date is a really, really critical date, and that’s why time is really of the essence to get me confirmed because if I don’t get confirmed at all, there’s not going to be a fifth person on the FCC in time to do anything about those maps,” said Sohn. “Now I can’t fix it myself,” Sohn added, “but I have unbelievable relationships with the states, including many of the states of folks that sit on this dais and I would love to help improve that broadband map.”

 Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) underscored “the dire need to fill the FCC” and knocked attempts to delay Sohn’s confirmation. “It’s been 755 days that we don’t have a fully functioning FCC … With each additional day, more ink is spilled over this nomination. Frankly, we get more deliberate attempts to extend this vacancy for as long as possible,” Sen. Luján said. “Fundamentally, this position remains vacant because the companies that are lawfully subject to oversight by the FCC don’t want a watchdog. They don’t want to be regulated, and these companies have spent an immense amount of money and influence to keep this position vacant,”

Recap: Sohn Nomination Hearing III Biden FCC nominee slams critics, says ISPs shouldn’t get to choose regulators (Ars Technica) At 3rd Nomination Hearing Sen. Cantwell Calls Personal Attacks Against Biden Nominee Gigi Sohn “distractions from the fact that Sen. Cruz: Gigi Sohn Is an Extreme Partisan Who Lacks the Impartiality and Candor Necessary To Sit On FCC FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn Again Faces Senate Committee As Biden Administration Tries To Break Agency Deadlock Gigi Sohn: FCC Should Investigate OAN, Newsmax Deplatforming For Sake of Accurate Broadband Map, Gigi Sohn Urges Senators Not to Delay Her Vote as FCC Commissioner Republicans face continued claims of ‘homophobic and sexist fear-mongering’ over blocked FCC nominee List of Supporters