February 7, 2022
The Honorable Maria Cantwell
Chairperson, Committee On Commerce, Science & Transportation United States Senate
The Honorable Roger Wicker
Ranking Member, Committee On Commerce, Science & Transportation United States Senate
Re: Nomination Of Gigi Sohn To The Federal Communications Commission
I write in strong support of the nomination of Gigi Sohn to serve on the Federal Communications Commission. I respectfully request that this letter be entered into the record of the Commerce Committee’s February 9 hearing.
Presently retired, I held senior executive and advocacy positions at Disney/ABC and Newscorp/Murdoch. I have testified before the Commerce Committee many times (on one memorable occasion then Chairman McCain sent me crawling out of the room with my tail between my legs). Ranking Member Wicker’s request for this hearing and Chairperson Cantwell’s agreement with that request both are consistent with the long history of admirable bi-partisan comity on the committee.
Many of my friends who represent established companies and their trade associations are trying to throw sand in the gears of Ms. Sohn’s confirmation. These are good and honorable people just doing their job as I did for decades. But the question before the Committee is not whether established industry companies agree with Ms. Sohn’s views. The question is whether she is qualified. The answer to that is an unequivocal “yes”.
Ms. Sohn is one of the most prepared and experienced nominees in the history of the FCC. I have worked with, and against, her for more than 30 years. She knows the issues in front of the FCC better than almost anyone I know. Ms. Sohn has been a particularly effective advocate for competition and new market entrants. Even those sending unhelpful comments to the Committee acknowledge her expertise. For example, in his letter to the Committee my friend Michael Powell, CEO of NCTA, said, “She is a respected and accomplished public interest advocate”.
I would like to mention two specific issues that have been raised regarding Ms. Sohn’s nomination – Net Neutrality and Locast.
Personally, I oppose Net Neutrality. I think the absence of any harm since the rules were repealed demonstrates that those rules were not necessary. But a Democrat FCC majority is almost certain to reimpose those rules regardless of the name of the third Democrat Commissioner. Therefore, the issue of Net Neutrality is not relevant to Ms. Sohn’s confirmation. The real answer to Net Neutrality is for this Committee to lead the Congress in finding a compromise statutory solution that will end the “ping-pong” between Democrat and Republication FCC’s. But that is a longer conversation for another day.
Regarding Locast, I am a copyright hardliner who agrees with the plaintiffs in the Locast case. But these are legitimate questions of copyright law about which reasonable people can, and do, disagree. Locast was the first company to test the nonprofit exemption to copyright law. A few years ago, highly respected entertainment and Internet entrepreneur Barry Diller backed a company called Aereo that launched a for- profit business nearly identical to Locast that also tested the bounds of the law. The resulting copyright litigation went all the way to the Supreme Court. My point simply is that being associated with Locast no more disqualifies Ms. Sohn from being confirmed for the FCC than being associated with Aereo would disqualify Mr. Diller.
I do not have a vested commercial interest in this confirmation. I am someone who has battled Ms. Sohn at times and worked with her at other times. Hers is an important voice that belongs at the FCC. I hope the Committee finds a way to produce an overwhelming bi-partisan vote for her confirmation.
Very truly yours,
Preston Padden 202-329-4750
CC: All Members Of The Committee