The Department of Justice announced Friday that it and the Attorneys General for five states reached a settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint regarding their proposed merger. The settlement requires a substantial divestiture package in order to enable a viable facilities-based competitor to enter the market. Further, the settlement will facilitate the expeditious deployment of multiple high-quality 5G networks for the benefit of American consumers and entrepreneurs.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, T-Mobile and Sprint must divest Sprint’s prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint prepaid, to Dish Network Corp., a Colorado-based satellite television provider. The proposed settlement also provides for the divestiture of certain spectrum assets to Dish.
Additionally, T-Mobile and Sprint must make available to Dish at least 20,000 cell sites and hundreds of retail locations. T-Mobile must provide Dish with robust access to the T-Mobile network for a period of seven years while Dish builds out its own 5G network.
“With this merger and accompanying divestiture, we are expanding output significantly by ensuring that large amounts of currently unused or underused spectrum are made available to American consumers in the form of high quality 5G networks,” said Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
The Department and the Plaintiff States said that, without the divestiture, the proposed acquisition would eliminate two out of the four suppliers of nationwide mobile wireless services. The combination of T-Mobile and Sprint would eliminate head-to-head competition between the companies, threatening the benefits that customers have received from that competition in the form of lower prices and better service.
Dish Network confirms and releases details of its planned market entry
DISH Network on Friday confirmed that it will enter the U.S. wireless market as the fourth nationwide facilities-based network competitor, confirming previous reports. Additionally, DISH has committed to the Federal Communications Commission that DISH will deploy a facilities-based 5G broadband network capable of serving 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023.
“These developments are the fulfillment of more than two decades’ worth of work and more than $21 billion in spectrum investments intended to transform DISH into a connectivity company,” said DISH Co-Founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen, “taken together, these opportunities will set the stage for our entry as the nation’s fourth facilities-based wireless competitor and accelerate our work to launch the country’s first standalone 5G broadband network.”
Following completion of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, DISH will acquire 14 MHz of Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz spectrum, as well as Sprint’s prepaid businesses and customers. DISH will have seven-year access to the New T-Mobile network, which includes the ability to serve DISH customers seamlessly between T-Mobile’s nationwide network and DISH’s new independent 5G broadband network.
DISH is also set to purchase Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz wireless spectrum for $3.6 billion. The spectrum purchase is expected to be completed three years after the closing of the acquisition of the prepaid businesses.
Apple contractors regularly hear people’s voices through Siri
The Guardian reports that Apple contractors regularly hear people’s confidential details through the company’s Siri voice assistant. A small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world, who are tasked with providing quality control on Siri’s responses.
Apple told the Guardian that Siri responses are “analyzed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements.” However, Apple does not explicitly disclose this information in its consumer-facing privacy documentation.
A whistleblower working for the firm expressed concerns about accidental Siri activations picking up extremely sensitive personal information. These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data.
The contractor also highlighted the Apple Watch and the company’s HomePod smart speaker as the most frequent sources of mistaken recordings.
“The watch can record some snippets that will be 30 seconds – not that long but you can gather a good idea of what’s going on,” they said.
(Photo of Delrahim speaking at an antitrust division roundtable courtesy Department of Justice.)
‘Time is Now’ for Separate Big Tech Regulatory Agency, Public Interest Group Says
‘We need to recognize that absolutely the time is now. It is neither too soon nor too late.’
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2022 – Public Knowledge, non-profit public interest group, further advocated Thursday support for the Digital Platform Commission Act introduced in the Senate in May that would create a new federal agency designed to regulate digital platforms on an ongoing basis.
“We need to recognize that absolutely the time is now. It is neither too soon nor too late,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge.
The DPCA, introduced by Senator Michael Bennet, D-CO., and Representative Peter Welch, D-VT., would, if adopted, create a new federal agency designed to “provide comprehensive, sector-specific regulation of digital platforms to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
The independent body would conduct hearings, research and investigations all while promoting competition and establishing rules with appropriate penalties.
