Eager to end more than two years of deadlock at the Federal Communications Commission, digital rights advocates on Monday expressed relief at U.S. President Joe Biden nomination of former FCC legal adviser Anna Gomez and called on the U.S. Senate to confirm her appointment as quickly as possible.
"Finally!" tweeted media and technology advocacy group Free Press when the nomination was announced. "The agency has been deadlocked since January 2021 and this delay has harmed millions of people."
Gomez currently serves as a senior adviser for international information and communications policy at the State Department and worked for more than a decade at the FCC as a senior legal adviser to then-Chairman William Kennard.
She also worked in leadership roles at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, whose work addresses broadband and internet policy.
The American Prospect's David Dayen noted that he recently wrote about Gomez's career, detailing her work within the telecom industry—which the FCC regulates—as well as her work in government.
"Gomez has plenty in her background to interest industry," wrote Dayen. "She was the vice president of government affairs (a nice term for lobbyist) at Sprint Nextel. She was an associate early in her career at corporate law firm Arnold & Porter, and more recently she spent several years as a partner at Wiley Rein, the biggest and most influential law firm that represents clients at the FCC."
Communications on unmanned aerial systems, or drones, were a large focus of her work at Wiley Rein, Dayen reported.
Gomez's nomination comes two months after longtime public advocate Gigi Sohnwithdrew her nomination, which had been championed by progressives, after months of attacks by the telecom lobby.
More than 60 digital rights groups wrote to Biden after Sohn's withdrawal, calling for another nominee who would fight forcefully at the commission for net neutrality rules, the rights of low-income and rural communities, and privacy rights.
"We're now approaching two-and-a-half years without a fully functional Federal Communications Commission. Never before has the American public had to wait so long for a commissioner's seat to be filled," Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of Free Press, which signed the letter, said on Monday after Gomez's nomination was announced. "In addition to her corporate experience—which has often entailed working for competitive carriers instead of incumbents—Gomez has a long track record of public service, including high-ranking positions at the FCC and Commerce Department. She is eminently qualified for this role at the FCC."
Dayen noted that some of Gomez's positions on communications issues have not been publicized, including her views on congressional rules that punish internet service providers (ISPs) for underinvestment in low-income communities and on net neutrality rules, which prevent ISPs from creating internet "fast lanes" for companies that can pay for them and throttling other content by slowing down speeds.
"We expect Gomez to help restore the proper legal framework for broadband and the net neutrality protections that the FCC repealed during the Trump administration," said Gonzalez. "In poll after poll, people in the United States of all political stripes say they want enforceable rules for an open internet. We're confident that Gomez will give weight to this overwhelming public support and be responsive to public input on the full range of issues before the agency."
The 2-2 deadlock at the FCC has made it impossible for the commission to stop ISPs from "digitally redlining" low-income communities with slower service for the same rates as wealthier customers, as Common Cause said last October, and to restore net neutrality rules.
"The FCC has a mandate to increase the diversity of local-media ownership and to ensure broadband access is affordable, open and reliable for all," said Gonzalez. "We need all five FCC commissioners as soon as possible to fully move this work forward."
"Any further delay means big companies will have an easier time engaging in unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory actions, because they know this vital watchdog agency isn't operating with the majority it needs," she added. "If these leaders want to improve the lives of internet users, cellphone customers, TV watchers, and radio listeners—meaning everyone—they need to speed up confirmation before the clock runs out at the FCC."