Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
US lawmakers have been talking a big game about reining in the ballooning monopoly power of Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google. Were about to find out how serious they really are.
The White House has nominated public interest advocate Gigi Sohn to become the fifth commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel to remain as the agencys permanent chair. The Senate is expected to hold confirmation hearings in the coming weeks, and the way lawmakers vote will reveal whether they really want to crack down on monopoly power and Big Tech abusesor whether thats just an empty slogan to stoke their fundraising efforts.
The FCC is primarily responsible for providing oversight of cable and phone companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. With the rise of remote work and online classes, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the mission of ensuring equitable and affordable access to the internet is more urgent now than ever before. But getting the agency back up and running is also essential for addressing the tightening stranglehold that Silicon Valley giants maintain over our ability to communicate. Along with antitrust and privacy legislation, a functioning FCC is essential for ensuring we have alternatives to Big Tech.
Without net neutrality ruleswhich prevent Internet providers from blocking, throttling, discriminating or charging extra fees to access online contentand a functioning agency to enforce them, its only a matter of time before incumbent giants like Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon cut anti-competitive deals with internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T to prioritize their services, or exempt them from arbitrary (and unfair) data caps.
This would be disastrous for new platforms and services trying to compete with Silicon Valley giants. Why would anyone try a new, alternative social media app when it will cost them precious data, while Instagram is free? How could small businesses who host their own online stores compete in a world where Amazon can pay internet providers to make their site load twice as fast as the little guys? What happens to the livelihoods of independent musicians when you can stream all the music you want on Spotify and YouTube with no extra charge but have to pay a fee to access Bandcamp and Patreon?
These scenarios are not just theoretical. In 2017, Facebook negotiated monopolistic deals with internet providers in a number of developing countries as part of its controversial Free Basics scheme, which was eventually banned in India. When AT&T bought HBO, they made it so you could stream all the HBO video you wanted without it counting against your monthly data limit. When FaceTime first became available, AT&T blocked it unless users paid an extra fee. Verizon notoriously throttled the Internet connection of firefighters in California, telling them they needed to upgrade their plan. The list goes on.
Public anger at Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google has reached a boiling point. Both Democrats and Republicans have lambasted these corporate behemoths over everything from data harvesting and algorithmic manipulation to artificially amplifying harmful content and silencing political dissent. People desperately want alternatives on the menuservices with better privacy protections and more transparent content moderation practices. But if we dont restore the rules that prevent Big Tech monopolies from joining in unholy matrimony with Big Telecom monopolies, well be stuck eating whatever the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world decide to serve upforever.
Restoring net neutrality should be noncontroversial. More than 80 percent of voters, including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, opposed former FCC chairman Ajit Pais reckless repeal of these basic internet protections. Heck, even 75% of self-identified Trump supporters were against it. The repeal of Title II sparked some of the largest online protests in human history, prompting millions people to speak out, and unprecedented opposition from civil rights groups, veterans, librarians, teachers, small business owners, and grassroots groups on both the left and right.
But there is far more at stake with these nominations than net neutrality protections. Deadlocked at 2-2, the FCC has been effectively kneecapped throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, unable to do much of anything to address the deepening digital divide even as millions of people were forced to work and attend school from home.
Both Gigi Sohn and Jessica Rosenworcel have long track records working on issues of internet access, like building out broadband networks into rural areas and underserved communities, and pushing for competition and affordability. Sohns nomination has also won support from across the political spectrum, with policies that have found a rare common ground by eschewing partisanship and defending free speech.
Some Republican Senators have already started saber rattling about the nominations. But their hypocrisy is showing through. If conservatives are concerned about social media platforms removing individual posts, surely they should want basic rules to prevent Internet providers blocking entire websites and apps? After all, Comcast owns MSNBC, and AT&T owns CNN.
If theres one thing that lawmakers from both parties should be able to agree on, its that kids shouldnt be sitting outside of Taco Bell to do their homework in the middle of a pandemic. And the companies that connect us to the internet shouldnt be able to dictate what we see and do once we get there.
Telecom companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against the public interest. They were even caught red handed funding a massive flood of fraudulent comments to the FCC, attempting to create the illusion of public support for pro-monopoly policies.
But its not going to work. Three Republican Senators voted to restore net neutrality back in 2018, citing overwhelming support from constituents and small businesses in their district. Legislation attempting to restore net neutrality passed in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Even Republicans who disagree on the details of the policy should agree that its best not to kneecap the agency responsible for ensuring Americans access to the Internet in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.
Telecom lobbyists can spin all the lies they want. Democrats and Republicans know that we need a functional FCC thats working to get every American, regardless of their income or political affiliation, connected to the Internet. And we need that agency to be able to prevent companies like Google and Instagram from cutting anti-competitive deals that solidify their monopoly power, leaving us stuck with their parasitic business models forever.
