President Joe Biden on Monday said he plans to nominate attorney Anna Gomez for a key fifth seat on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after Democrats had been stymied since 2021 from gaining a majority on the five-member telecommunications regulator.
Gomez, a Democratic telecommunications attorney, currently serves as a senior adviser for the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, leading U.S. preparations for the 2023 World Radio Conference.
Biden said in a statement that he also plans to renominate for new five-year terms Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks and Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr. Reuters reported the planned nominations earlier. Without Senate action, Starks would need to leave in January and Carr in January 2025.
Since January 2021, the FCC has been deadlocked 2-2, stalling Democrats’ efforts to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules revoked under Republican then-President Donald Trump. The open internet laws seek to bar internet service providers from blocking or slowing traffic or offering paid “fast lanes.”
In July 2021, Biden signed an executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate net neutrality rules adopted under Democratic then- President Barack Obama in 2015.
Biden’s first nominee for the open seat, former FCC official Gigi Sohn, withdrew in March after three hearings. She blamed industry opponents for scuttling her nomination.
Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate. Gomez may have an easier time getting confirmed than Sohn, who faced strong Republican opposition and saw her unsuccessful nomination await a vote for more than 16 months.
Gomez quickly won support from major telecom companies on Monday. Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) said “Gomez’s deep knowledge across the breadth of issues before the FCC makes her exceptionally qualified to be a commissioner.”
Gomez previously served as deputy administrator of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration from 2009 to 2013 and worked for 12 years in various positions at the FCC. She also was a government affairs executive at then-Sprint Nextel and a partner at Wiley Rein LLP, a Washington law firm, heading its media and technology group.
One big issue at the FCC remains China.
The FCC has raised mounting concerns about Chinese telecom companies which had won permission to operate in the United States decades ago. In 2019, the FCC voted to deny state-owned Chinese telecom firm China Mobile Ltd. the right to provide U.S. services and later withdrew U.S. authorizations for several other Chinese telecom carriers, including China Telecom Corp