Biden's Pro-Net Neutrality Nominee Withdraws, Leaving FCC Deadlocked

Gigi Sohn takes herself out of the running to become a member of the FCC. The move follows more than a year of debate and hearings.

David Lumb
David Lumb Mobile Reporter
David Lumb is a mobile reporter covering how on-the-go gadgets like phones, tablets and smartwatches change our lives. Over the last decade, he's reviewed phones for TechRadar as well as covered tech, gaming, and culture for Engadget, Popular Mechanics, NBC Asian America, Increment, Fast Company and others. As a true Californian, he lives for coffee, beaches and burritos.
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2 min read

In October 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Gigi Sohn to become an FCC commissioner.

Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden's nominee to join the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn, has withdrawn from consideration after more than a year of debate on her candidacy and attacks from the broadband industry she would have regulated.

Biden nominated Sohn in October 2021 to fill the FCC's vacant fifth seat and break its 2-2 deadlock between Republican and Democratic commissioners. That stalemate has prevented the agency from acting on issues like media ownership or holding a vote to bring back net neutrality, a reinstatement that was one of Biden's campaign promises. 

Over the course of 16 months, Sohn faced three Senate committee hearings, ads attacking what critics called her partisanship, and wavering support from Democrats, and she still wasn't close to securing enough votes to be confirmed. 

In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Sohn, a 30-year public interest advocate and former Democratic FCC official, decried the "legions of cable and media industry lobbyists" who brought "unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks on my character and my career."

With the FCC remaining deadlocked, Sohn lamented that Americans will lose out on access to broadband internet regardless of where they live, including rural Americans underserved by the FCC's Universal Service programs.

"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.

Conservative groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars putting up billboards and airing attack ads in states with Democrats who'd been wavering on supporting Sohn's candidacy, the Post reported. On Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, announced he'd vote against Sohn. 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," Manchin said in a statement. Shortly after, Sohn said she was withdrawing.

Major trade groups have not publicly commented yet on Sohn's withdrawal of her nomination. The NCTA, an internet and television trade association, and the CTIA, which represents the telecom industry, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group advocating for digital civil liberties, tweeted that untrue personal attacks were attempts to distract from her experience and record, lamenting that senators had "capitulated to the dark-money tactics of telecom companies that want to choose their own regulators." 

During a White House press briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised Sohn's talent and years of public service on behalf of Americans. She also noted that the administration isn't announcing another candidate at this time.

"We appreciate Gigi Sohn's candidacy for this important role," Jean-Pierre said. "She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience."