WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Free Press Action named five must-have qualifications for the next nominee to serve as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. President Joseph Biden's previous nominee, longtime public-interest champion Gigi Sohn, withdrew her name from consideration for the long-vacant commissioner’s seat at the agency on Tuesday. Her nomination had been derailed by a smear campaign led by phone, cable and broadcast industry lobbyists working alongside far-right political operatives.
The delay in confirming a nominee has deadlocked the FCC at 2–2 for more than two years, preventing the agency from having a majority vote on a number of critical issues.
According to Free Press Action, Biden’s next FCC nominee must have these five qualifications:
- PUBLIC SERVICE: has a demonstrated history of advocacy for the public interest in communications-policy debates
- INDEPENDENT OF INDUSTRY: in the past five years, has not worked or lobbied in any capacity for any of the industries that fall under the FCC’s regulatory oversight
- CENTERS JUSTICE: has a proven record of advocacy for the rights of low-income families and communities of color
- OPPOSES DISCRIMINATION: supports Title II oversight and other laws that give the FCC the authority to prevent unjust discrimination, promote affordable access and protect public safety
- PEOPLE POWERED: is committed to public engagement in rulemakings and other agency proceedings
Free Press Action Co-CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“A fully functional FCC is crucial to bringing the benefits of broadband to everyone, curbing runaway media consolidation and ensuring that industries aren’t self-regulating with no agency oversight. Now the Biden administration needs to come up with a new FCC nominee. There will be a temptation to put forward an industry-friendly choice — someone who can ‘get through’ the confirmation process and avoid a larger political fight. We must reject any return to business as usual that would further industry capture of the FCC.
“Industry lobbyists should not be picking the next FCC commissioner. We need an independent candidate with public-interest bona fides and a clear commitment to racial justice and civil rights. They must show they’re willing to stand up to lies. They must be unequivocal in their support for restoring the FCC’s authority, and making sure that the internet is open, affordable, available and reliable for everyone. They must be committed to engaging the public, not just meeting with the lobbyists who already have too much influence at this vital agency.
“The unprecedented campaign against Gigi Sohn’s nomination marks a critical juncture in public policy. Democratic leadership needs to get serious about confirming regulators who prioritize people over corporations, and are courageous enough to support policies that can actually hold powerful entities accountable. Learning the right lessons from this latest defeat is the only way to ensure that politicians don’t cave to the lobbyists and lies that sank Sohn.
“We must ensure that Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has the support she needs to carry out her full agenda — building on impressive work to establish the Affordable Connectivity Program. The Biden administration should also renominate Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who has served the agency well and deserves the opportunity to continue his important work there. The FCC needs a full team — and a clear majority — to make the president’s broadband priorities a reality.
“The next test is already here. We cannot let the industry pick their regulators ever again. Holding the next nominee to these five qualifications will help ensure that doesn’t happen.”