By Mike Oliverio
For years, we have heard about the need for expanded broadband access in this state. It is one of the key pieces in the push for economic growth and prosperity. In a 21st century economy, it is almost impossible to attract new businesses to a community if it does not have adequate internet access.
That is why both Senator Capito and Senator Manchin have made enhanced broadband connectivity a priority for West Virginia. They have helped secure billions of dollars for broadband expansion in rural, unserved and underserved areas like the Mountain State.
We must keep a close eye on agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, which will oversee some of these programs, to make sure nothing holds up the allocation of these funds. And that is one of the reasons why I am so concerned with the Biden Administration’s latest nominee for the FCC. The Federal Communication Commission presently has two Democratic and two Republican commissioners. If approved by the United States Senate, Biden’s nominee will be the deciding vote on many issues.
President Biden has nominated Gigi Sohn to serve on the commission, and Ms. Sohn’s radical left-wing viewpoints could endanger all the work that our leaders in Washington, D.C. have undertaken to expand broadband in rural communities.
Ms. Sohn has been critical of broadband expansion projects in rural, underserved areas. She has attacked rural broadband providers for “sucking at the government teat to the tune of tens of billions of dollars” and said taxpayers get “not much” in return from federal investments in rural broadband. In 2020, she went as far as to say that federal agencies were “focused disproportionately on brodband deployment in rural areas” and should focus instead on broadband needs in urban centers.
Do West Virginians not deserve to have access to reliable high-speed internet? Why would anyone prioritize funding for cities where residents already have a robust broadband infrastructure and multiple provider options? It is troubling to hear someone who would be tasked with shaping broadband policy make a statement of this nature.
Ms. Sohn has other issues that should cause eyebrows to raise throughout the nation. She has gone on record calling Fox News state-sponsored propaganda and questioning whether Sinclair Broadcasting should have their broadcast licenses revoked.
No matter what your political stance is, you should worry about statements like this coming from a nominee for the FCC. This is nothing less than a threat for state censorship. And someone with this viewpoint has no place on the FCC or any other federal board.
Ms. Sohn’s credibility issues do not end there. She was also a member of the board of an illegal streaming service called Locast. Locast was sued for rebroadcasting TV content without consent or compensation. The courts ruled in the broadcasters’ favor and shut Locast down.
Sohn, as a board member, has stated that she will recuse herself at the FCC from cases dealing with retransmission consent and broadcast copyright. However, broadcast retransmission rules are an important FCC responsibility, and it makes no sense to confirm a nominee who won’t even be eligible to vote on issues that could end up stuck in a 2-2 deadlock as a result.
President Biden has shown again that he does not truly understand middle America by nominating an individual who has made statements attacking federal broadband expansion programs in rural states. He has also shown that he is not ready to work to mend the divisions in this nation by putting forth the name of an individual who has shown herself to be so partisan. She is the wrong person for this position, and I hope that our United States Senators will oppose her nomination.
— Mike Oliverio represented the 13th District in the West Virginia Senate was also a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates representing the 44th District. He previously served as a captain in the United States Army.