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Heitkamp voices opposition to Biden nominee for FCC who remains in limbo

Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, said Gigi Sohn's criticism of expanded broadband access in rural areas is "far less than what rural Americans need or deserve."

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Gigi Sohn testifies in December 2021 before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt / YouTube
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MANDAN, N.D. — Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden's nominee to fill a seat on the Federal Communications Commission, has yet to have a confirmation vote, and some government watchers say her chances of being confirmed will be hurt if a vote does not happen before Congress takes its summer recess in August.

Those who have spoken out against Sohn's nomination include Heidi Heitkamp, former Democratic Senator from North Dakota and founder of an organization called the One Country Project, which describes itself as being dedicated to promoting greater opportunities for rural communities.

Heitkamp's opposition to Sohn is based largely on things the nominee has said about broadband and its deployment in rural areas of the country.

In particular, Heitkamp and One Country Project have pointed to Sohn's testimony before the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, during which Sohn stated, "Policymakers have focused disproportionately on broadband deployment in rural areas of the United States."

Sohn was also criticized by Heitkamp and One Country Project for claiming FCC broadband polices have made it easy for rural broadband companies to "basically suck at the government teat to the tune of tens of billions of dollars."

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Heidi Heitkamp
File photo of Heidi Heitkamp answering a question posed by the Grand Forks Herald editorial board on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

Heitkamp is on record as stating: "Given the significant progress that’s been made in closing the rural digital divide in recent years, and all the important work that remains to fully close the gap, Gigi Sohn’s deeply cynical view of rural broadband is far less than what rural Americans need or deserve. She is the wrong choice for FCC Commissioner and rural America when critical issues like rural broadband will be under her jurisdiction.”

The five-seat FCC has had two Democrat and two Republican members since Biden took office.

If a confirmation vote for Sohn does not happen before Congress leaves for its summer recess in August, some have speculated a vote may not happen until after the midterm elections in November, which could further complicate the picture for Sohn's confirmation vote.

According to information provided by One Country Project, more than 30 million Americans, many living on tribal lands or in rural areas, do not have access to broadband infrastructure that delivers minimally sufficient speeds.

Besides One Country Project, other organizations on record as opposing Sohn's confirmation include the Fraternal Order of Police, Progressive Policy Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Also, the Denver Gazette, Wall Street Journal and Washington Times have published editorials critical of Sohn's nomination.

Groups on record as supporting Sohn for the FCC job include the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights and the Rural Broadband Association.

According to her website , Sohn is a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton senior fellow & public advocate.

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She is also the host of the “Tech on the Rocks Podcast" and sits on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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