Earlier this month we examined how partisan division at the Federal Communications Commission impedes progress towards closing the digital divide. Now, we review another big telecom policy story from 2018: the democratic harms of “Big Tech”. In 2018, we got a better, but more disturbing, understanding of the size and influence of large technology companies (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft), and particularly how social media platforms affect our democratic discourse and elections.
On Nov 14, the New York Times detailed Facebook’s multi-pronged campaign to “delay, deny and deflect” efforts to hold the company accountable. This is far from the first time we’ve read disturbing accounts of Facebook’s unethical behavior, but this week the Times peeled back the curtain on the company’s crisis management techniques, public relations tactics, efforts to influence lawmakers, and aggressive lobbying. The peak at these practices helps explain why the social media giant has been so successful at avoiding meaningful regulation.
Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, said in a staffwide memo that the company had made a “big mistake” by hiring President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
[Commentary] The big Internet service provider gate-keepers may have bought the silence of Congress, but they cannot buy the silence of the people. We know there is overwhelming popular support for an open internet with strong net neutrality rules. But we have to demonstrate this support and the power behind it. We must make our voices heard. Contacting Congress now on the CRA is vital—your Senators, of course, but your House members, too. Tell them your vote in the next election depends on their vote now to restore net neutrality.
In April 2017, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, led the charge for his agency to approve rules allowing television broadcasters to greatly increase the number of stations they own.
Comcast's hiring of a new lobbyist is part of an attempt to "torpedo" President Joe Biden's nomination of Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] to the Federal Communications Commission, according to advocacy group Free Press. "Comcast just hired a lobbying firm to try to torpedo Gigi Sohn's nomination to the FCC," said Free Press.
Comcast has added a lobbyist with deep ties to Arizona, a state whose senior senator may hold the key to confirming Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] for the open seat at the Federal Communications Commission. The cable, broadband and broadcasting giant hired Kirk Adams of Consilium Consulting to lobby on FCC nominations.
On December 15, the Internet Association (IA)'s Board of Directors announced that they have decided to close the organization at the end of 2021. "Our industry has undergone tremendous growth and change since the Internet Association was formed almost 10 years ago," says the organization's statement. "IA has made great progress on its mission to foster innovation, promote economic growth, and empower people through a free and open internet.
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is enshrined into law, but the lobbying over its implementation is just getting started.
Google, Amazon and Microsoft have donated tens of thousands of dollars to key members of the Senate over the past three months. Some of the most significant conversations about the future of tech regulation are moving to the upper chamber, with Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) negotiating with bipartisan lawmakers over tech antitrust legislation and senators considering how to respond to the Senate Commerce Committee’s explosive hearing with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in October 2021.