Public internet advocate Gigi Sohn withdraws from FCC consideration

Sohn's nomination was mired in political and industry opposition.

POOL New / reuters

Gigi Sohn, President Biden's pick to serve as the critical fifth vote on the Federal Communications Commission, is withdrawing from her nomination to the telecom regulator. On Tuesday, Sohn said she recently asked President Biden to appoint someone else to the FCC. The Biden administration originally announced Sohn's nomination in October 2021, only for her to go on to face intense resistance from Republicans and moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Sohn's failure to win her confirmation is a major setback for the Biden administration and its bid to reshape US internet policy after a wave of deregulation under former President Donald Trump. The regulator has been mired in a two-to-two deadlock since the departure of former Chairman Ajit Pai, preventing current Chair Jessica Rosenworcel from moving forward on a host of policy issues, including the restoration of Obama-era net neutrality protections.

"Unfortunately, the American people are the real losers here," Sohn said in a statement. "The FCC deadlock, now over two years long, will remain so for a long time. As someone who has advocated for my entire career for affordable, accessible broadband for every American, it is ironic that the 2-2 FCC will remain sidelined at the most consequential opportunity for broadband in our lifetimes."

During her confirmation hearings, Republicans cast Sohn as an extreme partisan. She also faced resistance from industry players, including organizations like the Directors Guild of America. Conservative groups spent large sums of money campaigning against her confirmation. One organization, the Center for a Free Economy, spent $200,000 on Facebook ads opposing the nomination. Sohn pointed to those campaigns in explaining her decision.

"When I accepted his nomination over sixteen months ago, I could not have imagined that legions of cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups with bottomless pockets would distort my over 30-year history as a consumer advocate into an absurd caricature of blatant lies," she said.

It's possible Democrats could have advanced Sohn to the FCC despite opposition, but the likelihood of that happening significantly diminished after Senator Joe Manchin came out against her nomination. “Especially now, the FCC must remain above the toxic partisanship that Americans are sick and tired of, and Ms. Sohn has clearly shown she is not the person to do that,” he said in a recent statement. Per The Washington Post, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that, as of Tuesday, the Biden administration did not have news to share on a new nominee.