(Chuck Muth) – No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself on, no one really likes the current “cancel culture” – the practice of silencing dissenting voices and punishing anyone who challenges conventional wisdom.
In the midst of all this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – currently split between two Democrats and two Republicans – is, surprisingly, operating efficiently and unanimously; passing items that will bring Internet access options to large complexes, blocking Chinese devices, expanding rural Internet options and ushering in 5G.
Sadly, this era of cooperation and collegiality on the FCC will come to a screeching halt if Gigi Sohn, a hyper-partisan Democrat activist, is confirmed to be the fifth commissioner on the board.
Sohn has suggested that Republican senators are a threat to the country, and credits center-right news outlets with “destroying democracy” and “electing autocrats.”
She’s also 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 and could use her FCC authority over license renewals to silence voices.
Nevadans should beware of Sohn. Her policies will upend civil discourse, hurt broadcasters and inhibit Internet access in Nevada.
Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) supports Sohn’s nomination to the FCC, saying in a statement:
“Ms. Sohn and I had a productive one-on-one conversation in my office about her nomination to serve on the FCC. Given the commitments she has made to me addressing the concerns of stakeholders in Nevada, I will support Ms. Sohn’s nomination in the Commerce Committee.”
However, Rosen and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) do not have to vote to confirm her on the floor, and they shouldn’t.
While promises to visit local broadcasters and discuss their priorities are important for any FCC Commissioner to make, Sohn’s recusal agreement does not help local broadcasters.
She is recused from a number of proceedings that would affect broadcasters, and her known positions against intellectual property could actually harm the availability and quality of local news content.
In fact, Sohn actually spearheaded an FCC proceeding that would have enabled tech platforms to effectively steal and monetize television content without paying for usage rights.
Broadcasters have been struggling to compete with internet platform companies for years. But the outdated FCC rules governing ownership and sales agreements prevent broadcasters from being able to compete on their greatest asset – local news.
Sohn is part of the backwards mindset that the FCC has been unable to break which prevents local news outlets from competing against Internet platforms.
While Sohn is not recused from dealing with matters affecting Internet access, the mere existence of a recusal agreement could drag any FCC ruling into court over questions about how extensive the recusal agreement should be.
Nevadans should be even more concerned about her statements disregarding the importance of closing the digital divide in rural areas. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Sohn declared…
“(P)olicymakers have focused disproportionately on broadband deployment in rural areas of the United States. Americans who live in cities also face enormous challenges to broadband connectivity. Indeed, noted broadband adoption researcher John Horrigan found that the country’s broadband adoption problem is three times higher in urban areas than rural.”
She seems to miss the difference between deployment and adoption.
Lack of deployment means individuals have no choice in Internet service providers or no access to adequate speeds; while adoption means, Internet is available but people, for various reasons, have chosen not to subscribe.
This lays bare Sohn’s preferences to beef up subsidy programs and build government networks in areas that already have Internet access rather than ensure every Nevadan has Internet access.
Senators Rosen and Cortez Masto should stand strong against Sohn’s nomination to the FCC. She will not elevate civil discourse, help broadcasters, or increase Internet access in Nevada. We can, and should, do better.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-partisan grassroots advocacy organization