Each year, the U.S. telecom sector creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs while contributing hundreds of billions to the GDP. It is a collection of vital, dynamic, constantly expanding, rapidly changing companies that, if left alone to do what they do best, could be the basis of the next long boom.
It matters who regulates them. In that regard, President Biden’s nominees to the agency that oversees the telecom sector, the Federal Communications Commission, have been less than stellar. They’re clearly in favor of a more heavy-handed approach to regulation than was shown during the Trump years and may have it in mind to revive — once the Democrats outnumber the Republicans on the five-member FCC — discredited proposals like “Net Neutrality” that, numerous studies have shown, would harm consumer interests in the name of helping them.
Gigi Sohn, a former senior aide to Tom Wheeler, chair of the FCC under former President Barack Obama, has now twice been nominated by the Biden White House and, if confirmed, would tip the balance on the FCC. Her 2021 nomination lapsed for lack of action by the Senate, so her name’s once again been sent up to Capitol Hill for Senate consideration.
Roger Wicker, the senior senator from Mississippi, wants her to come again before the Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions about her plans. Serious concerns have been raised about her personal ethics and biases, and Mr. Wicker, along with a few other members of the world’s greatest deliberative body, would like to have the opportunity to ask her about them in an open forum.
So far, though, the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appear disinclined to grant Mr. Wicker’s request. They should. The position for which Ms. Sohn has been nominated is a powerful one, and, while she doesn’t need to be as pure as Caesar’s wife to win confirmation, there are a few things she does need to explain.
One of them is the action she took as a board member of LOCAST, a now-defunct TV streaming service that was shut down by the federal courts after running afoul of federal copyright infringement regulations law during its brief years of operation. Her connections to the industry she will be in a position to help regulate — and what she may have done on its behalf up to now — are extremely relevant. The Senate is well within its rights to request the opportunity to again ask about them.
More important is the accusation that Ms. Sohn has repeatedly sided with those who’ve labored long and hard to silence conservatives by limiting or even denying them access to FCC-regulated platforms and social media. She’s also called for the shuttering of conservative networks and advocated for increased federal oversight of conservative broadcasters. She has voiced approval for social media posts made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, in defense of cancel culture.
The American tradition of free speech and the actions of the telecom regulators are often out of sync with one another. Ms. Sohn’s record suggests strongly that she’d use the position for which she’s been nominated to end debate rather than promote it. If the White House intends for her nomination to move forward, members of the Senate Commerce Committee should have the chance to question her again.
If they don’t get it, she shouldn’t get her spot on the FCC.