Biden picks new FCC nominee to fill seat that's been empty for over two years

Biden picks new FCC nominee to fill seat that's been empty for over two years
May 2023

President Biden today announced his new choice to fill the empty seat on the Federal Communications Commission, which has been deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans for his entire presidency.

Biden nominated Democrat Anna Gomez, who has worked in both government and the telecom industry. Gomez has been at the US State Department since January 2023 as senior adviser for International Information and Communications Policy and was a deputy assistant secretary at the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from 2009 to 2023.

A lawyer, Gomez was also vice president of government affairs at Sprint Nextel from 2006 to 2009. Before working for Sprint, she spent about 12 years in several roles at the FCC, including deputy chief of the International Bureau and senior legal adviser to then-Chairman William Kennard.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel congratulated Gomez on the nomination, saying that she has "a wealth of telecommunications experience, a substantial record of public service, and a history of working to ensure the US stays on the cutting edge of keeping us all connected."

Gomez is "eminently qualified for this role at the FCC" and "has a long track record of public service, including high-ranking positions at the FCC and Commerce Department," media advocacy group Free Press co-CEO Jessica Gonzalez said. Gonzalez also said the delay of nearly two and a half years in seating a fifth commissioner "is harming millions of people, including working families trying to pay their rising monthly bills and Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and rural communities that the biggest telecom companies and broadcast conglomerates have long neglected."

Senate rebuffed Biden's first pick

Biden hopes Gomez will be more palatable to the Senate than his previous pick, Gigi Sohn, who has spent nearly her entire career as a consumer advocate. Sohn was nominated in October 2021 and withdrew in March 2023 after three contentious nomination hearings.

Sohn faced widespread opposition from Republicans, and Democrats didn't set up a floor vote on her nomination despite having a 51-49 Senate advantage. In her withdrawal announcement, Sohn called it "a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators."

"When I accepted his nomination over sixteen months ago, I could not have imagined that legions of cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups with bottomless pockets would distort my over 30-year history as a consumer advocate into an absurd caricature of blatant lies," Sohn said at the time.

Sohn is continuing as an advocate as the newly hired executive director of the American Association for Public Broadband, a nonprofit formed by state and local officials to fight restrictions imposed on localities' ability to build municipal broadband networks.

Comcast, which apparently lobbied behind the scenes against Sohn's nomination, issued a statement supporting Gomez today. "Anna Gomez's deep knowledge across the breadth of issues before the FCC makes her exceptionally qualified to be a Commissioner," Comcast Chief Legal Officer Tom Reid said. "In addition to her prior service at the FCC, she also has extensive experience in both the executive and legislative branches of government--from NTIA and the Senate, and most recently leading the US delegation to the ITU World radio conference. From the digital broadcast transition to spectrum issues, Ms. Gomez has expertise across the board."

Gomez praised for serving public interest

Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group that Sohn co-founded, was disappointed in the Senate's failure to vote on Sohn but welcomed Biden's new choice today.

"Anna Gomez has deep, demonstrated experience working for the public on telecommunications and technology issues," Public Knowledge CEO Chris Lewis said. "Her decades of experience in the telecommunications sector, most of those spent serving the public interest, will allow Ms. Gomez to get right to work at the FCC... Her work for the FCC and the NTIA will be beneficial as the administration and Congress increasingly look towards these two agencies to coordinate efforts to close the digital divide."

Lewis criticized elected officials for the long delay in filling the empty FCC spot. "For far too long, the Biden administration and Senate leaders have left us without a full, five-person FCC while important issues are in front of the agency," he said.

Biden today also re-nominated two current FCC commissioners, Democrat Geoffrey Starks and Republican Brendan Carr.