The Senate Commerce Committee will take up Rosenworcels nomination Wednesday, along with privacy champion and facial recognition expert Alvaro Bedoya, who has been nominated for the Federal Trade Commission. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the committees chair, should schedule Sohns nomination immediately. Its essential that both nominees move forward as quickly as possible, so that the FCC can get back to working for the public rather than telecom companies.
Any lawmaker who votes against confirming both of these FCC nominees should not be taken seriously when they go on TV and say they want to rein in Big Tech. Theyre full of it.
Evan Greer is an activist, writer, and musician based in Boston. Shes the director of digital rights group Fight for the Future and writes regularly for outlets like the Washington Post, The Guardian, Time, and NBC News. Follow her on Twitter @evan_greer
Read the original here:
- For Big Tech, Neutrality Is Not an Option and Never Really Was - DARKReading - August 2nd, 2022
- What's behind the shrinking Big Tech: Online ad market is in decline - WRAL TechWire - August 2nd, 2022
- The Inflation Reduction Act is testing Big Techs climate resolve - Protocol - August 2nd, 2022
- The world needs a better way to regulate Big Techs unchecked power - Digital Trends - August 2nd, 2022
- Why the Government is Right to Block the Startup Sales to Big Tech - Analytics India Magazine - August 2nd, 2022
- Big Tech antitrust bill slowly gains steam in Congress, still likely short of needed votes - Washington Times - August 2nd, 2022
- Breakingviews - Big Tech in finance? There's a regulator for that - Reuters - August 2nd, 2022
- 3 Senate Hopefuls Denounce Big Tech. They Also Have Deep Ties to It. - The New York Times - August 2nd, 2022
- The biggest story from Big Tech earnings is the sheer growth power of public cloud - TechCrunch - August 2nd, 2022
- The advertising slowdown is dinging Big Tech - TechCrunch - August 2nd, 2022
- Vergecast: Instagram's risky week and Big Tech earnings - The Verge - August 2nd, 2022
- What is a leap second? And why does Big Tech want to alter time? - Grid - August 2nd, 2022
- CDC Collaboration With Big Tech on COVID-19 Misinformation a Threat to 1st Amendment Rights: Legal Advocacy Group - The Epoch Times - August 2nd, 2022
- Big Tech's Ban on Alex Jones Fans the Flames of His Conspiracy Theories - Reason - August 2nd, 2022
- Big tech companies in the spotlight as South Africa investigates dominance abuse - TechCrunch - July 17th, 2022
- The Uber files lit up the darkness of big tech, and showed why we need whistleblowers - The Guardian - July 17th, 2022
- Palmer Luckey: The U.S. is falling behind in defense because Big Tech is scared of China - Fast Company - July 17th, 2022
- The Misguided Perception of Big Tech Bulldozing SMBs - Analytics India Magazine - July 17th, 2022
- Big Tech bosses call for computer science to be taught in all US schools - The Register - July 17th, 2022
- The Ethical Dilemma at the Heart of Big Tech Companies - July 13th, 2022
- Why Reining In Big Tech Could Be Bad News For US National Security - Forbes - July 13th, 2022
- Europe's Big Tech Law Is Approved. Now Comes the Hard Part - WIRED - July 13th, 2022
- Tech Is Not Representative Government - The New York Times - July 13th, 2022
- In battle between big tech and state, more clarity is needed, both sides have much to uncover and declare - The Indian Express - July 13th, 2022
- In its battle with Big Tech, the CFPB is building an army of engineers - Protocol - July 13th, 2022
- American Innovation and Choice Online Act Has Panelists Divided on Small Business Impact - BroadbandBreakfast.com - July 13th, 2022
- Exclusive: Disney inks major advertising deal with The Trade Desk - Axios - July 13th, 2022
- Cloud and Metaverse Among Top Themes Driving TMT M&A Activity in Q1 2022 | GlobalData Plc - GlobeNewswire - July 13th, 2022
- Congress is trying to rein in Big Tech. This lawmaker could stand in their way. - POLITICO - June 30th, 2022
- Why big tech companies are so quiet on abortion rights - The Verge - June 30th, 2022
- Big tech regulation needs both privacy and antitrust reform - TechTarget - June 30th, 2022
- We're Dangerously Close to Giving Big Tech Control Of Our Thoughts - TIME - June 30th, 2022
- China Is Tightening Its Grip on Big Tech - WIRED - June 30th, 2022
- The Download: Big Techs post-Roe silence, and the US EV charging landscape - MIT Technology Review - June 30th, 2022
- Big Tech sinks stocks bruised by recession jitters - The Spokesman Review - June 30th, 2022
- EU Institutions Reach Agreement On Landmark Regulations Targeting Big Tech - Privacy Protection - Worldwide - Mondaq - June 30th, 2022
