Gigi Sohn Renominated, Social Media Engagement Practices, Median Broadband and Mobile Speeds Up

Sohn’s renomination comes after the Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate, which confirms nominations.

Gigi Sohn Renominated, Social Media Engagement Practices, Median Broadband and Mobile Speeds Up
Screenshot of Biden Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn

January 4, 2023 – President Joe Biden on Tuesday renominated Gigi Sohn for the fifth commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission for a five-year term.

“Gigi is a knowledgeable nominee with a long record of commitment to the issues before the FCC and I congratulate her on nomination as a Commissioner at the agency,” said CRTC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement following the nomination. “I look forward to the day we have a full complement of five commissioners.”

Sohn was previously nominated by Biden in October 2021, but has faced a sort of political purgatory since making it out of the Senate commerce committee in March 2022. Up to this point, she had yet to face votes in the Senate to confirm that nomination, as Republicans have worried about her ability to stay impartial on matters the FCC reviews.

But this week’s turnover of lawmakers in Washington after the November midterm elections sees the Democrats remaining in control of the Senate, despite losing the House to team red. That has injected new life into the prospect of Sohn getting to Senate votes and being the fifth and party-tie-breaking commissioner on the panel with two Democrats and two Republicans.

Sohn, a net neutrality advocate, could be an instrumental player in the reintroduction by the FCC of more regulatory power to stop internet service providers from manipulating traffic on their networks.

“Gigi Sohn is a fighter and consumer champion who has a proven track record of working with both Republicans and Democrats on solutions that help connect rural communities and bring more broadband competition to American families, schools and small businesses,” said the internet and competitive networks association INCOMPAS.

“It’s time for the Senate to speed the nomination of Gigi Sohn to help speed the deployment of new faster broadband networks that bring jobs, savings and new opportunities to communities large and small.”

In its own statement, Craig Aaron, co-CEO of advocacy group Free Press Action, said: “The Biden administration just did the best thing it could to ensure media policy actually serves the public: It renominated Gigi Sohn to the FCC,” adding Sohn has faced obstacles in the form of a “smear campaign.”

“No other nominee in the FCC’s history has had to wait so long for a confirmation vote, and none have been better qualified to serve the needs of the public,” Aaron added. “These seemingly endless delays have harmed millions, preventing the deadlocked agency from passing or strengthening crucial policies that would help people connect and communicate.”

Organizations ask FTC to tackle social media engagement strategies targeting minors

The Federal Trade Commission is asking for comments on a petition it received from nearly two dozen advocacy organizations requesting the agency propose a rule “prohibiting the use of certain types of engagement-optimizing design practices” directed at minors under the age of 18.

“When minors go online, they are bombarded by widespread design features that have been carefully crafted and refined for the purpose of maximizing the time users spend online and activities users engage in,” said the organizations, which include the Center for Digital Democracy, Accountable Tech, and a number of groups tackling eating disorders and privacy concerns.

“Design features that maximize time and activity online harm minors emotionally, developmentally, and physically,” the petition alleges, adding the time-sink strategy “conflicts with users’ interest in an online experience that contributes to, rather than detracts from, their overall wellbeing.”

The petition alleges that these features displace sleep and physical activity, exposes minors to potential predators, online bullies and to age-inappropriate content, and harms minors’ self-esteem and increases risks of disordered eating and suicidality.

The petition comes after Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram have come under fire when a whistleblower, leaking internal documents to media, said Facebook allegedly does nothing about the harm its apps do to minors despite knowing about them.

It also comes as Chinese video-sharing app TikTok – already the focus of government-device bans because of security concerns – comes under scrutiny for similar practices. Last year, a coalition of attorneys general from across the nation embarked on an investigation into how the app impacts the mental and physical health of minors.

Late last year, a Quebec court allowed a class action lawsuit to move forward from parents who allege Epic Games’s Fornite video game is so addicting, it causes their children to lose sleep and miss school and meals.

Median mobile and broadband speeds are up, Ookla says

Metrics and speed test company Ookla said Wednesday that global broadband and mobile speeds from November 2021 to November 2022 jumped a fair bit over that period.

In its latest Speedtest Global Index report, the company found broadband and mobile speeds increased 28 and 17 percent respectively, with upload speeds increasing by 30 percent for broadband and nine percent for mobile.

Latency, the measure of information routing from device to network, also decreased for mobile but did not move for broadband.

During this period, the United States ranked eighth in global fixed broadband median download speeds at 134.10 Megabits per second.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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