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.
The Biden Administration’s goals of restoring a functional federal government, driving economic recovery, and “building back better” lend themselves to a new strategy for universalizing broadband, with a three-pronged approach to directly address each of the barriers I have described that have stalled universal access. First, any significant plan for investing in infrastructure must include sufficient funding in the form of grants and loans for both initial capital investment and ongoing operations and maintenance of universal, future-proofed broadband networks. Second, the Administration s
Greg Walden, former Chairman of both the House Commerce Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, announced the creation of Alpine Advisors, a new policy and strategic advisory firm. Alpine Advisors is a partnership between Walden and the Alpine Group, a leading Washington government affairs firm. Walden will serve as Chairman of Alpine Advisors, which will service a wide range of clients, with a particular focus on the energy, technology, telecommunications and health care sectors. The Alpine Group is consistently ranked one of the top lobbying firms in Washington.
Facebook is looking externally for a new US policy chief as it moves Kevin Martin, a Republican and former Federal Communications Commission chairman who now holds the job, to lead the firm's global economic policy team. Facebook is moving on from the Trump era in which Republicans held most of the power in Washington and Facebook was particularly eager among tech companies to forge warm relations with GOP policymakers.
Silicon Valley's leading lobby, the Internet Association, is struggling to manage the competing interests of the companies it represents just as the industry faces a tide of bipartisan anger. Lobbying hasn't been working for tech for a while because too many firms are working at cross purposes. "A trade association can only do what its members tell it to do," said one person familiar with IA's work. "Facebook begging to be regulated puts the smaller companies in a bad position.
In what they say is a first, five electric cooperatives in three states have formed an association of broadband co-ops aimed at bolstering services in underserved rural areas. The Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Broadband Cooperatives (VMDABC) is structurally modeled after existing cooperative associations. VMDABC will offer classes of membership based on types of co-op members and their goals. VMDABC classes of membership will include co-op affiliates offering retail fiber, co-ops pursuing middle mile or “backbone” fiber, other broadband entities, and vendors.