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Radio News: Biden praises his tech enemies and slow walks his own nominee

May 11, 2022 11:33 pm

Ars Technica reports that President Joe Biden heaped praise this week on the opponents of his nominee for the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn. Technology policy, though, is not Biden's priority right now, as raging inflation and Russia's invasion of Ukraine are taking up much of the president's time. Biden announced that Comcast, Charter Spectrum, AT&T, Verizon, and 16 other ISPs, "committed to offer all Affordable Connectivity Program-eligible families at least one high-speed plan [with download speeds of at least 100Mbps] for $30/month or less, with no additional fees and no data caps." the White House said, crowing about a policy to help consumers through inflation. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides eligible households with discounts of $30 a month, so many consumers will get free plans. "You're really changing people's lives. You really are," the president said to the big broadband providers. Instead of short-term announcements such as this, Biden could be passing long term solutions at the FCC if Sohn was confirmed to give Democrats a majority of the FCC commissioners. "Some of the Internet service providers appearing at this White House event are sabotaging President Biden's FCC even as they pose for today's photo op," Free Press VP of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said yesterday. "These voluntary commitments form a strange juxtaposition to the aggressive delay efforts orchestrated by the very same broadband providers, wireless carriers, and broadcasters the FCC regulates to stall the confirmation of Gigi Sohn, a strong consumer champion, to the agency," Public Knowledge said. Biden waited almost a year to even nominate Sohn, on October 26, 2021. The Senate Commerce Committee sent the nomination to the full Senate on March 3, but Democratic leaders have not brought the nomination to a vote. "The Biden administration took a painfully long time to nominate the most obvious candidate for the position—Gigi Sohn—and has done precious little to have her confirmed in a reasonable time frame. Though it would be easy to blame Republican opposition, the truth is that it simply does not appear to be a priority for the administration," said Community Broadband Networks Program Director Christopher Mitchell. Ars Technica also reports that Biden, in March 2021, promised to prioritize municipally owned networks, nonprofits, and co-operatives in a $100 billion broadband plan. Congress eventually only voted for $65 billion, and did not give municipal networks priority.