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How Gigi Sohn’s Nomination to the FCC Went From Concerning—To Fully Corrupt

Today’s political arena tolerates hypocrisies with a greater degree of acceptance than many would like, though the public absolutely draws a line at shady backroom deal-making.

This is why we ought to be aghast at the process surrounding Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the FCC. Recently, Sohn announced that, if confirmed, she would recuse herself for several years on matters related to retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright. These issues are of great importance to FCC and to broadcasters, and broadcasters were worried about Sohn’s record on them.

Sohn had been in hot water about these matters since late 2021. In November of 2021, the National Association of Broadcasters expressed that while they did “not currently oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn, we have serious concerns about her involvement as one of three directors of the illegal streaming service Locast.” That streaming service had essentially fleeced the broadcasters by illegally streaming their content for free. Sohn was a board member and supported the activity.

Thereafter, Sohn’s nomination hit choppy waters, and suddenly, she couldn’t be on the wrong side of the broadcasters anymore. Thus, her recent gambit: Recusing herself from big issues pertaining to broadcasters.

Her recent bending-of-the-knee led to this: “NAB appreciates Ms. Sohn’s willingness to seriously consider our issues regarding retransmission consent and broadcast copyright, and to address those concerns in her recusal. We look forward to the Senate moving forward with Ms. Sohn’s confirmation and are eager to work with her and the full complement of commissioners in the very near future.”

From “serious concerns” to “eager”—welcome to rank regulatory corruption in 2022. Here is the bottom line: An embattled nominee for a regulatory position just announced that she would not regulate so that she could comfortably earn her regulatory posting. There is a fitting Latin expression for this, one that doesn’t wear well in the halls of Congress: A quid pro quo.

To put it bluntly, Sohn’s job as an FCC Commissioner would be to regulate the broadcast industry. And yet, at a moment of maximum peril for her nomination, she promised the broadcast industry that she’d be hands-off for a few years.

Set aside the flagrantly unethical nature of this. Consider a more practical problem with Sohn recusing herself on retransmission and copyright issues, a conundrum best articulated by the Wall Street Journal: “These subjects consume a large share of the FCC’s regulatory bandwidth, which means the agency could be deadlocked for good or ill on many issues.”

The decision to press ahead with Sohn’s nomination is a galling dereliction of duty. There are issues of real concern including media ownership, retransmission, and broadcast copyrights that require a fully operational Commission. By giving up her ability to regulate broadcasters on these issues, Sohn has neutered her own position—even before she’s been confirmed. And because she’d have to refrain from voting on these matters, she’s also neutered the FCC.

This is unacceptable. There were already questions swirling about Sohn’s backroom wheeling-and-dealing and her questionable record on minority media ownership, among other worries. But this quid pro quo is simply the last straw. Congress cannot and should not move forward with a nominee for a regulatory position who has abdicated all regulatory authority.

There are certainly other qualified nominees for the FCC post. Perhaps most importantly, any new candidates shouldn’t campaign for the job by saying they won’t do the job. This FCC Commission seat should be filled by a regulator who can actually regulate.

FAA Threatens to Ground 5G’s Flight

By Mike Montgomery

Source: IBT

The United States is in a global competition to lead on high-speed mobile networks and the connected future that will be the key to economic growth, social progress, and opportunity going forward. Rivals including China and most of Western Europe are racing to build and deploy infrastructure needed to power next generation applications like remote medicine, immersive distance learning, autonomous freight traffic, and the internet of things. These technologies are vital to closing the digital divide and providing affordable high-speed connectivity to communities that current tech has left behind.

Yet the FCC’s plan to bolster and accelerate America’s 5G deployment with new “C Band” spectrum has recently run into a bizarre roadblock – an effort by major airlines and allies at the FCC to reopen old debates that most observers thought were settled about the interaction between this C Band spectrum and aircraft operations.

These questions were raised years ago and the FCC studied them carefully. Ultimately, it resolved them by establishing a large “buffer zone” of unused spectrum between the 5G bandwidth and the frequencies used by aircraft. That approach is consistent with years of experience around the world in nearly 40 countries that already use this same spectrum for 5G communications without any harm to aviation activities whatsoever. That lengthy track record of safe global operations undoubtedly explains why even the FAA’s own advisory bulletin acknowledges “[t]here have not yet been proven reports of harmful interference” to date.

