New Year. Same Fight Over Control of the FCC
Jan. 20 marks the end of the second year of the Biden administration — and the second year of the deadlock at the Federal Communications Commission.
This historic and senseless delay is a disgrace.
Earlier this month — more than 14 months after he first nominated her — President Biden renominated public-interest advocate Gigi Sohn to fill the fifth and tie-breaking seat at the FCC.
A smear campaign targets a stellar public servant
In case you aren’t familiar with her: Gigi Sohn has more than 30 years of experience championing the public interest in communications policy. She’s a steadfast advocate who works in a bipartisan way to protect consumers. She’s got the support of nearly 250 businesses, consumer advocates, civil-rights and educational organizations, labor unions, three former FCC commissioners, state and local officials, and community groups from across the country.
Those opposing her? The likes of AT&T, Comcast and the Murdochs — who own, among other outlets, The Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
Learning of all this, a person might be left wondering why it’s taken so long for the Senate to confirm Sohn. The answer to that question is pretty simple: Telecom companies and broadcasters regulated by the FCC benefit from the deadlock, so they’ve repeatedly smeared and misrepresented Sohn’s record in the media and on Capitol Hill.
Comcast has hired lobbyists to stop Sohn’s confirmation. Weaponizing anti-Black dog whistles, the Fraternal Order of the Police has made false claims about Sohn’s opinions about law enforcement based on her support for technology that keeps our chats and messages secure. Right-wing media organizations, alongside Sens. Ted Cruz, John Thune and Todd Young, have falsely claimed that Sohn intends to censor conservative outlets like Fox News — even though the agency has no power to do so. And former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp — through her organization One Country Project — has misrepresented Sohn’s record on rural broadband deployment.
The cost of this unprecedented delay
The delay in confirming Sohn has had serious consequences. And, as usual, the people who always suffer the most when the government doesn’t work — low-income families, Black, Latinx and Indigenous people, and people in rural areas — are bearing the consequences.
Without a fully functional FCC, the agency has been unable to tackle key issues on its ever-growing list of things it needs to accomplish in the next two years. That includes things like:
- Making sure that people can afford their high-speed internet bills — and are able to understand what they’re paying for when they get those bills;
- Investigating decades of racism in the agency’s policies to ensure that those harms can be repaired and we can build an equitable communications system in the United States;
- Restoring strong Net Neutrality protections and the agency’s authority to regulate broadband under Title II;
- Fulfilling the agency’s commitment to diverse and local media ownership at a time of runaway media consolidation across the industry, and
- Protecting people from the whims of big corporations that only care about maximizing their profits.
At the beginning of the Biden administration, no one thought we’d be closing out year two without a full slate of commissioners at the FCC. The Senate needs to stop letting cynical political maneuvers from obstructionist lawmakers and industry-aligned lobbyists further delay the agency’s crucial work. The people of this country deserve far better. Tell the Senate: It’s time to confirm Sohn now.