President Joe Biden nominated Georgetown University Law Center fellow Gigi Sohn to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who if confirmed would be the first openly LGBTQ commissioner.
Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law’s Institute of Technology Law & Policy, where she has focused her work on public interest advocacy for an open internet and telecommunications network. Sohn’s nomination was announced Oct. 26.
In addition to her role at Georgetown Law, Sohn serves as a senior fellow and public advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, a nonprofit that advocates for open and affordable broadband internet. Sohn also served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016, where she was closely involved with the Commission’s policies on net neutrality and broadband privacy.
If confirmed, Sohn will focus on ensuring the programs under the FCC’s regulatory authority help the individuals they intend to service, according to Adrianne Furniss, executive director of the Benton Institute.
“Gigi’s service as a member of the Federal Communications Commission will make sure that the programs that fall under the FCC’s purview work for those who are intended to benefit from them; and that any future communications policy is enacted in the public’s interest,” Furniss wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The FCC, which comprises five members nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, oversees and regulates communications and technological innovation. The Commission has only had four members since Jan. 20, after former Chairman Ajit Pai stepped down, leaving two members appointed by the Obama Administration and two by the Trump Administration. Since Pai’s departure, Democrats have called on Biden to appoint a fifth member to break political deadlock in the Commission.
At Georgetown, Sohn contributed to the academic community in numerous ways and has continued to advocate for accessible communication, according to Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor.
“Gigi has been a true thought leader in these areas for decades as one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable and democratic communications networks,” Treanor wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Rapid advances in technology are continually raising new ethical, social, and legal challenges, and our society faces a critical need for experts across fields who are prepared to address these issues.”
Once Sohn is officially nominated to the Commission, the Senate Committee for Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold confirmation hearings and a vote to confirm her.
Sohn declined The Hoya’s request for comment due to her upcoming Senate confirmation hearing.
Prior to joining Georgetown Law, Sohn founded Public Knowledge in 2001, a public interest group that advocates for freedom of expression, open internet and access to affordable communications tools. Sohn left Public Knowledge in 2013.
Sohn’s career has demonstrated a full commitment to advocacy and collaboration, according to Jenna Leventoff, a senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge.
“During her time at Public Knowledge, and in fact her whole career, Gigi Sohn has engaged in nuanced policy analysis, passionate advocacy, and pragmatic coalition building,” Leventoff wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We expect Gigi to bring this same passion and experience to her role as an FCC Commissioner.”
Sohn’s nomination comes after Biden issued an executive order in July calling on the FCC to restore Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which would require internet providers to treat all internet services equally to promote free competition.
As an FCC Commissioner, Sohn will have the ability to develop and implement net neutrality policy, as well as other programs under federal communications policy, which are central aspects to modern democracy, according to Furniss.
“Communication policy — rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity — has the power to deliver new opportunities, strengthen communities, and ensure a thriving democracy,” Furniss wrote in an email to the Hoya. “Open, diverse, and affordable communications networks are essential to full participation in our society, our economy, our culture, and our democracy.”
Sohn is not the first Georgetown Law professor to be nominated for a position by the Biden Administration. Georgetown Law professor Alvaro Bedoya was appointed to the FCC on Sept. 13 and McCourt School of Public Policy professor Adriana Kugler was nominated to be the U.S. executive director at the World Bank on Aug. 4. Bedoya and Kugler are both still awaiting Senate confirmation.
If confirmed, Sohn will use her position to create positive change and communication policy for the country, according to Treanor.
“Gigi is a leading voice on promoting accessible, affordable communications networks that are available to all Americans,” Treanor wrote. “While we will miss having her on our campus, I know that in this new role, consumers across the country will benefit from her expertise.”