- Can Big Tech manage the surging wave of unionization? - eMarketer - June 30th, 2022
- Beyond rainbows: 5 tech companies that did more for Pride in 2022 - Digital Trends - June 30th, 2022
- 'Big Lie' Vigilantism Is on the Rise. Big Tech Is Failing to Respond. - Minnesota Reformer - June 30th, 2022
- Poll: Voters Want Congress To Rein In Big Tech - Daily Caller - June 30th, 2022
- Antitrust showdown: Big Tech CEOs head to D.C. to lobby against legislation - WRAL TechWire - June 20th, 2022
- Opinion | Big Tech content licensing agreements have left smaller publishers out in the cold - Toronto Star - June 20th, 2022
- Big Tech begs Congress to pass $52bn chip subsidies bill - The Register - June 20th, 2022
- Big Tech Clashes with Brick and Mortar Group over Liability in Privacy Hearing - Nextgov - June 18th, 2022
- Why Big Tech wants to be in your car so badly - The Hustle - June 18th, 2022
- Beware the FCC's New Big Tech Enrichment Plan | Opinion - Newsweek - June 18th, 2022
- Random D.C. Lobbying Campaign of the Week: The Big Tech Bills - The American Prospect - June 18th, 2022
- Big Tech targets to be named at start of Japan antitrust probes - Nikkei Asia - June 18th, 2022
- House Republican measure would block Big Tech companies from hosting CCP officials on platforms - Fox News - June 18th, 2022
- From Great Resignation to Forced Resignation: Tech companies are shifting to layoffs after a huge ramp up in hiring - MarketWatch - June 18th, 2022
- The Digital Republic by Jamie Susskind review how to tame big tech - The Guardian - June 18th, 2022
- Apple and Google are coming for the computer in your car - Vox.com - June 18th, 2022
- Big Tech Has Become a Creature of the Swamp - WIRED - June 11th, 2022
- A.I. gurus are leaving Big Tech to work on buzzy new start-ups - CNBC - June 11th, 2022
- Why are so many big tech whistleblowers women? Here's what the research shows - Technical.ly - June 11th, 2022
- Oracle thinks it can fix healthcare's biggest tech issue - The Verge - June 11th, 2022
- Two Years After George Floyd Murder, Big Tech Fails to Live Up to Its Promises - Digital Information World - June 11th, 2022
- These 19 big tech stocks have now dropped at least 60% from their 52-week highs - MarketWatch - June 11th, 2022
- Amazon Targets Smaller Businesses with Local Ads Team; Big Tech Fights to Halt Antitrust Bill - ExchangeWire - June 11th, 2022
- These 19 large-cap stocks have now dropped at least 60% from their 52-week highs - MarketWatch - June 11th, 2022
- Big tech vs. data privacy: It wasnt meant to be this way - VentureBeat - May 25th, 2022
- How the regulation of big tech can affect your business - Information Age - May 25th, 2022
- The big tech thats shaping tomorrow today - Tech Wire Asia - May 25th, 2022
- Americans are united in wanting Congress to rein in Big Tech's power over news publishing, by Douglas Schoen - Press of Atlantic City - May 25th, 2022
- This era of big tech exceptionalism has got to end: Australian eSafety Commissioner - ZDNet - May 25th, 2022
- California bill would allow parents to sue Big Tech over social media addiction - Washington Examiner - May 25th, 2022
- Big Tech, Merchants, and a Range of Data and Fintech Firms Now Account for 35% of the Value of the Financial Services Industry, According to Oliver... - May 25th, 2022
- No Magic Bullet: The Difficulties of Reforming Big Tech - The National Interest Online - May 25th, 2022
- Events Roundup: Big tech parties and conferences are coming to Pittsburgh this June - Technical.ly - May 25th, 2022
- Big Tech Takes Texas to the Supreme Court - The New York Times - May 25th, 2022
- No housing bubble, Davos is back, and rout of Big Tech shares - The Irish Times - May 25th, 2022
- The Good, the Bad & the Artificial: How Big Data & Tech Are Infiltrating the Alcohol Industry - VinePair - May 25th, 2022
- Europe Is Getting Tough on Big Tech. When Will the US Do the Same? - CEOWORLD magazine - May 25th, 2022
- Douglas Schoen: Americans are united in wanting Congress to rein in Big Tech's power over news publishing - Chicago Tribune - April 25th, 2022
- Communication ETFs fall to 18-month lows ahead of big tech earnings - Seeking Alpha - April 25th, 2022
- Just Another Manic Monday Big Tech Weak? - TheStreet - April 25th, 2022
- Big Tech hiring cements Canada's status as Silicon Valley North but there's a catch - CBC News - April 25th, 2022
- In the Battle Against Illiberalism, Don't Take Big Tech for Granted - The National Interest Online - April 25th, 2022
- Will the internet's third iteration free our virtual selves from Big Tech's control? - The New Statesman - April 25th, 2022
- Global Digital Health Market Outlook 2022 - Big Tech Using On-demand Services in Primary Care to Strengthen its Hold in Healthcare - PR Newswire - April 25th, 2022