The FAA’s eleventh hour and fifty ninth minute decision to seek to relitigate this question – called the “height of irresponsibility” by a leading progressive telecom attorney and a “serious dysfunction” by the Director of the left-leaning New America Foundation’s Wireless future Project – has already forced a one month delay in the country’s 5G deployment effort. This cuts off new bandwidth and connectivity for consumers around the nation that are anxiously awaiting affordable advanced communications. And it sets back vital efforts to close the digital divide and connect underserved communities.

While a month isn’t long, when you aren’t moving forward you’re falling behind. If America is going to continue leading the global sprint for 5G dominance, the FCC must pick up the pace to prevent any further delays unnecessary delays.

Fortunately, the FCC has deep experience evaluating and resolving these spectrum issues. Every time spectrum is dedicated to new uses, incumbents and neighboring technologies come forward seeking delay, often trying to extract concessions or gain leverage in other proceedings. Here, the FAA’s last-minute intervention may well have been prompted by its airline constituents hoping to use this issue to win government concessions or subsidies for their own equipment upgrades or activities.

But the FCC is skilled at finding the signal within the noise. Given how thoroughly they have already reviewed the record and assessed the airline claims on this issue, it seems almost certain it can quickly evaluate any new information and make yet another – this time a truly final determination so that the nation can get back in the game and moving forward in the race to deploy advanced networks to power the innovations of today and tomorrow.

Montgomery on CircleID: Now We Know Why It’s Hard to Get a .COM

The following originally was published Feb. 10, 2021, on CircleID.

As executive director of CALinnovates, an organization that advocates for innovation and startups, as well as a new business owner myself, I know how important a .COM domain name can be to a new company’s online presence and marketing strategy. That’s why I read with interest a new Boston Consulting Group report on how the .COM market is changing. I have a much better understanding of why new businesses find it hard to get relevant .COM domain names.

According to a Boston Consulting Group report, domainers — speculators — are on the verge of becoming the biggest players in the .COM market. Here’s what BCG said: “The net result is that, on a dollar basis, the secondary market, at $2.1B/year, is almost as big as the primary market, at $2.3B/year, and nearly double the size of the registry’s wholesale revenue of $1.1B/year. In other words, nearly half of the dollars end-users spent buying new domains go to domainers.”

That has broad implications for anyone trying to get a .COM domain.

First, it means that many currently registered .COM domains are locked up by domainers. That in itself distorts the market and makes it challenging for a startup, organization, or person to get a domain that closely matches their online business or purpose.

Second, the scarcity created by locking up so many domains warps prices. According to BCG, the typical domainer price ranges from $1,700 – $2,500, but the average registrar retail price is only $16.58. And the price of a .COM domain is only $7.85 from the registry.

I found this out firsthand when searching for a domain name for a venture that I launched in 2020. The ideal domain was registered but not in use. If I were willing to pay GoDaddy $119, they would try to get it for me, but they calculated it would likely cost me $5,146. That’s a lot of money for any startup to pay, but it is consumers who ultimately have to pay these costs.

Speaking as a person who advocates for technology policies that foster innovation and enable new businesses to emerge and flourish, the .COM market seems upside down — it’s much more likely going forward that new businesses will be forced to deal with domainers than regular registrars.

And as a new business owner myself that doesn’t seem right that entrepreneurs like me will be diverted to the secondary market that charges 150-200 times the retail price (according to BCG) just to establish a preferred online presence.

I don’t know what the answers are here, and I’d encourage anyone interested in the domain world to read the BCG report. But it does seem that in the future, those looking for the right domain name are likely to spend more time digging deeper to pay a domainer.

