US Senate panel to vote on key Biden telecom board nominee


By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee plans to vote next week on President Joe Biden’s nominee for a key fifth seat on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Democrats have been stymied since 2021 from gaining a majority on the five-member telecommunications regulator.

Anna 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. The committee plans to vote July 12 on Gomez as well nominations for new terms for two current commissioners Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks.

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. Sohn faced strong Republican opposition and saw her unsuccessful nomination await a vote for more than 16 months.

The FCC in April voted to propose new rules to periodically reassess existing authorizations for foreign-owned companies to provide telecommunications services in the United States.

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.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)

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