But the Senate Commerce Committee took a huge step forward on June 22 when it convened to consider the nomination of Anna Gomez to fill the fifth and final seat at the agency as well as the renomination of Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr.
The hearing represented a milestone of sorts in the wake of the vicious and relentless smear campaign that sank the nomination of public-interest champion Gigi Sohn.
While such hearings rarely make news, there were a few key pieces that are worth highlighting.
Republicans like Ted Cruz are up to their old shenanigans
During the hearing, both Gomez and Commissioner Starks confirmed their support for Title II reclassification of broadband and strong Net Neutrality rules. It’s been five-and-a-half years since the Trump FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, repealed Net Neutrality and the agency’s legal authority to oversee the broadband market — a decision that a federal court later called “unhinged from the realities of modern broadband service.” ISPs’ desire to keep this unhinged decision on the books — which likely motivated their zeal to sink Sohn’s nomination — makes the declarations from Gomez and Starks quite meaningful.
Unfortunately, Republicans like Ted Cruz showed during the hearing that they don’t understand — or care — about what’s at stake. He and others on the committee regurgitated nonsense about Title II’s allegedly negative impact on investment (lies we have debunked time and time again). He also claimed that just because the internet isn’t loading one word at a time that everything is just fine, thank you very much.
But all is decidedly not fine. The cost of high-speed internet is through the roof and the FCC has no authority to protect consumers if their ISP harms them. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all the agency could do was politely ask providers to not shut people off from their service, which some proceeded to do despite promising they wouldn’t.
When it comes to Net Neutrality, some lawmakers like to pretend that since the Trump FCC repealed the open-internet protections there are no longer any rules on the books that rein in ISPs’ behavior. But that’s simply not true. California has a strong Net Neutrality law in place that’s had to be the lone bulwark against the worst impulses of ISPs like Comcast to deliver content in unjust ways.
But state-by-state regulation of the internet isn’t enough. We need strong federal protections for everyone, and that won’t happen until the FCC has a full complement of five commissioners.
The deadlock at the agency is harming millions of people, including working families trying to pay their rising monthly bills as well as Black, Indigenous, Latinx and rural communities that the biggest telecom companies and broadcast conglomerates have long neglected. Urge the Senate to confirm Anna Gomez and Commissioner Starks to the FCC ASAP.