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Antitrust

Broadband Roundup: Bill Aims to Make Social Media Interoperable, Colorado Drops T-Mobile Lawsuit, Indian Country Very Unconnected

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Photo of Mark Warner in April 2010 by Riki Parikh of Sen. Warner's office

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Tuesday introduced the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act, Public Knowledge reports. The bill would provide interoperability for social media users, promoting competition and enabling users to maintain their connections when switching to a different platform.

Under the ACCESS Act, online platforms will be able to offer secure, end-to-end encrypted communications. The bill also preserves the ability of states to issue their own interoperability rules that go further than the federal standard.

Public Knowledge Senior Counsel Charlotte Slaiman said that the ACCESS Act lays out an excellent, practical framework for making interoperability a reality while providing room for states to expand on legislation.

However, Slaiman added, a dedicated regulatory authority focused on digital platforms is still needed to promote competition through interoperability as well as with other tools. A comprehensive federal privacy law, she said, would help protect individuals’ privacy and autonomy in the digital world.

Colorado gains benefit from T-Mobile wireless headquarters, drops lawsuit to halt the merger

The Colorado Attorney General’s office announced Monday that Dish Network will locate its new wireless headquarters with at least 2,000 full-time employees in Colorado, with T-Mobile significantly building out a statewide 5G network.

Because of the substantial benefits that Coloradans will gain from these commitments, the Attorney General’s Office will end its participation in a multistate lawsuit it joined in June to halt the T-Mobile and Sprint merger. Dish and T-Mobile agreed to pay up to a total of $100 million if they fail to meet the prescribed commitments.

“The agreements we are announcing today address those concerns by guaranteeing jobs in Colorado, a statewide buildout of a fast 5G network that will especially benefit rural communities, and low-cost mobile plans,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Natalie Hanlon Leh.

Dish and T-Mobile have respective agreements with the state of Colorado to assist with 5G rollout. New T-Mobile will deploy a 5G network in Colorado with at least 68 percent of the Colorado population having access to download speeds equal to or greater than 100 Mbps, and at least 76 percent of the Colorado population having access to download speeds equal to or greater than 50 Mbps. T-Mobile will also commit itself to rural 5G buildout.

Additionally, Colorado will be among the first ten states where Dish plans to deploy 5G broadband services by 2023.

Tribal land are by far the least connected areas of the United States

A recent Arizona State University study revealed that tribal lands continue to be the least connected areas of the country. ASU’s American Indian Policy Institute launched a survey to collect information from residents of tribal reservations to determine what levels of Internet access they had and what types of devices they using to access it.

The survey found that residents on tribal lands are predominantly using smartphones to access the internet, with many using public Wi-Fi or a friend’s home network. Additionally, 50 percent of respondents stated that their internet use was limited because they did not have enough data in their cell phone plan.

While these results highlight and emphasize the strong reliance on and use of mobile technologies within tribal communities, it’s crucial to understand the infrastructure technologies needed to provide ubiquitous and affordable internet service. Mobile technology is adopted because there are few other choices. Terrestrial-based fiber and high-capacity fixed wireless in the home are the future for broadband improvement, as mobile services cannot scale to match driven and communal capacity needs.

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Antitrust

‘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.’

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Photo of Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge

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.

“The reality is that [Congress] can’t keep up,” said Welch. This comes at a time when antitrust action continues to pile up in Congress, sparking debate across all sides of the issue.

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Antitrust

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.

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Screenshot of Federal Trade Commissioner Noah Phillips

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.

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Antitrust

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.

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Photo of Amy Klobuchar from August 2019 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

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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