Technology

Gigi Sohn testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing, examining her nomination to be appointed Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., February 9, 2022.
Pete Marovich | Reuters

Gigi Sohn, who was chosen by President Joe Biden to serve as telecommunications regulator to the Federal Communications Commission, said on Tuesday that she’s withdrawing her nomination.

Sohn was first nominated by Biden in October 2021, but her confirmation effort has remained at a standstill due to vocal opposition from Republicans and some dissent from fellow Democrats. After multiple hearings in the Senate Commerce Committee, it was still unclear if Sohn would have the votes for her nomination to pass the full Senate.

The FCC is stuck with only four commissioners, leaving an open seat and making it virtually impossible for Biden to push his internet agenda without bipartisan agreement. In particular, Sohn’s withdrawal is a blow to the administration’s effort to renew net neutrality rules, which keep broadband internet providers from treating online content unequally.

During a 16-month battle with cable and media industry lobbyists, Sohn said she’s been subject to “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” that have taken “an enormous toll” on her family.

“It is a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators,” Sohn said in a statement. “And with the help of their friends in the Senate, the powerful cable and media companies have done just that.”

Biden appeared to give Sohn a vote of confidence earlier this year when he renominated her for the position, after her earlier selection had lapsed with the change in Congress.

Republicans opposed Sohn’s confirmation, in part due to past tweets that were critical of Fox News. But some Democrats also withheld their support, partly because of opposition from a law enforcement group.

Sohn previously worked for former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler during the Obama administration, when the agency approved net neutrality rules that sought to prevent internet service providers from offering fast lanes for certain websites or throttling service for others. The rules were heavily opposed by ISPs at the time. Ajit Pai, the chair under former President Donald Trump, successfully repealed the rules.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration does not have updates to share about a new candidate.

“We appreciate Gigi Sohn’s candidacy for this important role,” Jean-Pierre said. “She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience, which is why the president nominated her in the first place. We also appreciate her dedication to public service, her talent and her years of work as one of the nation’s leading public advocates on behalf of American consumers and competition.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, applauded Sohn’s withdrawal, calling it a “major victory” and recognition that “we need a fair and impartial candidate.”

“Now, it’s time for the Biden administration to put forth a nominee who can be confirmed by the full Senate and is committed to serving as an even-handed and truly independent regulator,” Cruz, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., expressed her disappointment at the decision and voiced her support for Sohn.

“I commend her for the integrity and fortitude she displayed in the face of a coordinated, hate-fueled campaign to malign and distort her character and record,” said Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee, in a statement. “I thank Ms. Sohn for her willingness to serve and her continued efforts to bridge the digital divide in America.”

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