Described by the White House as a leading public advocate for open, affordable and democratic communications networks, Gigi B. Sohn, 59, this morning advanced in the prospect of becoming an FCC commissioner when the White House said President Joe Biden intends to nominate her for an open seat on the commission. If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Sohn would be the first openly LGBTIQ+ commissioner in the history of the FCC, the White House said.
“For over 30 years, Gigi has worked to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open and protective of user privacy,” a White House statement reads.
A profile of Sohn written by Brendan Bordelon of the National Journal reads that Sohn had been disappointed when a Republican-led FCC during the Trump administration undid steps taken by the Democratic-led FCC during the Obama administration.
“It is a major bummer to see everything you worked on get unraveled,” Bordelon quoted Sohn in lamenting the rollback of the previous administration’s net-neutrality and broadband-privacy rules. Bordelon wrote at the time that if Democrats were to elect a president in 2020, Sohn said she hoped to be back behind a government desk.
“As much as I love being a public-interest advocate, the best job I ever had was at the FCC,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity for me to return, I’ll be there. Absolutely.”
Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy appointed Sohn as a Distinguished Fellow on May 16, 2017. The institute’s executive director, Alexandra Givens, said at the time, “Gigi is a leading voice on promoting accessible, affordable communications networks that are available to all Americans.” Also at the time, Paul Ohm, a professor of law at Georgetown and one of the institute’s faculty directors, said, “Gigi is a giant in our field who has been fighting for the public interest in telecommunications and technology policy for decades.”
Prior to joining Georgetown Law, the institute said, Sohn spent three years as counselor to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. In that role, she advised the chairman on a wide range of internet, telecommunications and media issues, representing Wheeler and the FCC in a variety of public forums around the country and serving as the primary liaison between the chairman’s office and outside stakeholders, the institute said.
“Before joining the FCC, Sohn was the cofounder and CEO of Public Knowledge, a leading communications policy advocacy organization,” Georgetown Law said. “She was previously a project specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture unit and executive director of the Media Access Project, the first public interest law firm in the communications space.”
Referring to Sohn’s extensive experience at the FCC and in the telecommunications field, Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Industry Association and himself a former FCC commissioner, said that Sohn’s deep commitment to the public interest would serve consumers well. WIA represents businesses that build, develop, own and operate wireless infrastructure.
David Stehlin, CEO of a membership organization that represents that enable high-speed communications networks and accelerate next-generation ICT innovation, the Telecommunications Industry Association, said that Sohn has decades of experience and described her as a tireless consumer advocate.
Speaking for an association of independent, community-based telecommunications companies, Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, said, “Throughout her career, whether in senior staff positions at the FCC or working on telecom policy in a variety of other ways, Gigi has consistently looked to level the playing field and get everyone, regardless of the obstacle before them, connected to better and more affordable broadband.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.