Big Telecom Is Mad Because New FCC Appointment Gigi Sohn Actually Defends Broadband Consumers

from the dysfunction-junction dept

So after the longest (and completely unexplained) delay in FCC and NTIA history, last week the Biden administration finally got around to fully staffing the nation’s top telecom regulator. While the selection of fairly centrist Jessica Rosenworcel is expected to make it through the confirmation process, the same can’t be said of Gigi Sohn, a popular consumer advocate:

“Republican senators largely said they can live with Rosenworcel ? but GOP leaders say they?re drawing the line at Sohn and her perceived regulatory bent. ”

What’s the GOP’s primary problem with Sohn? Apparently it’s her diabolical tendency toward coalition building (gasp) and support for local community broadband (double gasp):

“Sohn has long had a reputation as a shrewd operator within telecom circles, adept at pulling together coalitions in support of causes such as fighting industry consolidation and empowering local governments to build their own internet networks.”

If you’re new here, the GOP’s opposition to Sohn is being directly coordinated by the nation’s biggest telecom monopolies. And for twenty years, the telecom industry has been terrified of having U.S. regulators actually do their jobs, promote competition, crack down on monopoly power, and protect consumers. This is almost always dressed up as other concerns, like the 25-year-old bogeyman idea that appointing a competent consumer advocate will immediately result in broadband price regulation:

“The main GOP concern about Sohn is the same one that bedeviled the final hours of this summer?s infrastructure bill negotiations: the prospect that Democrats may want to regulate the prices that broadband providers like Comcast charge customers. That possibility is one reason Republicans have spent years opposing net neutrality, which they worry would lead to the FCC assuming more regulatory power over broadband networks.”

But again, U.S. broadband price regulation never happens. Even under the most progressive FCC in a generation (Tom Wheeler, whom Sohn closely advised), meaningful price regulation was always kept off the table. The net neutrality rules were carefully crafted to avoid it. It’s simply a non-starter in DC. But it is useful as a GOP “slippery slope” argument bogeyman, providing useful cover for just blanket fealty to regional telecom monopolies. “We shouldn’t stand up to telecom monopolies in any way because it might result in broadband price caps!” The fear-mongering has proven effective for 25 straight years.

This knee-jerk opposition to anything that would upset Comcast, AT&T and Verizon is buried under the guise of other complaints too, like the GOP’s claim that Democrats are going to rush Sohn’s appointment:

“Republican senators largely said they can live with Rosenworcel ? but GOP leaders say they?re drawing the line at Sohn and her perceived regulatory bent. And they?re not on board with Democrats? push to rush the confirmations through.”

Politico’s fecklessness strikes again in that they just “forget” to mention that the GOP rushed through the appointment of largely unqualified Trump BFF Nathan Simington late last year in under 28 days, with the obvious goal of creating 2-2 partisan gridlock at the agency. At the telecom industry’s direct behest, Politico’s selective GOP brunch sources want to maintain this gridlock for as long as possible.

The GOP has been a mindless rubber stamp for regional telecom monopolies for literally decades. There is literally no terrible idea AT&T or Comcast has pushed they won’t support. That’s not an opinion. It’s not debatable. Yes, there are also corrupt Democratic senators on this front, but if you actually look at policy history on this subject, there’s no comparison. By and large Democratic policymakers have at least occasionally tried (sloppily and tepidly to be sure) to foster competition, protect consumers, and occasionally thwart broadband monopolization. Sometimes.

The GOP, in contrast, has been a full-throttle ride down a rabbit hole of mindlessly pandering to AT&T and Comcast at nearly every opportunity. For forty straight years. The party will simply deny that the U.S. broadband industry isn’t competitive. They’ll demolish every consumer protection effort. They’ll approve every competition and job-killing merger. This history speaks for itself, yet when a beltway brunch outlet like Politico covers why the GOP is opposing the appointment of a popular, consumer-focused regulator to the FCC, that entire history is just not mentioned out of fear of offending sources and advertisers.

Politico’s read on the room could be a bit skewed by its sources, as Sohn has historically been well respected as a straight shooter across both sides of the aisle. Democrats could push her through without the GOP, but they’ll again have to rely on the votes of Manchin and Sinema, the latter of which has actively thwarted efforts to restore net neutrality after being pressured by Comcast lobbyists.

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Comments on “Big Telecom Is Mad Because New FCC Appointment Gigi Sohn Actually Defends Broadband Consumers”

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16 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Er, that’s a bad application of the "both sides" fallacy… especially when it’s about an article that mentions the fact that the Republicans rushed through Simington (who was a bad choice) with the Democrats NOT immediately taking a hardline opposing stance.

