Margaret Harding McGill
The behaviors of platform and social media companies have evolved under the heat of the spotlight. Regulation takes time, and a lot of hearings, to produce tangible results. One upshot of four years of high-profile hearings is that tech companies now know how to play the game. Sometimes the goal isn't to pass a law. Congress uses the bully pulpit to force companies to self-regulate.
The White House wants to lower broadband prices and make the industry more competitive — a sign that President Biden's approach to the telecom sector will be much tougher than his predecessors'. The White House infrastructure package included $100 billion for broadband deployment, with plans to channel funding to government-owned, non-profit or cooperative networks and a push to reduce prices. "A very positive signal that was sent — that should send chills up the spines of the incumbents — was recognizing that the market is not competitive and Americans generally are paying too much for bro
Some key details of the broadband measures in the American Jobs Plan have internet service providers up in arms.
Here are the names you'll hear a lot as Biden builds out his tech policy apparatus at the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission:
Now that the pandemic has made it clear just how essential it is to be connected to high-speed internet, lawmakers are finally putting billions of dollars into funding government programs to expand access to it. Urgency has also increased at the state level: 34 states enacted legislation or resolutions related to broadband development in 2020, per the
Verizon's $6.2 billion bid to buy wireless company TracFone has raised concerns that the deal could cut off access to affordable mobile phone service. The deal has flown under the radar, but TracFone is one of the nation's largest providers of subsidized cell phone service for low income people, an especially important program during the coronavirus pandemic — and one that Verizon hasn't traditionally focused on. The Justice Department declined to dig deeper into the deal in November, signaling that it didn't raise competition concerns.
Students without reliable in-home internet are already at an educational deficit, and many of the remote learning tools the pandemic has ushered in are here to stay.
House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) outlined a plan for fellow Republican members to hammer Big Tech companies. The "Big Tech Accountability Platform” serves as both a rallying cry for Republicans in the minority and an outline for some policy changes that could win bipartisan support. McMorris Rodgers suggests working with Democratic lawmakers on an agreement to sunset or establish a reauthorization date for Section 230 as a legislative starting point.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai says online platforms should be forced to explain their practices in the much the same way he required of broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T. Chairman Pai paired those transparency requirements with his 2017 repeal of net neutrality rules. He also took a dig at online companies that supported net neutrality rules for broadband providers who appear to be "unwilling to abide by" similar rules themselves.