A coalition of 18 center-right organizations sent a Buchstabe to the Senate opposing Gigi Sohn’s nomination to serve as a Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission.
Sohn has spent decades as a hyper-partisan activist, launching attacks against regulators and elected officials who do not share her views. All of which has been well documented on social media. The letter outlines her past positions and how, if confirmed, Sohn would work to instill policies that would crush innovation, silence conservative speech, and eviscerate intellectual property protections.
December 1, 2021
We, the undersigned, represent a broad coalition of organizations who oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn to serve as Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission. If confirmed, Sohn would work to instill policies that would crush innovation, silence conservative speech, and eviscerate intellectual property protections.
The FCC was created by Congress to be an independent regulator and it has broad power over the telecommunications, media, and technology sectors. The agency has been characterized by bipartisan cooperation and accountability to Congress.
Sohn has spent decades as a hyper-partisan activist, launching attacks against regulators and elected officials who do not share her views. She implied that the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee is an industry puppet. She suggested that Republican senators are a threat to the country. She credits center-right news outlets with “destroying democracy” and “electing autocrats.” And she joined the board of an organization after it was sued by major broadcasters for violating the Copyright Act—a case that recently resulted in a $32 million judgment against her organization. Given these views, it is hard to believe that Sohn would give regulated entities a fair shake or operate in a bipartisan manner at the FCC.
The FCC plays a critical role in protecting and upholding free speech and the First Amendment rights of regulated entities. Sohn’s willingness to use the FCC’s power to silence her opponents is disqualifying on its own. Sohn has expressed interest in the FCC revoking hundreds of broadcast licenses from a particular broadcaster due in part to the editorial decisions that company has made. She supported a campaign by elected officials to pressure cable and streaming services to drop conservative news outlets. And she closely aligns with an organization who petitioned the FCC to investigate broadcasters whose COVID-19 coverage they disagreed with.
Her views on Title II are emblematic of her longstanding tendency to promote policies that over-regulate the industries in the FCC’s jurisdiction. Sohn was one the chief architects of the short-lived Title II common-carriage rules that she claimed were necessary to enforce net neutrality. The rules drove down broadband investment, increased prices, and decreased the adoption of home Internet service. Sohn has made it clear that she not only wants to reinstate these rules, but wants to take them further, including a ban on “zero-rating,” the free wireless data services that are particularly popular among low-income users. She has also signaled a desire for the FCC to set the price of broadband service, a practice that would be more apt for the Soviet Union than the United States.
When the rules were being repealed by the prior administration’s FCC, Sohn encouraged the far-left activist campaigns that fueled hyperbolic and doomsday predictions about the destruction of the Internet. FCC commissioners received death threats and a bomb threat was called into the FCC moments before the vote to repeal the rules. Sohn works with and supports the organizations who engaged in the tactics and rhetoric that led to these ugly displays.
Throughout her career, Sohn has favored policies that undermine intellectual property rights protections. She spearheaded an FCC proceeding that would have enabled tech platforms to effectively steal and monetize television content without paying for usage rights. Sohn also served on the board of Locast, a “non-profit” that was determined to be illegally retransmitting broadcasters’ content without their consent in violation of the Copyright Act. The case resulted in a permanent injunction that required Locast to pay $32 million in statutory damages. Sohn cannot be an impartial regulator of the broadcast industry after joining the Board of an organization that openly violated that industry’s copyrights.
As the decisive vote on controversial matters at the agency, Sohn would have the power and incentive to push the FCC towards government control of communications. Further, the Biden Administration has shown a willingness to mislead Senators when it comes to agency leadership, as demonstrated by the bait-and-switch the White House pulled with the Federal Trade Commission, when Chair Khan was elevated after being confirmed under false pretenses. The potential for Sohn to become chair of the FCC makes her nomination all the more concerning.
Sohn’s confirmation would jeopardize investment and innovation, threaten free speech, and bring partisanship to the FCC. For these and other reasons, we urge Senators to reject Sohn’s confirmation.