Gigi Sohn has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but not a single Republican in the Senate has said they will vote to approve her confirmation. If every Senate Democrat votes to confirm her, plus Vice President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, Sohn will be confirmed, but insiders say two pivotal Democratic senators have indicated they will vote no, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly.
In an op-ed for The Register-Herald, former West Virginia legislator Mike Oliverio said Sohn has “radical left-wing viewpoints.” He cited her “record calling Fox News state-sponsored propaganda and questioning whether Sinclair Broadcasting should have their broadcast licenses revoked.”
The FCC currently has two Republican and two Democratic commissioners. Whoever becomes the fifth one will likely become a deciding vote. The FCC was created to regulate radio and telephone services, and when TV was invented expanded to cover it as well. With the rise of the internet, the areas it oversees expanded even more, making this open seat crucially important.
Sinema disagrees with Sohn on “Net Neutrality.” Sohn is one of the leading proponents of Net Neutrality, which would require internet service providers to charge the same amount for access, regardless of whether someone was consuming huge amounts of bandwidth such as video games and Netflix or whether they were merely using it for low bandwidth activities like email. It would classify ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act, the same as common carriers, something President Barack Obama championed. Net Neutrality was implemented in 2015, through rules Sohn helped draft, but repealed by the FCC in 2017 after Republicans resumed control of the agency.
In 2019, Sohn appeared on the podcast of Evan Greer, the transgender and “nonbinary” identifying director of the progressive nonprofit Fight For the Future, to discuss their mutual support for Net Neutrality. Fight for the Future is running a campaign against Sinema for refusing to support Sohn’s nomination. A billboard against Sinema placed in Arizona states, “Sinema is corrupt: She’s siding with corporate donors to kill net neutrality so you pay more for worse internet.”
Sinema has gone back and forth on Net Neutrality. She was the only Senate Democrat who did not sponsor the 2019 Save the Internet Act, which seeks to bring back Net Neutrality. However, she issued a statement in March 2019 stating that she was leading “a bipartisan effort to craft a net neutrality proposal to encourage innovation, boost investment, and close the digital divide.” If Sohn is confirmed, Democrats will have the votes on the FCC to bring Net Neutrality back.
While Kelly hasn’t been very vocal about Sohn or Net Neutrality, he is facing a tough reelection, with his seat considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic held Senate seats in the country. Arizona has large swaths of rural areas with little internet access. Sohn has expressed hostility to closing the digital divide in rural areas. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, she said, “policymakers have focused disproportionately on broadband deployment in rural areas of the United States.”
Sohn has a long history of left-wing activism. She is an alumnus with the progressive Ford Foundation and a fellow with the Open Society Foundations, the grantmaking network funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros. She has denied that Big Tech is involved in censorship. Instead, she accused Big Tech of trying to “appease” former President Donald Trump, labeling him a “right-wing extremist.”
Sohn said Fox News was “a danger to our democracy” and called for a hearing to look into the station. Similarly, Sohn called for the FCC to investigate whether the right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group should hold a broadcast license.
— Gigi Sohn (@gigibsohn) August 9, 2018
Sohn co-founded and became CEO of a left-leaning advocacy group, Public Knowledge. Funded by Soros, Public Knowledge called on cable and satellite providers to drop One America News (OAN), the conservative cable news channel. Public Knowledge said OAN spreads “conspiracy theories and falsehoods that threaten our democratic institutions.” The organization cited “OAN’s support for the ‘Big Lie’ that the 2020 election was stolen and the fact that it’s consistently giving airtime to conspiracy theories and misinformation on COVID-19.”
The Fraternal Order of Police compiled a list of Sohn’s anti-law enforcement tweets as well as tweets from radical leftists that she liked and retweeted.
Her nomination has stalled during Senate confirmation hearings this year, in part due to her role serving on the board of the controversial company Locast, which members of Congress grilled her on. In 2018, progressive telecom exec David Goodfriend created the company to siphon broadcast signals from big media companies and provide them free of charge to people who can’t afford access. Since Locast was formed as a nonprofit, and the company merely asked for donations instead of charging, it was held out to consumers as legal. Sohn served on the board.
The big media companies sued, and a judge ruled that Locast wasn’t a nonprofit due to the amount of the donations. A settlement was agreed to, with Locast paying up to $32 million in damages. Yet Locast didn’t even end up paying $1 million, documents showed. Sohn signed the agreement a day after she was nominated by Biden to the FCC, creating the appearance she used her forthcoming power to negotiate the settlement.
The Arizona Sun Times contacted both Sinema and Kelly for comment, but they did not respond by the time this went to publication.
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