Biden administration nominates telecom attorney Anna Gomez to fill FCC vacancy
Gomez joins the nomination roster following Gigi Sohn’s industry fallout in April.
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President Joe Biden announced on Monday that he would nominate Anna Gomez, a recognized telecommunications attorney, to fill a key vacancy within a politically gridlocked Federal Communications Commission.
Biden’s move to fill the vacancy makes the FCC Commissioner Board whole. The FCC currently operates under four commissioners in a five-chair board.
“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,” said Chris Lewis, President and CEO at Public Knowledge in a statement.
Public Knowledge is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization lobbying Congress for affordable broadband and internet services.
The organization lauded Gomez’s nomination as a win for broadband authority and oversight over issues such as net neutrality, universal service, affordable broadband access, and “broader public interest protections.”
“Anna Gomez has deep, demonstrated experience working for the public on telecommunications and technology issues,” said Public Knowledge in a statement.
Before being tapped by the president, Gomez served in a constellation of policy and communications roles, most recently as Senior Adviser for the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy in the Department of State.
Spending decades in the telecommunications sector, Gomez served as Deputy Administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in addition to holding multiple positions in the FCC.
She was Deputy Chief of the International Bureau and was Senior Legal Advisor to former FCC Chairman William Kennard.
“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, which is critical to help the FCC move forward with its agenda of ensuring all people have access to communications services,” said Lewis in a statement delivered Monday.
Lewis said Gomez’s “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.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, currently the largest bipartisan host of Latinos in Congress, had urged the administration to tap a Latino in March. No Latino has served on the commission in over two decades.
“In today’s digital era, the Internet is necessary for work, education, and more. Yet, the digital divide continues to affect the Latino community at disproportionately higher rates – with 40 percent of Latino households lacking access to a computer or broadband internet,” a statement released by CHC read.
CHC lauded the administration’s efforts to expand service affordability through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, one of Biden’s legislative hallmarks, “but it is not enough, and we need an FCC Commissioner that is committed to implementing even greater change. Latinos need a seat at the table.”
CHC has not released a statement related to Gomez’s nomination.
Gomez’s nomination comes after the fallout of Gigi Sohn, the former nominee who drew immense industry backlash that resulted in a 16-month halt to her nomination.
Eventually, Sohn withdrew her name from consideration, citing “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” in the media, which Sohn alleges were seeded by the industry, the Washington Post first reported.
Gomez may have smoother nomination proceedings. Her name was floated in Congress by Comcast lobbyists assisting the industry giant with the nomination process on Capitol Hill, a stark contrast to Sohn, who for months fielded steep criticism over her political views and other personal issues.
Aside from the attention Sohn absorbed, advocates hope that Gomez’s nomination will “help shed more light on her specific views on the issues and we look forward to learning more about those and how she would approach her role as a Commissioner,” said Lewis.
The last time Congress took up the issue of internet access in public view was under former President Barack Obama, a proponent of “free and open internet,” a concept widely known as net neutrality.
Under Obama, the FCC held companies, Verizon and Comcast for example, to account by enforcing consumer regulations that called for equitable access to broadband for all users, and not to the highest bidder.
In 2017, the FCC — under former president Donald Trump — scraped those regulations and left a broadband open field for giants, industry experts argue.