Fate of FCC nominee Gigi Sohn — and ‘net neutrality’ — may depend on Georgia runoff

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Prospects for Gigi Sohn — a controversial nominee to join the Federal Communications Commission who is a major proponent of restoring so-called “net neutrality” rules that used to govern the internet — may hinge on the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff, sources told On The Money.

Sohn — a progressive activist who has drawn skepticism from Republicans as she has signaled support of “defund the police” movements and co-founded an advocacy group funded by billionaire ­George ­Soros — is more likely to get a vote for her nomination if Democrat Rafael Warnock wins the Tuesday runoff for Georgia’s US Senate seat, insiders said. Likewise, Sohn’s candidacy may never come to a vote if his opponent Herschel Walker wins the runoff.

A Warnock win would give Democrats a 51-to-49 Senate majority. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is the only Democrat who still doesn’t support nominee Gigi Sohn and the extra vote will mean the Republicans cannot stop the nomination as she would get through in a tie, sources said.

Biden needs to get a nomination vote held this month. Otherwise, Sohn would have to nominate her again and go through the full nomination process, which includes Senate hearings, sources said.

Next year Biden, who announced his intention to nominate Sohn in October 2021, could more easily nominate another candidate. There are rumors that could be Stacey Abrams who just lost a race to be Georgia’s governor.

There are now four FCC Commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — giving Democrats limited power.

Georgetown law professor Sohn helped craft net neutrality rules pushed during the Obama years that were supported by many of the biggest Silicon Valley tech giants including Amazon and Netflix.

Sohn would be expected to help restore full net neutrality — which would bar internet providers, often owned by cable companies — from discriminating against rival streaming companies — after its rollback during the Trump years.

Comcast is reportedly a big opponent of Sohn’s nomination. 

President Biden may find it easier to move on from Sohn if Walker wins Tuesday, making it a 50/50 Senate.
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The Post has reported that Sohn was a director at start-up company Locast which provided free access to broadcast stations including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and took donations. Locast lost a suit and was forced to settle with the biggest networks for no more than $32 million.

Allegedly the networks gave Locast a sweetheart deal on the settlement payment when it became clear Sohn was being nominated to be an FCC commissioner, agreeing to a final number that was under $1 million.

Sohn was a Locast director and not part of the settlement talks, The Post also reported.

Dozens of groups including Public Knowledge and Common Cause on Oct. 14 wrote a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking for them to bring her nomination to a vote.

“Her work with industry and members of Congress in developing programs which support low-income Americans including those in rural and tribal lands, is an example of her commitment to work with all sides to arrive at commonsense solutions,” the letter said.

 

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