President Joe Biden renominated Gigi Sohn Tuesday to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, once again throwing his support behind the embattled pick whose confirmation has stalled for more than a year.
Sohn, a public interest advocate and former FCC counselor, was first nominated to the post in October 2021. Since then, she’s struggled to gain the necessary support of moderate Democrats and has faced an intense opposition campaign staged by Republicans and telecom industry groups. But last November’s Democratic Senate midterm wins could be a boon for Sohn’s nomination, adding an additional Democratic senator into the mix and possibly securing her confirmation.
Before the midterms, Democrats held a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate, requiring all Democratic senators to support Sohn’s confirmation. Any Democratic defectors would necessitate backing from Republicans, many of whom have accused Sohn of holding extremist policy positions and a personal and professional disdain for conservatives. All of this pressure prolonged a partisan deadlock at the nation’s top telecom regulator lasting the entirety of Biden’s presidency so far.
The stakes are high not only for the Biden administration but for telecom industry titans
Without a Democratic majority, the FCC has been unable to pursue many of the Biden administration’s telecom priorities, hindering efforts to restore net neutrality and expand high-speed broadband access nationwide.
Some moderate Democrats, like Arizona’s future Independent party senator Kyrsten Sinema, have long-opposed federal net neutrality laws. Sinema previously voted to approve Sohn’s nomination out of the Senate Commerce Committee, but it’s unclear whether she would vote for final approval if Sohn’s nomination was brought to the floor. Other Democrats, like Sens. Mark Kelly (AZ) and Catherine Cortez Masto, have yet to commit their support for Sohn.
The successful Senate elections of Raphael Warnock (D) and John Fetterman (D) could shift the caucus’s support in Sohn’s favor.
The stakes are high not only for the Biden administration but for telecom industry titans like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Under the Trump administration, the FCC repealed net neutrality, a gift to broadband providers. But if Sohn is confirmed, the agency could work quickly to put those controversial rules back in place before the end of Biden’s first term in office.
Prior to her nomination, Sohn worked under former Obama-era FCC Chair Tom Wheeler when the agency first approved new net neutrality rules, like banning providers from blocking or throttling service or offering paid online fast lanes for certain sites and content. She also co-founded Public Knowledge, a tech and telecom policy advocacy organization, in 2001.