Biden telecom board nominee says industry out to block her from position

Gigi Sohn FCC nomination hearing, in Washington
Gigi Sohn looks on during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing, examining her nomination to be appointed Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., February 9, 2022. Pete Marovich/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's pick for a key fifth seat on the Federal Communications Commission will tell lawmakers industry opponents have sought to scuttle her nomination to prevent more lower-priced broadband service.

Gigi Sohn, who was nominated in October 2021, will have her third hearing for the job before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

"I believe deeply that regulated entities should not choose their regulator. Unfortunately, that is the exact intent of the past 15 months of false and misleading attacks on my record and my character," Sohn said in written testimony she planned to deliver, seen by Reuters.

Sohn formerly served as a senior official advising FCC Chair Tom Wheeler under President Barack Obama.

Sohn said in her testimony she has faced "15 months of false and misleading attacks on my record and my character. My industry opponents have hidden behind dark money groups and surrogates because they fear a pragmatic, pro-competition, pro-consumer policymaker who will support policies that will bring more, faster, and lower-priced broadband."

Democrats since January 2021 have been unable to command a majority of the five-member FCC, stalling the party's efforts to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules revoked under Republican former President Donald Trump. Sohn had prior hearings in 2021 and 2022.

Her written remarks said she will seek to answer the question, "Why am I still President Biden’s nominee for the 5th seat on the FCC?"

In July 2021, Biden signed an executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate the open internet net neutrality rules.

Republicans have questioned Sohn's role as a board member of a nonprofit that operated a transmission service called Locast. It was ordered shut down after four broadcast networks filed a copyright infringement lawsuit.

If confirmed, Sohn has voluntarily agreed to recuse herself on some matters involving retransmission consent and TV broadcast copyright.

Senate Democrats have said some companies and critics wanted to prevent the FCC from acting on key issues. "The work of the Commission - from net neutrality to closing the digital divide - is too important for this nomination to be delayed any further," said Senator Ed Markey.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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