Biden’s FCC Picks Are a ‘Dream Team’ for Broadband Advocates

On Tuesday, President Biden made his selections for the Federal Communications Commission. This ended a long delay that caused Democrats to work in a 22-to-22 deadlock with Republicans rather than the 32 majority that the president usually enjoys.
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These names are all familiar. Jessica Rosenworcel was appointed permanent chair after serving as acting FCC chairwoman from January. Biden also appointed Gigi Sohn to fill the vacant Democratic seat on the commission. Sohn is a long-standing consumer advocate and was an FCC official in the Obama years. Tom Wheeler, then-FCC-chair, chose Sohn as his counselor in 2013. This was a position in which she advocated strong net neutrality rules for internet service providers and Title II common carrier regulation.

Biden was able immediately to elevate Rosenworcel to permanent chair as acting chair. This is because the president has the right to choose any sitting commissioner to be his chair. Rosenworcel's five-year term was already over, so she would have to resign from the FCC in January if she didn't get another term. To avoid Republicans having a 21-member majority in 2022, Biden must submit nominations for Rosenworcel as well as Sohn to the Senate.

The nominations were first reported by Politico and The New York Times on Monday night and then announced by The White House on Tuesday. Rosenworcel, who has been an FCC commissioner for nearly ten years, has strived to increase opportunity, accessibility and affordability in communications services to ensure that all Americans have a chance at success in the 21st century.

She has been a strong advocate for connectivity for all, from fighting for open internet to ensuring students have access to broadband through the FCC's Emergency Connectivity Fund to making sure households with limited incomes can stay connected via the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. She is an innovator in spectrum policy and has developed new ways to support wireless services, from Wi-Fi to video to the internet of Things. She is a champion of illegal robocalls, and has worked to improve consumer protections in our telecommunications policy.

Senate confirmations can take several months, or even longer. However, the Rosenworcel nominations and Sohn nominations are likely to be processed quickly given the circumstances.

Sohn was Nearly Bidens Chair Selection

Sohn was a cofounder of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge in 2001. She served as its president until she joined Wheeler at FCC. Biden had apparently suggested Sohn's name for the position of chair months before, but she dropped it after facing opposition from senators. The FCC under Sohn might have looked a lot like the Federal Trade Commission under Lina Kan, a Biden pick who has made the FTC a more aggressive antitrust regulator.

In its announcement of her nomination, the White House stated that Gigi had worked for more than 30 years to protect and preserve fundamental competition and innovation policies which have made broadband internet access more accessible, affordable, open and protected user privacy.

It is likely that Sohn's removal as chair will be a relief to the major telecom providers, who are opposed to virtually all plans to regulate the cable TV and broadband industries. Bernstein media analyst Peter Supino wrote in July that Sohn's nomination was being considered. He wrote, "If Sohn was appointed, we would expect cable stock to tumble."