President Biden’s nomination for the Federal Communications Commission has stalled in the Senate for more than a year. In the interests of the nation’s technological innovation, it is time to break the stalemate.
Confirming Gigi Sohn would end the FCC’s 2-2 impasse that is preventing Biden from fulfilling his campaign pledge to restore net neutrality and ensure all internet traffic is treated equally.
Polls show that 75% of Americans support net neutrality rules. They know that an open Internet is essential for innovation and economic growth, and for nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Republicans and telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast don’t want that. They prefer the status quo, which allows Internet companies to pick winners and losers by charging content providers higher fees for faster access to customers. They’re trying to expand the cable system model and allow the kingmakers to rake in billions at the expense of smaller, new startups that are struggling to get a wider audience with their slow-moving offerings.
So Republicans and a handful of Democrats withhold Sohn’s endorsement, claiming that her “radical” views disqualify her. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, calls Sohn “one of the most radical and ethically compromised candidates I’ve ever seen in my Senate tenure.” Cruz and other Senate Republicans objected to Sohn’s tweet that Fox News was “state-run propaganda” which she later regretted. They also oppose Sohn’s current service as a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, saying it proves she would not be an unbiased and impartial FCC commissioner. San Francisco-based EFF is a leading non-profit organization with a mission to defend digital privacy, freedom of expression and innovation.
So that we understand each other. Sohn has been working in the public interest for 30 years. During the Obama administration, she was a top advisor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and was credited with helping create what is still considered the toughest net neutrality law in US history. These laws were repealed in 2017 after Donald Trump became president.
As for the allegation of bias, please. Senate Republicans had no problem quickly confirming Trump’s FCC nominee Ajit Pai, who happened to be Verizon’s former assistant general counsel. Biden nominated Sohn for the third time on Jan. 4 after her previous Senate nominations stalled for more than a year.
The technology industry has understood the importance of net neutrality since the dawn of the internet. Tech pioneers like Tim Berners-Lee and Vincent Cerf have repeatedly advocated the virtues of fair, open competition in the content marketplace. They argue that the future of innovation, free speech and democracy in America depends on strong, enforceable net neutrality rules.
Think about it. YouTube, which got its start in a Silicon Valley garage, would become the streaming service it is today if ISPs slowed down or curtailed its offerings in the early days of YouTube’s operations. Or Netflix, which only started streaming movies in 2007? Or Vimeo, which started as a place for its founders Jake Lodwick and Zach Klein to share and tag short videos with their friends?
Enough is enough. Confirm son and enable the FCC to fulfill its mission of promoting connectivity and ensuring a robust and competitive internet market.
– The Editor, Bay Area News Group