This week's big tech hearing underscored the deep discontent in Congress toward giant technology companies, but also divisions about what the problems are and how to address them. In more than five hours of adversarial interrogation before the House Antitrust Subcommittee, the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google owner Alphabet were accused of a range of unfair business practices. But Democrats focused more on the alleged stifling of competition to preserve their dominance, while Republicans honed in more on the platforms’ outsize grip on information and public debate.
The Federal Communications Commission is pushing to spend billions of dollars to close gaps in America's high-speed internet network, but government officials say they don't have a clear picture of where service gaps exist, meaning parts of the country will be left out when it is time to distribute the funds. Citing concerns about the data, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants to delay plans to auction $16 billion to internet-service providers this Oct to upgrade broadband infrastructure in rural areas. “You don’t manage problems you cannot measure,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said.
A judge approved Facebook’s $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations—overruling objections that the deal didn’t adequately punish the company. Judge Timothy Kelly of the US District Court for the District of Columbia greenlighted the deal reached in the summer of 2019, which included the $5 billion fine, restrictions on some aspects of Facebook’s business decisions, and ongoing oversight of the social media giant.
The coronavirus pandemic is boosting momentum for major broadband legislation, highlighting the widespread lack of high-speed internet in US homes at a time when it has become more essential than ever. Leading lawmakers of both parties say the long-delayed issue of closing the so-called digital divide is gaining new prominence, as Washington weighs initiatives to help speed economic recovery and improve US competitiveness. “Having affordable broadband—it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA).
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is seeking to qualify for federal subsidies to provide broadband service to rural areas, over the objections of competitors who say its satellite-based technology is unproven.
Almost six months after Facebook agreed to a $5 billion settlement of privacy violations, the issue is anything but settled. The deal with the Federal Trade Commission announced in July to settle allegations that Facebook broke its promises to protect users’ privacy is still under review by a federal judge, who has been weighing objections from opponents who believe the deal is inadequate.
Pediatricians and consumer advocates are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate practices for collecting online data about children, amid concerns advertisers might be manipulating children with targeted ads.
As America races to deploy next-generation wireless technology, several arms of the government are at odds over how to allocate space on the radio-frequency spectrum for 5G. The Federal Communications Commission, which sets policy for spectrum licenses, has openly fought with the Commerce Department, which houses agencies that use spectrum for weather satellites that are crucial to predicting hurricanes. The departments of Transportation, Energy and Education have also objected to various plans to open up airwaves for faster networks.
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he believes it is dangerous for people to focus more on their desired political outcomes than giving a range of voices the opportunity to be heard. He compared the current moment of political polarization to other periods of intense social change, including the civil-rights movement. “Some people believe that giving more people a voice is driving division rather than bringing people together,” he said. “I am here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.”
David Redl, assistant secretary for communications and information in the Commerce Department, abruptly resigned, days after criticizing US 5G policy in a speech. Redl, who headed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, had clashed with Trump administration colleagues over a range of issues related to 5G rollout, including federal policy for allocating airwaves. The conflicts within the Administration occasionally had played out on Capitol Hill in recent weeks.