White House Broadband Affordability Event Signals Need for Vote on Gigi Sohn FCC Confirmation

On May 9th, the White House held an event on broadband affordability, highlighting new service plans that numerous internet service providers will offer as part of their participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program. The program helps ensure low-income households can afford broadband connectivity. The White House’s latest event on broadband affordability signals the need for Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s nominee to serve as FCC commissioner, to receive a vote in the United States Senate. President Biden nominated Ms. Sohn over five months ago and the vacancy has been open for over a year, keeping the FCC deadlocked in a 2-2 split. A deadlocked FCC is unable to fully address broadband affordability or move forward on a host of other communications reforms vital to our democracy.

Statement of Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Advisor and Former FCC Commissioner 

“Today’s White House event is another step on the road to providing affordable broadband for low-income households. Over the past year, the White House has taken a number of actions to highlight the need for robust reform in the communications sector. These actions include: (1) signing an executive order that promotes broadband competition, (2) launching a declaration with 60 global partners on the future of the internet that calls for net neutrality protections, (3) calling on federal agencies to develop action plans to advance racial equity, and (4) today’s actions to promote broadband affordability.

“But none of the White House’s initiatives around halting ongoing consolidation in the broadband sector, restoring a free and open internet, and ensuring marginalized communities have equitable access to communications services can be fully achieved if the FCC remains deadlocked. Congress must take action now to ensure Ms. Sohn receives a vote.

“Big money opposition is conducting a sleazy campaign to stall Ms. Sohn’s confirmation, and it’s time to put an end to it. As Common Cause’s own report highlights, the lobbying and political activities of the largest broadband providers have shaped the digital divide today. The big ISP gatekeepers understand that a functional FCC would hold them accountable and prevent them from engaging in anticompetitive and discriminatory practices that undermine our ability to get online. We can’t allow these corporate interests to subvert the public interest.

“It’s simple – Ms. Sohn deserves a vote. She is more than qualified to be a commissioner, and has spent her entire career fighting for the public interest. White House and Senate leadership must meet the moment we’re in and do everything in their power to ensure Ms. Sohn receives a vote and we have a fully functional FCC.”