Policy

Comcast hires former Sinema colleague to lobby on ‘FCC nominations’

And it just so happens Sinema seems to hold Gigi Sohn’s fate in her hands.

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema may decide whether longtime net-neutrality advocate Gigi Sohn joins the FCC.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema may be the key vote in deciding if longtime net-neutrality advocate Gigi Sohn gets confirmed to join the Federal Communications Commission — so perhaps that’s why Comcast hired a former colleague of Sinema’s to lobby on “FCC nominations.”

The internet provider, which has long opposed the net-neutrality rules that Sohn helped design during the Obama administration, hired Kirk Adams to work on the White House’s picks for the agency, according to recent disclosures filed with Congress. While the documentation didn’t name any nominees, Sohn is the only one pending.

The filings don’t say if Adams’ role is to try to sway Sinema specifically, although she appears to be the main Democratic wildcard on Sohn’s nomination. A revised disclosure, filed about 11 hours after the first, instead described his assignment only as “telecommunications policy” — a vague description typical of companies’ efforts to avoid detailing their strategies.

Still, companies often hire lobbyists for their prior relationships and expertise, and Adams appears to have both: He served alongside Sinema during her tenure in the Arizona House of Representatives. Adams, a Republican, even spent part of that time as the body’s speaker, before becoming chief of staff to state Gov. Doug Ducey for nearly four years beginning in 2015. In 2019 and 2020, Adams also worked as a federal lobbyist whose only client was USTelecom, the industry’s main trade group, and whose only disclosed focus was net neutrality. According to the disclosures, some which were filed belatedly, Adams only ever contacted the Senate — not the House or the FCC itself.

Neither Sinema’s office nor a representative for Adams responded to Protocol’s requests for comment on the nature of his work or any talks between them. Comcast, which praised Sohn’s “tireless advocacy on the critical issue of connecting all Americans to broadband” when she was nominated, also declined to comment on its lobbying.

In 2019, Senate Democrats — aside from Sinema — opposed the FCC’s moves to repeal its net-neutrality rules, which sought to stop ISPs from blocking web content, slowing it down or demanding pay for prioritizing it. Sinema, who is known for crossing party lines, said at the time that the Democrats’ plan could have had unintended consequences, and she has suggested that Congress should solve the issue rather than handing it off to an agency. During the battle, pro-net neutrality activists even took out a billboard calling Sinema “corrupt.”

Sinema’s prior stance, together with her well-known willingness to buck the White House and her Democratic colleagues, means her vote for Sohn, who spent years advocating for net-neutrality rules and helped write them as a staffer in the Obama-era FCC, is not guaranteed.

Sohn is already facing deep skepticism from Senate Republicans, not only over her net-neutrality work but also over her comments on conservative media and her position on the board of a free, over-the-air streaming service that recently shut down following a lawsuit. GOP lawmakers also have the opportunity to delay the Biden tech agenda if they can stop nominees for the FCC and Federal Trade Commission.

If no Republican lawmakers vote for Sohn, she’ll need support from every Democrat for confirmation — hence the focus on Sinema, now that other senators from the party who had doubts about Sohn seem to have fallen in line. Sinema also sits on the Commerce Committee, which oversees FCC picks, meaning the senator’s vote could be needed even to advance Sohn’s nomination to the floor.

The issue may soon come to a head. A committee spokeswoman, Tricia Enright, said the panel is “expecting” to hold a hearing to move forward nominations, including Sohn’s, during the week of Jan. 24.

Workplace

How 'Dan from HR' became TikTok’s favorite career coach

You can get a lot of advice about corporate America on TikTok. ‘Dan from HR’ wants to make sure you’re getting the right instruction.

'Dan from HR' has posted hundreds of videos on his TikTok account about everything from cover letters to compensation.

Image: Dan Space

Daniel Space downloaded TikTok for the same reason most of us did. He was bored.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Space wanted to connect with his younger cousin, who uses TikTok, so he thought he’d get on the platform and try it out (although he refused to do any of the dances). Eventually, the algorithm figured out that Space is a longtime HR professional and fed him a post with resume tips — the only issue was that the advice was “really horrible,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Sarah Roach

Sarah Roach is a reporter and producer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) where she contributes to Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

Sponsored Content

A CCO’s viewpoint on top enterprise priorities in 2022

The 2022 non-predictions guide to what your enterprise is working on starting this week

As Honeywell’s global chief commercial officer, I am privileged to have the vantage point of seeing the demands, challenges and dynamics that customers across the many sectors we cater to are experiencing and sharing.

