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Biden nominates telecom attorney Anna Gomez to FCC after more than two years of deadlock

President Joe Biden nominated telecom attorney Anna Gomez to the Federal Communications Commission, his second attempt to fill an empty seat on the typically five-member panel that has left the agency in a 2-2 deadlock for his entire presidency thus far.

The nomination comes a couple of months after Biden’s previous nominee, Gigi Sohn, withdrew herself from consideration, following a years-long fight for confirmation. Though she was first nominated in October 2021, she faced criticism from Republicans and some senators from her own Democratic party.

The Senate Commerce Committee held multiple hearings with Sohn in an effort to assuage concerns, but it remained unclear if she would have enough support to be confirmed.

The 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans on the FCC has meant that only actions that could gain the support of at least one Republican commissioner have been able to move forward. That’s left more contentious issues like net neutrality off the table, despite the Biden administration’s hope to restore the rules that would prohibit internet service providers from blocking or favoring certain content.

In July 2021, Biden issued an executive order that encouraged the FCC to restore net neutrality rules, which took hold while he was vice president in the Obama administration but were repealed under the Trump administration’s FCC chair.

Gomez is a senior advisor for international information and communications policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, according to the White House. She previously served as deputy administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Department of Commerce that administers broadband funding and advises the president on telecom and information policy issues.

Gomez has previously worked for the FCC in several positions over 12 years, the White House said. She’s also worked in the private sector, including as a partner at the law firm Wiley Rein prior to joining the State Department in 2023. Earlier in her career, she served as vice president for federal and state government affairs for Sprint Nextel.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that Gomez “brings with her a wealth of telecommunications experience, a substantial record of public service, and a history of working to ensure the U.S. stays on the cutting edge of keeping us all connected.”

Gomez’s nomination also received praise from the telecom industry.

Tom Reid, chief legal officer of Comcast, which owns CNBC parent company NBCUniversal, said in a statement that Gomez’s “deep knowledge across the breadth of issues before the FCC makes her exceptionally qualified to be a Commissioner.”

Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, a trade group that represents broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon, congratulated Gomez in a statement.

“I have come to know Anna over the years in her roles as an advocate in the public and private sectors, and if confirmed, I look forward to working with her and a full five-member FCC on our shared objective to connect everyone everywhere to the power and promise of broadband,” Spalter said.

Free Press, a nonprofit advocacy group that supports net neutrality, said Gomez’s nomination was long overdue.

“We’re now approaching two-and-a-half years without a fully functional Federal Communications Commission,” Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said in a statement. “Never before has the American public had to wait so long for a commissioner’s seat to be filled. This senseless delay is harming millions of people, including working families trying to pay their rising monthly bills and Black, Indigenous, Latinx and rural communities that the biggest telecom companies and broadcast conglomerates have long neglected.”

González called Gomez “eminently qualified” for the role and praised the nomination of a Latinx candidate to the position.

“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,” González said.

Biden also re-nominated two existing commissioners to the panel: Democrat Geoffrey Starks and Republican Brendan Carr. The agency cannot have more than three commissioners from one party at a given time.

A Senate vote is required to confirm the nominees.

Disclosure: Comcast owns CNBC parent company NBCUniversal.

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