Public Knowledge primarily focuses on competition in the digital marketplace. It champions for open internet and has openly advocated for antitrust legislation that would limit Big Tech action in favor of fair competition in the digital marketspace.
Feld published a book in 2019 titled, “The Case for the Digital Platform Act: Breakups, Starfish Problems and Tech Regulation.” In it, Feld explains the need for a separate government agency to regulate digital platforms.
Digital regulation is new but has rapidly become critical to the economy, continued Feld. As such, it is necessary for the government to create a completely new agency in order to provide the proper oversight.
In the past, Congress empowered independent bodies with effective tools and expert teams when it lacked expertise to oversee complex sectors of the economy but there is no such body for digital platforms, said Feld.
FTC Commissioner Concerned About Antitrust Impact on Already Rising Consumer Prices
Noah Phillips said Tuesday he wants the commission to think about the impact of antitrust rules on rising prices.
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 – Rising inflation should be a primary concern for the Federal Trade Commission when considering antitrust regulations on Big Tech, said Commissioner Noah Phillips Tuesday.
When considering laws, “the important thing is what impact it has on the consumer,” said Phillips. “We need to continue to guard like a hawk against conduct and against laws that have the effect of raising prices for consumers.”
Current record highs in the inflation rate, which means money is becoming less valuable as products become more expensive, has meant Washington must become sensitive to further price increases that could come out of such antitrust legislation, the commissioner said.
Phillips did not comment on how such movies would mean higher prices, but that signals, such as theHouse Judiciary Committee’s antitrust report two years ago, that reign in Big Tech companies and bring back enforcement of laws could mean higher prices. He raised concerns that recent policies are prohibiting competition rather than facilitating it.
This follows recent concerns that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, currently awaiting Senate floor consideration, will inhibit America’s global competitiveness by weakening major American companies, thus impairing the American economy. That legislation would prohibit platform owners from giving preference to their products against third-party products.
This act is one of many currently under consideration at Congress, including Ending Platform Monopolies Act and Platform Competition and Opportunity Act.
Small businesses have worried that by enacting some legislation targeting Big Tech, they would be impacted because they rely on such platforms for success.
Critics and Supporters Trade Views on American Innovation and Choice Online Act
American Innovation and Choice Online Act is intended to protect fair competition among businesses, but panelists differed on its impact.
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2022 – Experts differed on the effect that antitrust legislation targeting big tech companies allegedly engaging in discriminatory behavior would have on small businesses.
Small businesses “want Congress not to do anything that will screw up or weaken the services that they rely on for their business,” said Michael Petricone, senior vice present of the Consumer Technology Association, at a Protocol Live event on Thursday.
Petricone said that antitrust bill would encourage tech companies to relocate to other countries, harming the American economy. He said small businesses would be affected the most.
Instead, Petricone called for a “smarter immigration policy” to allow foreign innovators access to American tech market, as well as the defeat of the antitrust legislation.
But other said that small businesses suffer from predatory behavior by big tech companies. “Companies can’t get their foot in the door when there is already self-preferencing,” said Awesta Sarkash, representative for Small Business Majority, an advocacy organization, adding that 80% of small businesses say they want antitrust laws to protect them.
Self-preferencing on online platforms is detrimental to the success of small businesses who rely on social media advertising for business, she said. The new antitrust proposals would ensure an level playing field and promote fair competition, she said.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prohibit certain online platforms from unfairly preferencing products, limiting another business’ ability to operate on a platform, or discriminating against competing products and services.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, was introduced to the Senate on May 2 and is awaiting Senate floor consideration.
The debate follows concerns raised by both democrats and republicans about America’s global competitiveness as the bill would weaken major American companies.
If passed, the bill will follow the European Union’s Digital Services Act which similarly sets accountability standards for online platforms, preventing potentially harmful content and behavior.
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