This past year has brought upon all businesses and enterprises an unparalleled change and challenge. This was the case at Honeywell, for example, a company with a legacy in innovation and technology for over a century. When I joined the company just months before the pandemic hit we were already in the midst of an intense transformation under the leadership of CEO Darius Adamczyk. This transformation spanned our portfolio and business units. We were already actively working on products and solutions in advanced phases of rollouts that the world has shown a need and demand for pre-pandemic. Those included solutions in edge intelligence, remote operations, quantum computing, warehouse automation, building technologies, safety and health monitoring and of course ESG and climate tech which was based on our exceptional success over the previous decade.

Keep Reading Show less
Jeff Kimbell
Jeff Kimbell is Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Honeywell. In this role, he has broad responsibilities to drive organic growth by enhancing global sales and marketing capabilities. Jeff has nearly three decades of leadership experience. Prior to joining Honeywell in 2019, Jeff served as a Partner in the Transformation Practice at McKinsey & Company, where he worked with companies facing operational and financial challenges and undergoing “good to great” transformations. Before that, he was an Operating Partner at Silver Lake Partners, a global leader in technology and held a similar position at Cerberus Capital LP. Jeff started his career as a Manufacturing Team Manager and Engineering Project Manager at Procter & Gamble before becoming a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and holding executive roles at Dell EMC and Transamerica Corporation. Jeff earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at Kansas State University and an M.B.A. at Dartmouth College.
Podcasts

1Password's CEO is ready for a password-free future

Fresh off a $620 million raise, 1Password CEO Jeff Shiner talks about the future of passwords.

1Password is a password manager, but it has plans to be even more.

Business is booming for 1Password. The company just announced it has raised $620 million, at a valuation of $6.8 billion, from a roster of A-list celebrities and well-known venture capitalists.

But what does a password manager need with $620 million? Jeff Shiner, 1Password’s CEO, has some plans. He’s building the team fast — 1Password has tripled in size in the last two years, up to 500 employees, and plans to double again this year — while also expanding the vision of what a password manager can do. 1Password has long been a consumer-first product, but the biggest opportunity lies in bringing the company’s knowhow, its user experience, and its security chops into the business world. 1Password already has more than 100,000 business customers, and it plans to expand fast.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs WordPress.com, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool Parse.ly and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Policy

Biden wants to digitize the government. Can these techies deliver?

A December executive order requires federal agencies to overhaul clunky systems. Meet the team trying to make that happen.

The dramatic uptick in people relying on government services, combined with the move to remote work, rendered inconvenient government processes downright painful.

Photo: Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

Early last year, top White House officials embarked on a fact-finding mission with technical leaders inside government agencies. They wanted to know the answer to a specific question: If there was anything federal agencies could do to improve the average American’s experience interacting with the government, what would it be?

The list, of course, was a long one.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Entertainment

5 takeaways from Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition

Microsoft just bought one of the world’s largest third-party game publishers. What now?

The nearly $70 billion acquisition gives Microsoft access to some of the most valuable brands in gaming.

Image: Microsoft Gaming

Just one week after Take-Two took the crown for biggest-ever industry acquisition, Microsoft strolled in Tuesday morning and dropped arguably the most monumental gaming news bombshell in years with its purchase of Activision Blizzard. The deal, at nearly $70 billion in all cash, dwarfs Take-Two’s purchase of Zynga, and it stands to reshape gaming as we know it.

The deal raises a number of pressing questions about the future of Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture issues, exclusivity in the game industry and whether such massive consolidation may trigger a regulatory response. None of these may be easily answered anytime soon, as the deal could take up to 18 months to close. But the question marks hanging over Activision Blizzard will loom large in the industry for the foreseeable future as Microsoft navigates its new role as one of the three largest game makers on the planet.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Latest Stories
Bulletins