The Divide: Gigi Sohn on the FCC, dark money in politics and why public broadband matters

This episode features Gigi Sohn: a longtime advocate for broadband access, including in her role as an advisor to former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler during the Obama administration, as well as in her current capacity as senior fellow and public advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society and now in her newly accepted role of executive director at the American Association for Public Broadband (AAPB).

Sohn was nominated for FCC Commissioner by President Biden in October 2021 but withdrew from the nomination process earlier this year, following three Senate hearings and a significant lobbying effort against her nomination.

We discuss what she thinks that process says about dark money in politics and the industry at large. We also discuss what her most urgent goals would have been as FCC Commissioner, the state of the FCC's broadband map as it relates to the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, her concerns about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) running dry, how she hopes to reframe the public broadband debate and much more.

Here are a few topics covered in this episode:

  • Her thoughts on her FCC nomination process and dark money in politics (01:50)
  • What her top priorities would have been as FCC Commissioner (06:26)
  • The urgent need to fund ACP and reform the Universal Service Fund (16:00)
  • How to resolve the fact that some states are going to get "hosed" by the FCC's broadband map when BEAD funds are dispersed (22:00)
  • Why local perspectives and provider penalties are key to BEAD's success (25:32)
  • Why she wants to "reset the parameters of the debate" on public broadband (30:00)

For a lightly edited conversation transcript, click the caption button in the video player above.

Related stories and links:

Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "​​The Divide" on the Light Reading Podcast.

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