UPDATE The Senate Commerce Committee plans to vote next week on President Joe Biden’s nominee for a fifth seat on the FCC. Democratic telecom attorney Anna Gomez is a senior adviser for the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy and a former FCC staffer. She’s also leading U.S. preparations for the 2023 World Radio Conference. The committee plans to vote July 12 on Gomez as well as nominations for new terms for Commissioners Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks, and Fara Damelin to be the agency’s Inspector General.
Democrats have been stymied since 2021 from gaining a majority on the five-member telecommunications regulator. Commissioners have been deadlocked 2-2 and only able to vote on non-controversial items.
Biden’s first nominee for the open seat, former FCC official Gigi Sohn withdrew in March after three hearings. She blamed industry opponents for blocking her nomination, Inside Towers reported.
The situation made it virtually impossible for Biden to push his internet agenda without bipartisan agreement, noted CNBC. In particular, Sohn’s withdrawal was a blow to the administration’s effort to renew net neutrality rules, which keep broadband internet providers from treating online content unequally.
Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate. Sohn faced strong Republican opposition and saw her unsuccessful nomination await a vote for more than 16 months.
In contrast, Gomez saw support from both sides of the aisle during her recent nomination hearing, as did Carr and Starks, Inside Towers reported.
Telecom-related trade organizations praised Gomez and urged Congress to swiftly fill the empty fifth seat at the Commission and re-confirm Starks and Carr. Those included NATE: the Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, WIA, CTIA, CCA, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, WISPA, the Consumer Technology Association and INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief