Margaret Harding McGill
The Biden administration has charged the Federal Communications Commission with prohibiting digital discrimination — but without a third Democratic commissioner to break the agency's partisan deadlock, those plans are in trouble. One of President Biden's key domestic priorities, improving internet access and affordability, can't advance unless the Senate confirms his FCC nominee.
Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan has a chance to work her way down her Big Tech to-do list, nearly a year into her tenure, now that she has a Democratic majority in hand. The Senate voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie — to confirm privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the FTC. The Democrats' majority at the five-person agency now opens the door for Khan's agenda, expected to include:
Regulators around the world are exploring forcing Big Tech companies to pay more for the internet service they rely on to make their billions. A growing number of governments think tech giants should up their contributions to the basic internet service that makes their success possible. That money could prop up local economies or help close the digital divide.
Meta —the parent company for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — could drag hundreds of competitors into its legal battle, aiming to slow the Federal Trade Commission's prosecution and "bury" its lawyers in paperwork.
The tech industry is lobbying statehouses across the country to pass privacy bills that critics call weak. Most tech firms would prefer a nationwide law, but since Congress hasn't budged on the issue, the industry now seeks to preempt states from approving tougher privacy rules like California's. Utah lawmakers considered and passed a state privacy bill in less than two weeks, and it's now awaiting the governor's signature. Utah would become the fourth state with a privacy law, following Colorado, Virginia and California.
Tools to sidestep internet restrictions have surged in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine and the government's decision to block some social media services, including Facebook. Finding ways around Russia's internet blockade could enable its citizens to stay connected to the rest of the world and gather information from sources beyond state-owned outlets. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, enable users to hide their locations to evade location-based restrictions and make browsing more private by encrypting internet traffic.
US officials are stepping up a campaign to defeat a Russian candidate for a United Nations agency that could determine how much control governments have over the internet. Russia's designs on the little-known agency raise the stakes for what the Russian government's vision of the internet could mean for the rest of the world, especially following its
SpaceX has withstood attacks from powerhouse competitors like Amazon in the internet space race, but now must overcome warnings from NASA that its fleet of second-generation satellites could hamper asteroid detection work. SpaceX wants to launch up to 30,000 satellites for its Starlink internet service to improve the speeds and service from the roughly 2,000 satellites currently deployed in its first-generation network. The company has begun building the second-generation satellites, or Gen2, in anticipation of launching as early as March 2022.
Alan Davidson, the newly confirmed head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will manage tens of billions of federal spending on broadband — but he's also talking about helping set administration policy around app stores and privacy. In his first major interview since taking the NTIA helm, Davidson said his biggest priority is making sure every American has access to affordable, high-speed internet.
Lawmakers and lobbyists anticipate a major fight over antitrust bills meant to tame Big Tech before the midterms put an unofficial end to the legislative effort. The bills could remake how Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google operate and treat competitors — if they make it over the finish line.