Statement On Net Neutrality Ruling

CALinnovates issued the following statement on today’s net neutrality ruling:

In the wake of today’s ruling, the best way to restore meaningful open internet protections is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that permanently locks in prohibitions against blocking, throttling, and unfair prioritization. Today’s ruling is just the latest reminder that leaving net neutrality up to the discretion of the FCC – where policies can shift every time a new party takes over – is the best way to ensure the lack of net neutrality. The only way to permanently protect consumers is for Congress to pass net neutrality through statute, and the only way that can happen in this Congress is for members of both parties to come together in good faith, drop their demands for unrelated poison pills, and pass a bipartisan bill that can finally put this debate to rest after 15 years of false starts.

A Statement By CALinnovates

Those of us at CALinnovates recently became aware of certain Fair Political Practices Commission filing requirements. We appreciate the FPPC bringing this to our attention. Because CALinnovates is fully committed to compliance with all applicable rules and regulations, we took appropriate steps to remedy the issue through the filing of updated disclosure forms, which are available online. For other organizations that may not be aware of this issue, here’s a link to the form on the FPPC website. 

Letter Of Support For CHANCE In Tech Act

A number of the nation’s foremost technology organizations have formally pledged their support for H.R. 1733/S. 777, the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act. In a letter sent today to Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Charles Schumer and Kevin McCarthy, the organizations urged the House of Representatives and Senate to pass the legislation during the 116th Congress. We’ve published the letter in its entirety below:

Re: H.R. 1733/S. 777, the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology Act

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Democratic Leader Schumer, and Republican Leader McCarthy:

We, the undersigned organizations, write in strong support of H.R. 1733/S. 777, the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act, and urge the House of Representatives and Senate to pass this important legislation during the 116th Congress.

As the nation’s foremost technology organizations, we speak on behalf of many of the world’s most innovative companies. These companies are creating jobs, spurring economic growth, and helping ensure the United States remains the most competitive economy in the world.

The CHANCE in Tech Act would make commonsense reforms to the Department of Labor’s registered apprenticeship program and generate job and economic growth. The proposal would create technology apprenticeships and help forge public-private partnerships to serve as intermediaries between employers participating in the registered apprenticeship program, industry, training partners, and government entities. Each intermediary would assess and train potential apprentices in coordination with local and regional workforce demands. The intermediaries would lessen the regulatory burden on participating employers by tracking success indicators and managing other reporting requirements. The proposal would also establish a program to recognize those high schools providing exemplary IT training and counseling. Collectively, the plan put forward would better align workforce upskilling with local and regional demands.

While today’s economy is increasingly dependent on the technology industry to create jobs, the skills gap is slowing further growth. In 2018, the industry contributed nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy, employed more than 11 million workers, and added more than 260,000 new jobs. However, there were nearly 4 million job openings in this arena, nearly 400,000 of which were in emerging technology areas, in large part due to the skills gap.1 What is more, it is estimated that nearly 800,000 IT workers will retire between now and 2024, and almost half of technology business leaders believe the skills gap has grown over the past two years.2

The CHANCE in Tech Act would help shrink the skills gap by revitalizing the registered apprenticeship program and provide students and workers with the hands-on, experiential learning needed to compete in today’s economy. It is for these reasons that we support H.R. 1733/S. 777 and urge the House of Representatives and Senate to pass this important legislation during the 116th Congress.


ACT | The App Association BSA | The Software Alliance CALinnovates

Developers Alliance
Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) Security Industry Association (SIA)
Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA)

Cc: U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor; U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

1 “Cyberstates 2019.” CompTIA. March 2019.

Click image to enlarge.

Online Privacy: It’s Time To Demand Executive Accountability

What if we approached online privacy the way we do financial reporting? That’s the solution that Mike Montgomery proposes in his newly published op-ed for Morning Consult.

According to Montgomery, CALinnovates’ executive director, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act are fundamentally flawed, because they ultimately make the consumer responsible for policing privacy. What we need, says Montgomery, is a law — such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that arose from the Enron scandal — that holds individual executives’ feet to the flames when privacy is breeched.

Read the full argument here.

Statement on Save the Internet Act

The following statement regarding Save the Internet Act can be attributed to Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates:

“The backwards-looking bill paraded before the cameras does little to accomplish the important goal of enshrining net neutrality into a law that will stand the test of time. This bill is the textbook definition of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Lasting net neutrality regulations require a modernized, bipartisan and bicameral approach and the Save the Internet Act, unfortunately, falls short.”