The Republicans are the party of hard liners. The Democrats are the party of compromise. Which means the line continually moves to the right.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Coffee U (profile) says:

Re: Re: But but...

But it’s so much more fair for republicans (and both easy and profitable for the media) to play it off as a "both sides" issue. Side A wants the more people to be poor, and the poor to be slaves to the corporation. Side B would like an increase to minimum wage, and maybe the police should at least track the number of times that the randomly kill people for not respectang their authoratah.

Obviously both sides are just playing politics; who can say which would be better. /s

Hans says:

Re: Re: Re:

"The Republicans are the party of hard liners. The Democrats are the party of compromise. Which means the line continually moves to the right."

AC, it is your Democs which are hard liners with all of their mandates,
regulations and police use. They have politicized most of the federal government units and wish to enslave us to the parasitical vax firms.

You could work for CNN; MSNBC and all of the rest of the alphabets
networks.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

like the GOP’s claim that Democrats are going to rush Sohn’s appointment

Republicans don’t care about hypocrisy, but for everybody else, I’d just like to remind you that the last Republican nominee’s only qualification for the job was that he’d kissed Trump’s ass, and Senate Republicans rammed his nomination through on a party-line vote during the lame-duck session, entirely for the purpose of preventing Democrats from having a majority on the FCC, even though Biden had won the election.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s always so very telling how passionately they’ll be against something whether real or not right up until the second that act would benefit them, then suddenly it not only ceases to be bad it’s actively to be supported(right up until it would benefit the democrats anyway at which point it goes back to being evil incarnate).

ECA (profile) says:

Balance?

Balance and control?
Its funny that 1 side seems like they WANT to control things by taking away all the controls, but keep giving money to those corps that pay them off.
Then there is a side that wants regulations unless they are paid NOT to.
Vicious circle?
Its like 1 side wants to cut the tax laws.
The other wants to create tax laws with TONS of holes in it.
Is there Much of a difference.
Even the judges are confused for which side they are Supposed to be on. This side, that side or the Citizens side.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'How dare you try to solve our problems and act like us?!'

the prospect that Democrats may want to regulate the prices that broadband providers like Comcast charge customers.

One, that’s not going to happen and would never fly, but two, and much more importantly, if that was even on the table it might, just might, be due to the companies and system involved being so riddled with corruption that setting at least some upper limits on how badly customers can be gouged was the only short-term solution.

It’s like a serial-arsonist complaining that if a particular politician is elected they might jack up the taxes to support an expanded fire department and therefore they must be voted against; to the extent that it might happen it’s their fault.

And they’re not on board with Democrats’ push to rush the confirmations through."

Talk about hypocrisy thick enough to build a skyscraper on, all the more so because they did exactly that with this exact agency themselves not too long ago. Even if waiting several months before nominating replacements counted as ‘rushing a confirmation through’ republicans have absolutely zero grounds to object to that practice given how much they seem to be fond of it themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can’t possibly have an environment where people get reasonably priced and reasonable quality internet service anywhere in the country – let alone in rural areas, where many people are still stuck on antiquated copper DSL, or nothing at all. Even though these major companies gnashing at the teeth over this appointment have received hundreds of billions to provide something better than ADSL to their customers, and never delivered.

This country has certainly become quite the joke, hasn’t it?

Hans says:

The writer of this piece is a mindless, bias leftest. It appears this article was recently edited wherein, the author charged Newsmax and OAN with being political hacks for Trump and Conservatives, claiming these outlets were nothing but lying propaganda outlets for
Conservative causes.

AT&T and Comcast are in bed with Repubcos is again a complete distortion of the truth. Both of these firms are firmly incorporated with the radical Socshevik ideology. Mr Bode has avoid the real facts of Ms Sohn background and her firm commitment to leftest agendas.

Hear is why she is being opposed.

"Sohn has a well-documented history of antipathy towards Republicans and conservative media, tweeting that “Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy,” calling the station “state-sponsored propaganda,” and demanding a government “hearing” into its broadcasts. She also promoted a petition by left-wing advocacy organization Free Press urging the FCC to crack down on alleged misinformation surrounding COVID-19, citing specific examples from then-President Donald Trump and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh."

Moreover, she is funded by Soros, with one of his many NGOs and
Sohn was a staff member of the Ford Foundation. She will be fair to everyone except Conservatives.

Articles like this, is the reason I left Techdirt.

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