On Thursday, Anna Gomez was confirmed to the Federal Communications Commission. It took over 2.5 years and a 55-43 Senate vote, but it gives the Democratic Party a majority on the commission, typically referred to as the FCC, for the first time during Joe Biden’s presidency. Gomez also represents the first Latina commissioner in over 20 years, adding to the diversity already seen in Biden’s other nominations to federal offices.
The delay in getting a Democratic commissioner through the Senate was the result of Republican anti-consumer leanings, supported by millions of dollars in dark money spent attacking Biden’s previous nominee, longtime consumer advocate Gigi Sohn. Sohn withdrew her nomination in May—after 16 months, three confirmation hearings, and attack ads paid funded by the telecom industry. Biden nominated Gomez in June.
Gomez, a former telecom attorney, offers the promise of breaking up the 2-2 partisan gridlock on the commission. With a 3-2 Democratic majority, there is a very real chance for the Biden administration to undo some of the anti-consumerism realized by the FCC under Trump, chaired by telecom hack Ajit Pai.
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Hopefully, one of the FCC’s first orders of business will be to reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality consumer protections—protections that were rolled back during the Trump years. While Gomez’s background as a telecom attorney makes her a less exciting choice for progressives than consumer advocate Sohn was, any Democratic majority on the FCC should mean more aggressive oversight of the telecommunications industry, since there was next to none under Pai.
Unfortunately, Trump and the Republican-led Congress’s repeal of Obama-era FCC privacy protections for internet users cannot be undone by the FCC alone. Currently, big tech companies can continue to store consumers’ data without their consent. A Democratic-controlled Congress and executive branch will need to be in place before that can be remedied.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel gave this statement on Gomez’s confirmation:
Anna brings with her a wealth of telecommunications experience, a substantial record of public service, and a history of working to ensure the United States stays on the cutting edge of keeping us all connected. Her international expertise will be a real asset to the agency. I look forward to working with her to advance the agency’s mission to ensure the benefits of modern communications reach everyone, everywhere and that the United States can continue to lead in the digital age.
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Why does it seem like Republicans have such a hard time recruiting Senate candidates who actually live in the states they want to run in? We're discussing this strange but persistent phenomenon on this week's edition of "The Downballot." The latest example is former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who's been spending his time in Florida since leaving the House in 2015, but he's not the only one. Republican Senate hopefuls in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Wisconsin all have questionable ties to their home states—a problem that Democrats have gleefully exploited in recent years. (Remember Dr. Oz? Of course you do.)